The worst news possible

The worst news possible
Ella, as captured by her puppy-raisers

I got a bone-chilling e-mail yesterday from Kathy Alameda, puppy-raiser of Ella. Kathy picked up Ella from CCI on the very same day I collected Dionne. Since then Ella was our house guest on two separate occasions, and Dionne visited Ella in her home several times. We thus have felt a special bond with both of them, so it was particularly horrible to hear that Ella was in the veterinary hospital, battling for her life. Kathy reported that the cause of her illness was mysterious. She had been unable to keep down food or fluids and had become very lethargic.

A few hours later, Kathy sent an update: Ella’s liver was failing. At 6:20 last night, she reported that she had just spent two hours at the vet’s with her girl, trying to comfort and cheer her. But a little after 3:30 today she sent the worst possible news:

“With a very sad heart I write to tell you that Ella passed away today. We are all in shock. We never found out the cause of her liver failure.”

Steve and I feel shocked too. Ella was a gorgeous blonde and a vortex of energy and high spirits. She and Dionne adored each other and had glorious, ecstatic times running around the Alameda’s Rancho Santa Fe property. Times like this, which Kathy captured on her phone in January:

You know when you volunteer to raise a puppy that something could go wrong. I’ve heard of several examples. But the dogs are almost all so vibrantly, jubilantly happy and alive, you don’t expect anything will go wrong. It seems almost unthinkable.
Now it’s happened, to an exemplary family. I can’t imagine she’s in a happier place than she lived in. If brief, her life was extraordinarily happy. This is one of my favorite moments of what I was privileged to share of it:
Sweet dreams, Ella.

Girl party, Part 2

One of the things I love about dogs is how adaptable they are. Unlike human teenagers, they never whine about how much more fun they had someplace else. Although partying at Kathy Alameda’s house enabled Dionne and Ella to zoom around in a big space for hours on end, they never rolled their eyes and said snarky things about how much less room they had, once they’d moved here. They seemed to love being together even in the cozier spaces.

They engaged in huge amounts of neck-biting, for hours and hours. They’re both energetic girls, and at times they seemed to literally bounce off the walls.

This kind of roughhousing is very hard on any house, and Steve and I sometimes made them go outdoors, to burn off some of that energy. But unlike Dionne, Ella’s a swimmer, and she would invariably follow her dips by romping through the muddier parts of the yard.
At that point, the only solution was to kennel them. Ella had her own kennel, but she and Dionne seemed to enjoy hanging out in Dionne’s larger one.

It permitted more neck-biting!
Occasionally, they would crash. The ever-patient Mr. Tucker even let them share his bed.

Scenes like that made the increased levels of squalor easier to take.
And all things come to an end. Kathy arrived Friday afternoon to take Ella home again. She called yesterday to report that Ella seemed depressed.

I might say the same for Dionne. Except that Saturday morning Cletus arrived! More on that adventure soon.

Girl party, part I

Girl party, part I

Dionne and I haven’t dropped off the planet, though it may look that way. What actually happened is that eleven days ago, Steve and I went down to Baja, California for two days to investigate the development in the Guadalupe Valley, just north of Ensenada. I wrote a Reader cover story about the valley back in 1988, when the Mexican wine industry was just beginning to thrive. Six wineries were operating back then. Today there are more than 60, with many producing excellent wines and showing them off in tasting facilities that would fit right into the Napa Valley. We had a lot of fun checking it out.

The resident weimaraners at the inn/horse-breeding farm where we stayed seemed to live lordly lives.

But I don’t know if US government regulations would have permitted us to take Dionne with us, and she would have had to wear a cape and be on her best behavior, had we taken her. She unquestionably had more fun staying at Kathy Alameda’s exquisite home in Rancho Santa Fe.

Kathy’s raising Ella. In fact, she picked Ella up from CCI in Oceanside at the exact same time I was picking up Dionne. Kathy has hosted a couple of puppy parties since then, and watching dogs race at top speed around the grounds of her property has made me think it’s as close to Canine Paradise as anywhere I’ve seen.

As soon as we neared the gates, Dionne began whimpering. I had trouble restraining her when she saw Ella, and the two girls were off — reaching speeds I can only describe as scary.

Here’s how they looked after about 15 minutes of that. Pretty happy, I’d say.
Before I left, I helped Kathy get the girls inside and tethered to a spot near each other:
Note the wagging tails.
A day or so later, Kathy sent me a wonderful video of them playing together. She reported that they got along perfectly. 
She brought Dionne back to us last Sunday. But the fun wasn’t over! Ella came too and settled in as our houseguest while Kathy went to visit friends in the Northwest.
I’ll report next on how Part 2 of the Girl Party unfolded.