Monday, June 08, 2009

R.I.P. Ellie Mae

This weekend, my old Basset Hound, Ellie Mae, passed away. She was twelve and a half years old. She was ours for over ten years. We had rescued her from going to the pound when her previous owner complained that he received too many "noise" tickets because of her barking.

She fit in well with the family, and got along fine with her new canine buddies. She was no noisier than any other dog in the neighborhood. Her only significant quirk was that she hated having her feet, particularly her toes, touched. This made nail trimming a real adventure.

She loved running in the back yard, complaining about the soccer players in the park beyond our yard when they kicked the ball too close to our fence. She also loved chasing squirrels and rabbits (and the occasional possum) letting them know this was her yard! I remember a couple of times she chased rabbits under our back shed, and managed to burrow so well after them that she got stuck, and I had to get the bottle jack from the van and jack up the side of the shed until she could wriggle free.

A couple of years ago she got into a fight with our lab/spaniel mix dog. They had had spats over the years, as siblings are wont to do, but never anything too serious. This time, though, her back legs and belly were quite torn up. Fortunately, a Basset has very loose skin, so most of the injuries were superficial skin tears, and little damage to the underlying muscles or organs. I helped her inside, to a blanket in the corner of the living room, cleaned her up, and nursed her back to health. Twice a day I carried her up the steps to the front door, so she could go out and relieve herself. Then back down to the living room. As soon as she could walk the stairs by herself, I started taking her for walks, to help her regain strength in her legs. It was during this time that she seriously attached herself to me.

As she was recovering, near Christmas, 2006, her other best buddy, another basset named Gypsy, died suddenly. That night, despite below-zero temperatures, she insisted on running instead of walking, and went over half a mile before I could convince her to slow down. I think it was a release of energy she had pent up, grieving for her friend. After that, our walks returned to walks, with the occasional jog-trot thrown in.

Fully-recovered from her mauling, she was spending most of her time with Coco, the lab, and Cleo, our son's new basset puppy.

Six months later, it happened again.

We have never figured out what triggered the fights. I do know that as she got older, Ellie never appreciated puppy exuberance. Up to the end, she would growl at Cleo whenever she bounced up to her. And Coco, despite being of an age with Ellie, has never outgrown her puppy-like exuberance. She doesn't know how to not bounce. I believe that Coco just wanted to play with Ellie like she played with Cleo: bouncing and rough-housing, and Ellie just wasn't having it.

Whatever the reason, it was back to nursemaid for me. This time it was over three weeks before she was back sleeping in her kennel. My wife and I also decided that she wasn't going to be allowed out with the other two dogs, unsupervised. My new morning routine was now to let Coco and Cleo out into the back yard, and then either hook Ellie up in the front yard, or take her for a walk, letting her back in when I left for work. In the evenings, when my wife and I sometimes sit on the patio in the swing, she would jump up between us, and insist on me giving her a belly rub.

Last Monday, I noticed she wasn't eating her regular dry food. She was drinking, though, and readily consumed the soft treats I gave her. Tuesday was more of the same, but now she was listless, and hardly seemed to have the energy to climb the steps to the front door. Wednesday and Thursday she rallied somewhat. Her eyes regained some sparkle, and she would even sit up when she heard my wife come downstairs. We tried plying her with soft dog food, but she never ate much of it. Water and treats were still good, though. Friday, she seemed to relapse, and when I came to put her to bed for the night, she couldn't get her back legs to support her. So I carried her to her kennel and helped her go in and lie down. I figured if she wasn't any better in the morning, I'd take her to the vet, knowing he'd probably just put her to sleep.

Saturday morning, I woke to hear her crying and barking. When I got down to her kennel, she was gone.