In February, 2001, I was serving in the US Army Veterinary Corps and was living in San Antonio, TX. I decided to give myself the gift of a dog for my birthday. I went to an animal shelter that was near my apartment complex. I wasn't sure what kind of dog that I wanted, but due to the fact that I was living in an apartment, I was looking for one that was under 50lbs. This particular animal shelter was a complex of several buildings with outdoor runs for the dogs. You were allowed to walk around the runs and look for a dog that you wanted to get to know better. They had a really nice fenced in park area for you to take the dog and spend time with it before making your decision.
I walked by several pens. For the most part, the behavior that a dog shows while in the pen will be similar to its behavior when you take it home. There were several dogs that were barking and jumping up on the fence. I knew that these dogs would be too hyper for life in an apartment. Then there were several dogs who were cowering at the back of their pens. I wanted a dog that would be friendly and outgoing. I wanted one that would enjoy spending time at the park or hiking. Finally, I came to a pen that had a tri-colored Australian Cattle Dog mix that was just sitting in the middle of her pen watching what was going on around her. As I squatted outside her fence, she came up and sat with her body pressed to the fence and looked at me as if to say, "Will you get me out of here?" I was immediately drawn to her sweet face. She wasn't too boisterous and she wasn't too timid. I asked one of the worker if I could take her out to the park area. The worker told me that her name was Ellie.
As Ellie and I walked out to the park, she was very relaxed and calm. As soon as we got inside the fenced park area, I removed her leash. Ellie took off like a rocket running joyfully around the pen. Then she came back and looked at me with a look that said, "Thank you for the run." I knew that this was the dog for me. She was calm when she needed to be, but was also energetic and playful when the moment was right.
I took her home with me that day. Things weren't perfect. I think she chewed up about 5 remote controls, the tongue off one of my combat boots, and several pairs of pants. However, she was perfect for me. She loved traveling in the car, going to the park, going to agility training, and just hanging out watching television.
Ellie also has one of the sweetest natures I have ever been around. I have often found her out in the yard standing guard over a hurt or sometimes already dead small animal. She thinks that it is her responsibility to protect them. She also LOVES babies and small children. She worries over them like a mother hen.
Ellie is now 12 years old. She is arthritic and has slowed down considerably. I know that my time with her is drawing to an end. I read a story about someone giving their dog "the perfect day" before they died. I have been thinking about what I can do for Ellie. It is very humbling to know that her perfect day will be just to get to spend it by my side. I love you Ellie.