I was going through old photos the other day. Photos of us. My God, how we’ve changed.
I found pictures from when we were younger. I was skinnier, you had less gray on your snout and long floppy ears. You were all ears when you were a puppy.
I found the picture of the day I first got you. We both grinned at the camera.
What a day. I’ll never forget it. Someone let go of your leash, you ran toward me, ears flopping, tongue hanging out. Your paws had no traction on the wood floor. You looked like Bambi on ice.
I told you that you were a “good girl.” You gave a wide-mouthed, satisfied look because you understood those words. All dogs do.
It is the highest form of praise man can give a dog.
I also dug up pictures from our first day trip together, on the beach. I learned how much you liked swimming. It was at Fort Pickens National Park, I let you run straight into the Gulf of Mexico. Splashing. Jumping.
I got it all on camera. What I didn’t capture on film was the park ranger issuing me a warning for having a dog on the beach.
“This is a national park,” he said. “No pets allowed on the beach.”
You licked his hand while he wrote a ticket. Then you squatted and left a steaming parting gift.
I have all sorts of photographs. Some from the days when we still used disposable cameras from the drugstore. God, how times have changed. Those things are antiques now.
I’ve taken you camping a lot. You’re the perfect camping partner. You don’t talk too much, you enjoy sleeping late.
My favorite photo of us was snapped when we were in the truck together. That’s our place. You in the passenger seat. Me driving. You’ve destroyed the upholstery, hairballs everywhere, nose saliva on the windows.
I love it.
Anyway, when I looked through photos, it made me glad. Way-down-in-my-chest glad. Because loving you has been one of the best parts of my life.
Yeah, I know, you’re just a dog. But not to me. To me, you’re some-ONE. My friend. My swimmer. My squirrel chaser. My fugitive. The silhouette in my living room window when I arrive home.
While I write this, you are sleeping on my bed. I am looking at you. You’re snoring to beat the band.
I’ll admit, I don’t like watching you age. You’re twelve, that’s ancient in dog years. You’re slower than you used to be. Your hair isn’t as shiny as it once was. Your pelvis is peppered with arthritis.
I don’t know what I’ll do when you leave me. The truth is, I don’t remember what life was like before you—and I don’t want to. Because before you, it was youless, and I don’t want to live in a youless world.
I don’t know why cruel foreign dictators live until their nineties, but dogs only get a decade. I hope heaven knows what it’s doing.
I love you, Ellie Mae. You’ll never be able to read this, and even if I read it aloud to you—which I just did—you wouldn’t understand it. You’d only snore louder. It’s just as well. I guess I wrote this more for myself than I did for you.
Either way, I just want to tell you how much you mean to me. One more thing.
You’re a good girl.
A real good girl.