Michael Bonner

Warning: This post is about my dog Ellie. She passed away on January 30th, 2023. I'm writing this to help me remember her. If you don't want to read about my feelings about a dog you can leave now.


Ellie - 9/10/10 - 1/30/23

Dear Ellie,

I'm sorry it's taken me a while to write this. Since you passed I haven't been able to compose myself enough to write it. Every time I even think about writing it my eyes hurt and my chest shakes. I miss you so much Ellie. But I want to write things down so I don't forget. I don't want to forget you.

Despite my best efforts I'm forgetting the way you smell, the way you'd nuzzle under the covers with me, the way your eyes would pierce through me, your endless curiosity, the way you'd jump and dance in circles when I came home, how you would get so excited when I'd get your leash out, the calm I would feel when you cuddled me, the way your ears felt when I played with them, the way you'd look at me when I'd talk to you, the way you played king of the bed with me like you knew how the game worked, the way you loved everyone around you, the way you'd run right behind me when we went biking, the way you'd run up to me when I'd call your name, the way you'd tuck when you were embarrassed (like when you farted), the way you would comfort me when I was sad, the way you'd make me laugh, the way you'd make me smile, how patient you were with kids hanging on you, how you'd lay your head anywhere you could find a spot on me, the way you'd hide when I watched sports because the stress was just too much, the way you'd lay on your back and hold your toy above your head while you chewed on it, how patient you were with puppies, how proud you'd get when you caught the frisbee before it hit the ground, and how you loved Kellie.

I'm realizing that only way to heal is to forget parts of you. And that fucking sucks.

I was 24 when I first met you, I was newly married, and I was so naive. My then wife (Chelsie), her 3 year old daughter (Makaylee), and I had just moved into our first apartment together, and we were just figuring out how to be a family and make a marriage work. We were both working full time and going to school full time. We were busy, and we were stressed, and we were young and dumb. Chelsie wanted a dog so bad but I didn't want to make a dog live in a little apartment with the 3 of us. I thought it was cruel and unfair. So you can imagine how I felt when Chelsie and Makaylee brought you to my work (Boater's Outlet) on February 11, 2011. I was irritated, but you were so dang cute. To be honest, it wasn't love at first sight; you peed under a shelf at my work. But I saw how you lit up Makaylee's face, and there was no way I could say no. They told us that you were ~5 months old, that you were a lab/dane mix, and that your previous owners took you to the humane society because you had too much energy. Holy shit did they miss out!

I came home that night and you were there. You were so excited to see me. So we went for a walk and did the things your supposed to do with a new dog. You had soooooo much energy. We were told we shouldn't let you run to exhaustion, so we tried to do small activities with you. We took you to the dog park, and you didn't give two shits about the other dogs. You just wanted that ball. But when we'd get home, all you wanted to do was cuddle. You'd put your cute little face on my leg or on my laptop, and you'd get all the pets you needed.

I was surprised you didn't seem to be potty trained. That was a bit of a trying time. We'd leave you in your kennel for hours at a time, and then bring you out side and say "go potty," over and over again until you did. Then I'd give you a treat and we'd go back inside. One of the most salient memories I have with you is the time you peed on me 😆. I had been home from work for an hour or two, and you were being so cute and playful. We were wrestling in the living room and then I wanted to take a break so I leaned back against the couch. You came over with a big smile on your face and you put your face to my cheek; which you did all the time. It was like you couldn't get close enough to me. I leaned into the cuddle and hugged you. Then I noticed my leg was getting warm. I looked down and you were peeing on my thigh! I was so shocked I didn't know what to do. We sat outside there for at least half an hour until you finally peed so I could reward you. I was so mad at you, but I couldn't stay mad at you. You were so cute and you were just a puppy. I knew you didn't know any better. You probably thought "pee in front of Mike, get a treat. Pee on Mike get a lifetime supply of treats!"

I learned I could take you almost anywhere, so I did. We went on so many adventures together. You loved camping and hiking. That first summer we took you to Tanner Park to see if you would swim. I remember you were scared of the water at first. You'd sit on the edge and draw your paw through the water to see if that would pull your ball over. I was a bad dog owner and threw you into the river. I'm sorry about that. Your eyes got so big and you swam to the shore as fast as you could. I remember your front paws just splashing straight down into the water with your back legs hanging straight down. You had no idea how to swim, but you figured it out. For the first year of swimming that's how you'd swim. Big dane paws splashing water everywhere. It was so fucking cute. You loved the water so much. Anytime we were near water you were in it. I remember walking along the river and you running down the trail, then down to the river, then back to the trail to catch up with me, and then back down to the river.

