Some people are dog lovers and some people are cat lovers. I was born a dog lover. I was even born in the Year of the Dog. My earliest experiences with dogs were all very positive. When I was little I would visit my Grandma and Grandpa Rizzo and would play with their dog, Pepper. My parents also took me to visit their friend at his farm and all of his puppies. I wished for a dog every year for my birthday as long as I can remember. I finally convinced my mom to get a dog during the second half of my senior year of high school. We adopted a dog from the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART) during an adoption event at PetSmart one weekend. Her name was Dakota. She was a sweet dog, maybe 1-2 years old. She was mostly my mom’s dog, though, as I left for college a few short months after we’d adopted her. Despite being a dog lover, I never fully understood what it meant to be a “dog person” until I met Ellie.
For the 2-3 people out there who haven’t heard the “Bellie Story” yet, here it goes. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2009 and I was down in Atlanta visiting my uncle and cousin when I made a wrong turn on my way home and ended up in the parking lot of a park. As I was turning around, I noticed that there was a dog in a crate, but no one else was anywhere to be seen. I pulled over and observed the situation for a moment. I noticed that the dog didn’t have a collar and that the crate door was left open.
This was pre-Smartphone, so I called my uncle and he got online looking up Animal Control, ASPCA, etc. numbers for me to call to report this apparently abandoned animal. Given the fact that this was 9:30 pm on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was unable to reach anyone for over an hour. In that time I watched this dog stand up, wag its tail, lay back down over and over. The crate door was open, so the dog could have run away at any time, but instead it just stayed where it felt safest.
My uncle was finally able to put me in touch with a man who was associated with a local dog rescue. I called this man and he walked me through the steps to get the dog in my car and to meet him at a veterinarian’s office. As I drove to the vet’s office, I had already decided that this was going to be my dog. I just had to figure out how I was going to be able to get her home to Virginia. I thought of names, too. During the hour or so I sat waiting to get in contact with someone, I noticed that the two cross streets were Warren and Eleanor. I decided that one of those would be the dog’s name depending on its sex.
When I arrived at the vet’s office the technicians took a look and discovered that the dog didn’t have a microchip, therefore I was the rightful owner if I wanted to be. They also told me that she was a girl. So, there it was, Eleanor (Ellie) was my new dog! Since I had already decided that I wanted her, my next step was figuring out how to get her home. My flight was leaving at 6:00 am the next day, so I was a little stuck at this point. The vet’s office generously offered to keep her for a few days to get her checked out, which allowed me to get home and get her a one-way flight to Dulles. A couple of days later my roommate, Tiff, and I headed to Dulles airport at 11:00 pm to pick up the newest member of our household, Ellie Rizzo!
I can’t describe the love that I had for Ellie except to relate it to that of the love for your child. I have been guilty of comparing being a dog parent as being similar to being a human parent and I still stand by that comparison (for the most part). Ellie helped me learn the very important adult lesson that my needs do not always come first. If I wanted to go to a Happy Hour after work, then I had to consider how long I could stay before getting home to take out and feed Ellie. If I wanted to go away for the weekend I had to decide if I could take her with me or if I needed to find someone to watch her. I spent many afternoons and weekends playing with her at the dog park rather than doing other things that I wanted to do. Of course, I know that I can’t just leave my daughter in a crate in order to run to the grocery store or just send her in the backyard instead of changing her diaper, but the basic understanding of putting someone else’s needs before your own is the same in both scenarios. I worry and care for Ellie in the very same way that I worry and care for my daughter.
That being said, I did have one experience that happened when Cece was a couple of months old that made me feel really bad. At the time, we still kept Ellie in a crate in the basement when we would leave the house. On this particular day, I had been out running errands with Cece and had to rush home to feed and change her as was the norm in those first few months. About an hour or so after we’d gotten home Wes arrived home from work. One of the first things he said when he came in the house was, “Where’s Ellie?” I responded with, “I don’t know. She’s probably pouting somewhere because I’m not giving her enough attention.” Maybe 30 minutes later Wes and I noticed a high pitched squealing noise very faintly. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I never went downstairs to let Ellie out of her crate! That was definitely not my finest moment as a puppy mommy, but thankfully that never happened again.
As I stated earlier, I was born a dog lover. I didn’t grow up with dogs, but I was always drawn to them. I am so incredibly thankful that Cece is growing up with a dog. She adores Ellie. She has even started calling her “Ellie Bellie” like we do. She has learned from a very young age how to gently pet her, how to give her treats, how to play with her inside and outside, etc. Every night before bed Ellie lays on the bed in the room next to Cece’s and Cece has to crawl up to give Ellie a hug and kiss. The love between my two girls is so touching! This commercial is the perfect depiction of the love I see between Cece and Ellie (a.k.a “Ehyee”).