I was 11 years old when I got my first dog, a dachshund named Schnitzel. He was my only sibling, human or canine. We grew up together and he was totally my dog.

ellin curley dachshund

My parents weren’t really “dog people” so they didn’t love him the way I did. Schnitzel and I were a team. He always knew when I was upset and was there for me. He lived to be 15, so I was 26 when he died. I left home at 22 to go to law school and then got married.

I never came back. I abandoned my buddy in his old age and to this day I feel guilty about it. At least I was with him at the end.


I didn’t get another dog until my kids were 5 and 10 years old. We got a Golden retriever mix rescue dog who was one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever known, inside and out. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs –- incredibly smart, uncannily sensitive, and intuitive. He was mellow, but bright and alert. And fun to be with.

Ellin Curley Sam dogs-2

Everyone loved him. The year I lived in New York City, I had to leave extra time when I walked him because people always came up to me to ask about him and pet him. But Sam belonged to the whole family. We each had a special, close relationship with him. That was his super power.

I still think about him all the time and miss him terribly, but he wasn’t my dog.

Ellin Curley Sam dog

Just 6 years ago I got another dog who connected to me in that special, intimate way. Her name is Lexie. Part Rhodesian Ridgeback, part Pomeranian, entirely gorgeous. She has a beautiful caramel face with hazel eyes and what looks like a permanent smile.

But she’s a rescue — incredibly anxious, skittish, and neurotic. She is on anxiety medication. Calmer now, but she is still frequently and easily spooked. Because of her anxiety, Lexie is not great at first meeting with new people. Not everyone “gets” her the way I do, which makes me feel more protective of her. Maybe that’s part of why I relate to her so well. I also have anxiety issues, but we are both cuddlers and we seem to calm each other.


Lexie follows me around and wants to do whatever I’m doing, even when that’s just sitting and reading or watching TV. She is wonderful with my husband and he adores her too, but our other dog, Lucky follows him around and is more HIS dog.

72-Ellin_02 lucky and lexie

My kids left home years ago, so it’s just me and Tom – and our two “shadows”. We each have our own special companion in addition to each other. Which is how it should be.

On “Grey’s Anatomy”, Meredith Grey refers to her BFF/soul mate as “My person”. Lexie is my canine “person” in my empty nest middle age years just as Schnitzel was while I was growing up.


Gibbs, our Scottish Terrier, was rescued from a breeder’s auction in Kansas. It was a long road for him to land with us in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Today, he discovered freedom. It took him about 24 hours to figure out how to go in and out the doggy door … and go safely and sure-footed up and down stairs. During his first couple of days, it rained nonstop. Not today.


From sunrise this morning, sunshine has been streaming in the windows. It was early … just around seven … when I went to shoo the dogs outside. This time, Gibbs only needed a gentle nudge and he was on his paws and down the stairs. Outside with the other kids. Then, back inside and into the kitchen for his treat. Bold as Bonnie and doing a Scottie happy dance.

After three days of continuous rain and ensuing muddy paw prints, the house was a mess. We had to clean. Bonnie and Bishop know from experience that they should make themselves scarce. As soon as they spy the bucket and mop, they hightail it to the yard and stay there until we’re done pushing around furniture, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping up mud.

It took Gibbs perhaps 20 minutes to realize he might want to head for the hills, too.

At which point, with the sun shining and the mercury around 60, he discovered running. And barking, rolling in the dirt. Then running more.

He didn’t stop for seven hours. Barely did he pause to catch a breath. Barking, running, running, barking. Bonnie and Bishop charged out the doggy door to join him a few times an hour, but mostly, he was just as happy to bark and run without a supporting cast. He was so happy you could feel it coming off him in waves. Very nice to see.


I tried to cajole him inside a couple of times. My son came over and tried too. Gibbs was happy enough to come over, get petted, but then he rocketed off again. Leaping with joy as he ran. I am having trouble believing he’s really 9-years-old. He acts like a pup.

