The Ella Update

Ella in Europe CoverA reader of this space wrote to say that she was in the middle of “Ella in Europe,” my book about traveling abroad with my American dog. She was afraid to ask — but she wanted to know if Ella was still with us. She also suggested that I post an update every now and then for devoted readers and dog-lovers.

So here goes: Ella is still with us. She’s 11 now — she’ll be 12 in April. She sleeps more than ever, and she gets up slowly (unless there’s human food involved). She has some arthritis and a couple of small benign cysts on her back. Despite the usual indignities of being an old(er) dog, she seems quite healthy and happy. She’s still white as snow, still preternaturally expressive with her ears and tails and eyebrows, like Gromit, only with a mouth.

Ella enjoys harassing the squirrels in our garden, “eviscerating” her plush toys, and barking at the mailman. In her doateg she seem  much nicer to other dogs; instead of getting into ugly arguments with passing canines, she sometimes flashes a discreet sneer when she thinks I’m not looking. (And she raises her hackles in a comical Mohawk.) With people, Ella continues to be an inexhaustible source of joy. She likes to lay her muzzle on your lap when you sit, as though it were a book she’s offering as a furry surprise. She likes to go on walks, whether for local errands or to her Eden, Runyon Canyon, where I first found her. She likes to nuzzle with our cat, Sam.

Ella is officially retired from working a certified therapy dog. She’s probably still capable of weekly visits to nursing homes and hospitals, but her handler is perhaps a bit overprotective of her, preferring to shield her (and her stiffening hip joints) from too many groping hands.

But she still has a job. The TV network Animal Planet has turned the book into a charming situation comedy called “Ella and Me.” Ella plays herself (quite well, I must say,) Two episodes of a planned 15 are completely finished and will air sometime in early 2006. Depending on how audiences react — or, more precisely, if there is an audience — the network will decide how to proceed. Unless more people tune in then usually do for an Animal Planet primetime show, these two episodes will probably be both the beginning and end of Ella’s TV career. So if you want to keep seeing her in the comfort of your living room, tell at least 500,000 people to watch!

She’s napping now in my office. Later, we’ll feed the birds together. And we’ll have a little walk to the library. And all the while I’ll be grateful she’s still my friend.

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