Tanya Andrews remembers the day she and her husband, Matt, met Ellie, their golden retriever. It was nearly twelve years ago.
The couple, who went on to found the bakery Yellow Dog Bread Company on Person Street in September of 2013, had just gotten married. They were excited to adopt their first pet together, and Ellie was one floppy yellow dog among a litter of newborn puppies.
“It was just like a big puppy pile, and this one puppy kept coming over to us, and crawling into our laps,” Tanya remembers. “She had those sharp little puppy nails and sharp teeth. We sat there for an hour playing with the puppies, but we knew when we left, she was ours.”
Tanya recalls the day she and Matt took Ellie home as one of the happiest of her life. But she describes the day before Thanksgiving this year as one of the saddest.
The couple came home after a busy night of baking to find Ellie sleepy and unresponsive—uninterested, even, in food. They took her to her veterinarian, CityVet’s Dr. McCrory, the next day. He referred them to an emergency veterinarian’s office in Cary. There, the couple learned that Ellie was severely dehydrated, with sepsis in her abdomen.
The prospects for recovery didn’t look good. Tanya and Matt made the difficult decision to put their yellow dog to sleep.
Tanya cries intermittently as she talks about Ellie a week later, about losing her so abruptly. She says the sunny, cozy home on Huntleigh Drive that she shares with Matt and their seven-month-old baby boy, Walker, feels empty without her. She has yet to move Ellie’s bed, clean the hair out from her brush, or put her leash away.
“She was our baby,” Tanya says. “Our world revolved around her. If we went somewhere, she went there. If we got on the bed, she got on the bed. We got on the sofa, she got on the sofa. There wasn’t a day or a moment when most of our daily routine didn’t revolve around her.”
When Tanya and Matt decided to finally open a bakery after years of planning and saving, Ellie was there. They had apprenticed as bakers, moved from Raleigh back to their native eastern North Carolina to keep saving money, quit salaried jobs on two occasions, and then returned to Raleigh. It was during long, daily walks with Ellie through Durant Nature Preserve that the bakery was born.
“We were dreaming up what life could be like,” Tanya says. “These things we were wishing for were taking shape on these walks with Ellie through the woods. These free-floating ideas started to take root. It was because of her that we were allowed the space to dream, walking her in the quietness of the woods.”
So, of course, when the day finally came to open their bakery nearly six years after deciding to do it, they named their bakery Yellow Dog, for Ellie.
Like her owners, whose cinnamon rolls and sticky buns are heralded across town, Ellie had a sweet tooth. One Christmas, Tanya recalls, Ellie opened a sealed box of chocolate truffles. She unwrapped them all, leaving the wrappers in a pattern across the living room floor. For the holiday season, Yellow Dog will offer Shortbread Ellies—shortbread cookies made with thyme and a lemon glaze—as a way of memorializing her.
Tanya says that, when she thinks about what she hopes Yellow Dog represents in Raleigh, her thoughts always return to Ellie.
“We want to love unconditionally,” she says. “We want to be faithful. We want you to know you can trust us. We want to have that unwavering loyalty to the people that we serve and the community we love. We want to be compassionate. I never thought about the day the Yellow Dog would exist without the yellow dog, but she’ll always be part of what we do.”
(Top image by Geoff Wood; others from Facebook)