When we finally corralled him at dinner time, I think he realized he was tired because he hit the sofa and hasn’t twitched an ear since. I’m not surprised. I wonder how many times in his life he has had the opportunity to run and bark with nothing in his way. It’s a big yard and I’m sure he covered every single inch of it … more than once.

How did a dog a great dog like him wind up in rescue? What happened? Who would give up a wonderful boy like Gibbs?


He’s sweet. Peaceful. He gets along with everyone, two and four-legged. He’s not nippy, nor fearful of people or noise. Not only not nervous, he is downright calm. Laid back. Happy to hang with Bonnie, Bishop, us … or whoever happens to show up. And more than content to sleep on the sofa (though he has not yet tried to jump up on his own).

What happened to him to land in rescue? And what lucky star was shining that he found his way out to us when we needed a Scottie and he needed a home!

If he could talk, what could he tell us? I can’t help but wonder what roads he traveled to get here.


Over the past few years, our dogs have been passing on. We have had as many as five. Then, four.

NAN Norwich Terrier dog biscuit

After Nan passed, we became three. Today, we are two.

They don’t live long enough and so we have to live with the sad knowledge that in the future — near or far — we will be saying goodbye.

When they were puppies ...

When they were puppies …

Amber has had cancer for a while. We knew about it. It was past fixing. For the better part of a year, she seemed okay. As long as she had a decent quality of life, we were okay too.

During the past few weeks, she had been going downhill. Sleeping most of the time, not interested in much of anything, though she was still willing to get up for a biscuit. Most of the time. Sometimes, she would wait on the sofa and hope we’d bring it to her. We did.


Garry believed she was in pain. And she had that terrible death smell that people and animals get when something awful is going on internally. It was time to bring it to an end and we did.


The other dogs are very quiet today. They know. They always know. Bishop is not in great shape either. I worry about him. It’s difficult to absorb so many losses in such a short span.

There will be other dogs, I know. When there is room at the inn, somewhere is a dog who needs a home. Meanwhile, I do not think our dogs will sing again until at least one more voice can join the chorus.


Our dogs.

dog prisoners in garden

They are bad. Evil, scheming devils. Ready to steal our food and our hearts without a smidgen of guilt.

They track in dirt on their darling little paws, leave gouts of fur all over our clothing and furniture. They weasel themselves into every picture. We plan our lives around them and in return, what do they give us?

Everything. Absolutely everything.

For A Photo A Week Challenge: Pets from Nancy Merrill



If you had a shelf for your three most special possessions (not including photos, electronic devices and things stored on them, people or animals), what would you put on it?

I have a lot of special possessions. On shelves. Ancient pottery. Antique bronze Buddhas. Tiny, exquisite carved Hopi fetishes. Hard plastic dolls from the 1940s and 1950s. More pottery.


I can’t rank them as more or less special. I love looking at them, touching them. I enjoy having them, but if life deprived me of them, I’d be fine.

If you had a box labelled ‘happiness’, what would you put in it?

Love, peace, good health.

Dolls and a dulcimer

Child and grandchild prepared to survive in the world and happy.


Healthy dogs. A comfortable home. For the most part, I have those things. Not all, but enough. I’m okay.

What do you want more of in your life?



Sleep. Much more sleep.

Daily Life List: What do you do on an average day? Make a list of your usual activities you do each day.


Garry and I switch off on some of this, so it may be my day. Or Garry’s day, depending

  • Get up
  • Sweep
  • Wash the floors (it’s mud season and there’s a ton of dirt tracked in by the dogs)
  • Drink coffee
  • (Give treats to dogs)
  • Answer email.
  • Write posts
  • Answer comments
  • Drink more coffee.
  • Write stuff
  • (Give treats to dogs)
  • Run errands
  • Read.
  • Watch some TV
  • Watch a movie.

Not terribly exciting, but that’s life in the slow lane.