I wrote this for Ellie Mae last year. I hope she can read it. I miss you, Ellie.
I’m parked near the bay, eating salted peanuts, watching a hound dog swim.
I shouldn’t be here. I’m an adult. I have a busy schedule to maintain. I have errands, a grocery list, a dentist appointment this afternoon. I also have a coonhound who likes water.
So, I called the dentist to cancel. “Cancel?” the lady on the phone asked. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes ma’am, it’s just that my dog wanted to go swimming.”
Yeah, I know I’m batty. But Ellie Mae lives for this bay, and it’s been a while since I took her swimming. Which isn’t fair. God gave her webbed paws the size of basketballs. Swimming is her birthright.
Today, when she saw the bay water through my truck windows, she howled until I stopped the truck.
I’m a softy.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this. The fact is, folks from my side of the tracks have entertained themselves by watching bird-dogs since the earth cooled. All my best friends have had fleas.
When she crawls out of the water, she shakes. I toss the duck again.
She lights out after it.
I like wet dogs. I keep beach towels in my truck for such occasions. And treats. And leashes.
We’re joined at the hip. It’s no exaggeration to say she likes to keep me within sniffing distance.
Once, while I was repairing our roof, Ellie Mae attempted to crawl the ladder behind me. She got stuck. It took an hour to get her down.
Another story: once, I found Ellie chewing something in our driveway. In her paws was an open packet of Beech-Nut tobacco.
I hollered at her.
She paid me no mind.
I let her alone. Because the first rule of dog ownership: never touch a hound while she’s chewing tobacco.
She’s part of my life. In evenings, when I pull in our driveway to see a floppy-eared silhouette at the window, I feel good. And when she lets out a low-pitched howl that originates in her belly, she feels good.
Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you about this animal.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have any wallet-sized photos of a kid who looks me, holding a fishing rod. There are no Little League uniforms in my dryer, no grade-cards on my refrigerator, no reason to wake early on Christmas.
The guest bedroom my wife and I once promised we’d paint pink or blue is used for storage.
So it’s Ellie Mae.
She gives affection when I’m not in the mood—which is when I need it most. She sleeps beside me, she eats what I eat, lays by my feet. When I’m away, her world is Purgatory. When I’m home, there is reason to howl.
Dentists can wait.
I’m playing fetch with my daughter.