Relaxing in the shade, eyes closed, white and golden-blonde hair dancing in the breeze, Ellie is tired. She works day in and day out without complaint. Lifting her head to check perimeters, because she’s never really off work, she considers how long it’s been since she went somewhere just for fun. “Too long,” she moans.

Six-year-old Ellie is my collie. I know what she thinks because she is the most vocal dog our home has known. When she talks, it’s conversational. We’ve learned to understand her and she us. She’s not exaggerating; she labors all the time. She guards our home against walkers on the sidewalk. She warns of perils like mailmen and trash collectors. According to her, the greatest danger facing us are those cats lounging on our front porch and the squirrels dashing along the top of our fence.

Lucky for Ellie, a break from the routine is just days away. This coming Saturday, October 7, is Dog Days of Denton, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the North Texas Fairgrounds.

Ellie with Kim's husband, Tim

We are dog people. We adopted Maggie, the eldest of the pack, from Dog Days of Denton back in 2007. We found and adopted Boo on Halloween just a few months later that same year. Maggie (a rat terrier/beagle mix) and Boo (a terrier/ Shih Tzu mix) were the best of friends, both of them well beyond puppy years, small and calm.

And then came Ellie.

When she joined our household, Ellie was a 3-month-old fluffy bundle of energy, a stark juxtaposition to Maggie and Boo. She grew quickly, awkward and gangly with her long legs, big paws and abundance of fur. The balance of our home was turned on its ear. Imagine a couple of elderly spinsters with a loud, rambunctious baby forced into their quiet lifestyle. Yes, that’s exactly what it was like for Maggie and Boo. In fact, it was kind of like that for Tim and me, too.

Ellie is smart. She picked up on the rules and fit in easily with the firmly established pack order from the get-go. Despite her Goliath-like bigness that dwarfed Maggie, little Maggie was the alpha dog.

On top of the heavy workload, this year has been an especially tough one for our dogs. In May, at 16 years of age, sweet Maggie crossed the rainbow bridge. Ellie reluctantly assumed the alpha role because Boo just doesn’t alpha. Since then, Ellie has mellowed. She’s gentle with old Boo and fiercely protective of us, her people.

Ellie’s new mantle of leadership coupled with an already arduous list of daily to-dos, like bringing leaves in from the yard and barking at frogs in the flower bed, has her eager for a just-for-fun outing. Dog Days is an annual thing for us. Boo is shy and a bit anti-social around other dogs, but Ellie thrives on attention and activity.

Dog Days of Denton 2016, Image courtesy Denton CVB

Ellie loves Dog Days of Denton, her special date day with us. As vocal a dog as she is, she suffers stage fright. She won’t sing or prance about in costume. So we don’t compete in the talent and costume contests, though she adores sitting on the sidelines to watch. What she looks forward to is showing off on the agility course, sitting for her glamfur photo shoot and sniffing the air heavy with delish smells of food and treats. Her most favorite thing about Dog Days of Denton, though, is the other dogs and people.

Dog Days is all about dogs. Canines bring their people versus the other way around. Vendors cater to them, dogs are friendly and eager to make friends, and petting is everywhere. Ellie loves strangers oohing and aahhing about her beauty, so much so that she reminds us about it for weeks to come, especially when she’s in trouble.

Early this morning, Ellie nudged me when I hit the snooze on my alarm for the second time. She talked softly, reminding me that it was time for our walk. I wanted to sleep in, but she insisted. When we walk, she herds me, snugly at my side matching my stride step for step. Ears high and eyes alert, she does not lag or wander ahead. She is working, protecting, committed to the exercise routine I need much more than she does. Perhaps she knows this. What I know is that, even in the pre-dawn darkness, I feel confident and safe with my Ellie.

This is what Dog Days of Denton is all about: our faithful companions who add a layer of simply uncomplicated, unconditional love to our lives. We owe them a day, don’t we?

For details about Dog Days, visit dogdaysofdenton.com.