Ulla on the Cowiche Canyon Trail

Ulla on the Cowiche Canyon Trail in March 2019. From here, we drove downtown for a beer at Single Hill — which is possibly Ulla’s favorite place in the world. 

Sometimes all you need is a dog and a beer to feel at home.

I arrived in Yakima about a year ago. For a couple months I was here by myself, as my wife and son stayed behind to sell our house in Utah.

Ulla remained with them in North Ogden.

Ulla is our border collie/Husky mix. Our youngest daughter named her for the secretary in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” We got her in December 2012, when we lived in Elkhart, Ind.

The border collie breeder lived about an hour away. When we arrived, she opened the pen and five gangly black-and-white streaks of fur came racing into the yard. One ran straight to us, rolled over on her back and asked hopefully for a belly rub.

Then she looked at me. Her right eye was chestnut brown and her left was ice blue. I fell in love.

“We’ll take this one,” my wife said, acknowledging my fascination with the pup.

As thanks, the pup - still unnamed - threw up all over my wife and the front seat of my Subaru WRX on the way home.

Over the years, Ulla and I became inseparable. Especially during our final year in Utah.

Changes in the newsroom meant that I had to oversee print production every night for months. I stayed at the paper until the presses started, around midnight.

And every night when I got home, Ulla met me at the door. Then I grabbed a beer from the fridge and we went outside to play.

The darkness didn’t matter. The cold, snow and rain didn’t matter. I threw her flying squirrel, she caught it, dropped it at my feet, and I threw it again. Over and over.

Because we needed each other.

We had more time to play during the summer, when the paper was sold and I lost my job, along with a lot of other people. I applied for work every day, with Ulla snoozing serenely at my feet as I pounded out cover letters.

Late in afternoon, around 5 o’clock, she’d jump to her feet when I closed the cover on the laptop. As I headed to the refrigerator, she trotted to the back door. We played for the rest of the evening.

Being without her, only for a few weeks, was the hardest part of moving to Yakima. I could talk with my wife every night and exchange texts with my friends, but I couldn’t throw a flying squirrel 650 miles to North Ogden.

Luckily, I arrived in Yakima just in time for the hop harvest. I’d never tasted beer so fresh, so imaginative and flavorful. So on Saturdays, I visited local brew pubs - not just for the remarkable beers, but also to meet people and spend a few pleasant moments in conversation.

“You’re new here? Where’d you come from?”

“Northern Utah.”

“They have good beer there?”

“Not much, no.”

“That’s too bad. You a Seahawks fan?”

Then one Saturday, I walked into Single Hill Brewing. There were dogs in the bar. Dogs on the patio. My heart leapt for joy.

If I couldn’t pet Ulla, I could at least give somebody’s dog a scratch behind the ears while I struck up a conversation with the person at the other end of the leash.

I went back every Saturday. Suddenly, Yakima started to feel like home.

After Ulla got here in late October, I started taking her too. If we’ve been out on the trail and I point the Mustang downtown, she can barely contain herself - although she’s yet to throw up out of excitement, like she did on the day we brought her home to Elkhart.

By the time I’ve got a beer in hand, Ulla is usually rolling over and asking for belly rubs from new friends. It makes for a pleasant afternoon.

Some people explain that they don’t have their dogs with them because they’re new to Yakima, or they’re just visiting for a few days.

Sometimes all you need is a dog and a beer to feel at home.


Reach Greg Halling at


Twitter: @ghalling