One of my favorite memories with you was at Bear Lake with some friends. We had set up camp for the night and were having a few drinks on the beach. You wanted to play with a stick and refused to take no for an answer. You probably found 50 sticks by the end of the night. When one person said "no" you'd just go to the next person. Then the sun went down and you kept going at it. You even found an 8' 4x4 fence post and dragged that over. Water meant play for you. We sat around the camp fire that night and you kept trying to pull out sticks from the fire. It was like you were saying, "Those are perfectly good playing sticks. Why are you trying to burn them?" When it was time to sleep you got in the tent and passed out like you always did after a long day of playing. The next morning we woke up slow and made breakfast on the camp fire. After a few minutes I couldn't find you, which was odd because you always stayed right by me when we were camping. After a couple minutes looking for you I noticed something out in the lake near us. It was you! Just out for a morning lap in the lake. You were in your happy place.

Throughout all of the stressful times in my life you were there, just as happy as always. You never responded to my stress with fear, always with love. You would do anything to make me happy. You were the best dog I could have ever asked for.

When I got a divorce from my ex-wife, we had to divide up our assets. You came up in the discussion and I immediately said you were mine, non-negotiable. She obviously wanted you to go with her and she put up a fight, but at the end of the day she knew you belonged with me. You and I were inseparable.

You became my perfect companion. You came to work with me sometimes, you came bikepacking with me (and destroyed your paws 😬). You came skiing with me. You came to bars. You were the perfect wing woman.

I remember the time your back knee ligament popped. I was still on crutches after breaking my leg and took you to the school by our house. I used to throw the ball with my lacrosse stick as far as I could and you'd one-hop it like it was no big deal. You were so fast. One time I threw it and after a few strides you yelped like I'd never heard you yelp before. Even when you were in that much pain you still went and got your ball, just on three legs. I had no idea what had happened. I loaded you in the truck and took you to the vet. The first vet told me it was arthritis, and that you'll just have to take pain meds the rest of your life. I wasn't satisfied with that, so I took you to another vet. When we got back into the room the vet immediately knew what was wrong. He said he saw you in the waiting room and knew you had torn a major ligament (CCL) in your back leg. He said it was a common injury for labs. He said we could do surgery, but it would be expensive and it would take a long time to recover. I never considered anything besides surgery. You were only 5 years old. We did the surgery and you healed well. After a few months you were able to run again. And almost immediately you popped your other back leg's CCL. I knew exactly what had happened, and we got you in for the surgery on the other leg. It took 9 months from your first tear to healthy again, those were some rough times. You couldn't do stairs so I brought my mattress down to sleep with you on the floor in the living room. In the end you were healthy, but never really the same physically. You lost your jump, but you never lost your spirit.

As the years went on your body started breaking down, but you never really complained. You were always endless optimism. Even when it hurt too much to run you still seemed to smile. You were so expressive with your face. You could tell me anything with your eyes. I always felt like I knew what you were thinking.

I told you that you would need to tell me when you were ready. I will forever be grateful that you told me so clearly. When your back legs quit working for the last few days, I helped you go to the bathroom. One time you found a spot, dug your paw, and tried lay there and hide. That broke me because I knew what you were doing. I said nope, and we kept walking around; but then you did it again. Then you looked at me with those big eyes and told me you were ready. I don't know how you did it, but I knew that's what you were saying. I've never felt so much pain in my life. I knew I had to let you go.

We celebrated you the next day. You were depressed and slow that morning but then your friends came over to give you treats and say goodbye. You perked up when they came around. One of your final acts was to put on a happy face for your friends. We sat around and told stories about you. We let you eat all the things I never let you eat your whole life. We let you drink Ellie's Aloha Ale™️. We laughed and cried. You were so loved Ellie.

After you passed I felt the most intense pain I've ever felt. I've never cried so much in my life. Kellie and I took time off of work and went hiking in the snow. Being there reminded me of all the amazing times we had together in the mountains. I knew we did the right thing, but it still hurt. It took me 2 months before I went a day without crying. I still cry when I think about you. I miss you so much Ellie. I miss your big brown eyes. I miss your giant heart. I miss you so much.

You saved me Ellie. I had plenty of dark, stressful moments in my life with you, but you always saved me. All you had to do was look at me with those big brown eyes and I knew everything was going to be okay. You were my rock. You were my best friend. After all the times you saved me, I'm sorry I couldn't save you.

Ellie swimming off to get a ball

Posted 08 Aug 2023