We don’t know about Ella’s past life. We only know that she was left by a person — never specified as male or female — at the humane society. The Person who brought Ella in told the front desk staff that there was something wrong with Ella and needed immediate attention. The staff rushed Ella to the examination room, whereupon they discovered there was nothing wrong with her. Only, in going to tell The Person the good news, there was no Person to tell.
It was the 23rd of December. The humane society called their new charge Cindy Loo Who.
She was there for five days.
We adopted her on the recommendation of Wayne, one of the volunteers who said, “If you’re looking for a good dog, this here is a good dog.” She was six-months old and to this day I still wonder how Wayne knew just how good of a dog she is. Perhaps you really do “just know.” Or perhaps Wayne was Ella’s guardian angel, which seems highly likely. Taking her home was one of the quickest decisions I’ve ever seen Paul make. “Do you want to adopt her?” I asked as we stood in the rain. I had barely asked it when Paul said, “Yes.” We’d gone to the meet and greet area where she jumped up to kiss us, and then ran off to smell every corner and to look behind some palettes. Wayne explained that she was a curious girl, a smart girl — and he was right about that too.
Paul and I have both wondered about The Person who first had Ella. Were they kind? Did they love her?
I think so. She arrived with some lovely, polite manners. If she got too rambunctious, we could say, “Be gentle” and she would stop whatever she was doing and, well, be gentle. She took treats softly with her mouth. She cuddled on the couch. And from the start, she always had very sensitive bite control — like she stayed with her momma long enough to learn.
So I often imagine The Person who first had Ella as someone who cried at having to leave her puppy at the humane society just days before Christmas. I do imagine The Person as a her, too. Our theory is that The Person had to move and couldn’t take Ella with her. We often cite the breed ban laws of apartments — forbidding German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Pitbulls. And imagine it was something like this that parted Ella from her Person.
My mom has said that Ella is our dog and we are Ella’s. Bound, tied, connected. Every week Ella goes to Holly’s, her “second home,” as I call it, to live her other life — one filled with little boys, other dogs, and so much playtime that she comes back exhausted and happy. Her pack there consists of two Golden Retrievers, Sunny and Neena, and a rather shy, beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, Abby, who I think of as Ella’s best friend. They greet her with hearty dog barks and chases and games of tug. Today they are probably dog piled up next to the fireplace, sleeping on each other as it rains outside. It is very much a dog’s life.
But as much as Ella loves to go there, loves to be there, loves to play under Abby’s long legs, she also loves to come home to us.
When I pick her up, she jumps on me and licks me in the face, almost saying, “There you are!” As I try to talk to Holly about how the day went, Ella both tries to get back into Holly’s house and pull me to the car. “Let’s go, I’m hungry.” Which pretty much sums up Ella: delighted by new things and places while at the same time delighted to return to those who eagerly await her.
When she was still new to us, we grabbed our suitcase and headed to Portland for the weekend. We packed another bag with Ella’s food, some of her toys, and her food bowl. She looked at us nervously all morning. She reluctantly put on her harness. In the car, there was a kind of quietness to her that she’d never had before, I began to worry that she thought she was going back to the humane society. Did this feel too familiar to her, being packed up, bowls and all? Thinking everything was okay and then finding out it wasn’t? Now when we go on trips, we leave the dog bowls so she knows she’s coming home. Always.
Out and about, Ella gets a lot of attention. People pass us on our walks and say, “Did you see that dog?” and “Awwww, what a cute dog!” For Ella, strangers are just friends she hasn’t licked yet.
Because so many people think she looks like the RCA mascot or, more commonly, Petey from Our Gang, they stop to meet her, which gives her a chance to work her way from being petted to jumping up on them and licking them in the mouth. Her favorites are the easily attainable toddlers with their highly lickable sticky faces and hands. With them, she is always her most gentle, motherly self.
Oftentimes, owing to the small-town-ness of Seattle, I wonder if Ella’s First Person has seen her. If, from afar, she saw Ella as a grown up two-and-a-half year old and thought, “I used to have a puppy who looked like that.” What would that be like to see the dog you’d left to others to take care of? I’d like to believe it was a tough decision and that if she saw Ella now she’d be relieved by how well it worked out. I’d hope she noticed Ella’s wagging tail and her big happy smile and thought, “What a well loved dog.”