It started with a crazy idea and $150.
And an application and an interview at the Humane Society and a small array of things that squeaked (but not for long).
Parenthood was ours.
All seemed to be progressing normally, except that she wanted to eat the whole world.
But we were smitten.
The signs began when she was about six months old. She began to howl (another story).
And she ran fast. Like no dog I’d seen before. She’d lie low to the ground, whippet-style, and run circles around my parents’ dogs, making even the border collie – aka torpedo-with-fur – look low-key.
And then we moved in with my parents this fall to fix up our house, and dead things began to appear in the yard.
Surely…surely this is not our child’s doing. Not my snugglemuffin.
Besides, the two deceased were a skunk and a raccoon. Way too big for our forty-pounder.
Ella is half black lab, half something else. She has the fur, webbed paws, sweetness, and love of water of her mother — and dad’s speed, size, and stubbornness. He didn’t stick around long enough for an interview, but I blame his unknown half for the grief that follows.
Josh and I recently visited a state park for our first family vacation. I was so excited to have a maturing, well-trained dog to bring along with us. Josh had always looked forward to having a dog, and in a way only understood by weird childless dog people, we were giddy about this trip. Our fur-baby curled up with us in our cabin, collected all her toys, practically purred in her bed.
We spent our first full day hiking. After lots of miles, we were tired and happy, the dog was tired and happy, and we were jabbering about nothing on the way back to the cabin. The trail narrowed, and I let Ella walk out in front of me.
And then she was gone. Bullet. Off. Bam. Gone. We screamed and ran, and I thought, How many thousands of acres in this park? and That’s it. That’s the last I’ll ever see of my dog. Her retreating doggy butt in the distance, so full of gleeful disobedience.
Like good and frantic parents, we sprinted after her — Josh on his sprained ankle (did you watch the video of the whippet running? It was just as hopeless).
Like good and frantic married people, we wordlessly split up to head her off. Broken, not-exercising Josh is still faster than five-times-a-week-workout Emily, so he beat me to her.
And witnessed something I didn’t have to — watched her grab a squirrel, snap its neck, drop it, and trot back to him, proud as only a small murderer can be.
I always believed that “dogs point squirrels” (like Doug in Up) was sort of a joke. Ha, slow, silly dogs. Squirrels live in trees.
We made this mistake: Ella watched Up and it must have ticked her off: I can do that.
I took an online doggy quiz and found that we own a C+ dog. I feel like a bad mom. A bad dog guardian. On top of it all I’m a bad runner. My dog is a C+ and she kills things for fun.
Back in the park, after the two of us settled down on a log, committed the poor soul to squirrel heaven, and I realized that I no longer had to sob broken-hearted, soul-deep tears over the loss of my firstborn, I pondered the state of our family.
As Ella wagged her happy killer tongue in our faces, inching in for a kiss, I decided that number two — the fur-brother that Ella begs for (by constantly whining and changing everyone’s desktop backgrounds to images of adoptable puppies) — will be big and fat:
Craving easy evening walks, not a daily 10k at crazy squirrel speed.
With zero prey drive.
And no crazy dad genes.
I’m thinking maybe this guy.
Ye olde Newfie. The lab’s fat cousin.
Come to mama. Let’s see if we can’t bring our family average up to a B.