There is something sleeping on my feet while I write this. A she-something. Her snoring sounds like a diesel engine.
She has paws bigger than skillets, a bladder the size of a teacup.
Every morning, at approximately 5:13 A.M., she wakes me. And every morning, I walk the yard with her, saying, “Go tee-tee, dammit,” in my morning voice.
No dice. Instead, she digs holes, eats unidentified stinky objects, and trees various housecats.
Her name is Ellie Mae, and she has ruined the passenger seat of my pickup. Which is why I don’t take many guests in my vehicle—least of all my wife.
Not many appreciate black coonhound-hair on American-made Ford upholstery, and wet-nose marks on windows.
Today, Ellie sat in the passenger seat. We went into town.
I started my busy day by ordering breakfast at the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru. The servers at the window made a fuss over Ellie.
We parked outside Winn Dixie to eat. I ate. She ate.
I keep cans of dog food (beef tips with brown gravy, rice, and snap peas) in my glovebox. There’s a dog bowl on the seat between us.
I talk to her about things over breakfast. She listens. I read the paper. She watches people.
Then, I wipe her face with baby wipes. She licks my forehead. Her breath often smells like a substance plentiful in most barnyards and hog pens.
After our meal, I ran errands while she slept in the truck with the AC blasting, listening to the radio.
Ellie and I have the same taste in music. She likes Willie Nelson just as much as me—maybe more.
Funny. I’ve had many dogs in my life. Almost too many to count. But I have only had two who liked music.
One rests six feet below my backyard—whose name I cannot say without feeling hollow inside.
The other is Ellie Mae.
So, after a full and moderately boring day in town, I drove Ellie Mae to a secluded spot on the Choctawhatchee Bay.
I tossed her plastic duck as far as I could. She jumped off a dock into the water. I sat on my bumper, watching her swim.
She could do this for hours. So could I. But forty-five minutes will have to suffice today.
Anyway, last night I met with an old friend. He had photos of a baby on his cellphone. They were stunning pictures of a child with fair skin, curly locks, fat legs, and eyes just like her mother’s.
I’ve never seen my friend so proud about anything in his life.
I have no child. My wife and I tried once, but God decided against it. I don’t blame him, I’m not exactly what you’d call father-material.
Either way, I have no sadness. Because I have a cellphone full of photos, too—just like my pal. Though I may not have a child who bears my red hair and my wife’s brown eyes, I’m not doing without.
I have a photogenic ten-year-old girl who shares my life. She is my truck passenger. My breakfast companion. My swimmer. My friend.
And she is my daughter.