KUSA - Every backyard he inhabited, he defiled. Every piece of food that hit the floor, he devoured. Every stranger who came to the door, he denigrated.
In a world of good and bad dogs, he was occasionally more latter than former.
He was my boy. My bud. My wordless “welcome home” after a long day of awfulness.
Ralphie came to me 13 years ago. No bigger than the palm of my hand, he seemed to me to be the right fit.
He was eight weeks old. Neither the runt nor the most rambunctious, he accepted me right away.
That first night, I blew it. I wanted to crate train him. I really did. But his cries sounded too sincere (they weren’t).
And so I let him sleep in my room.
From then on, I came to realize something most pet owners know all too well. I didn’t own him.
He owned me.
In the Vanderveen house, he was the alpha.
Sunday morning, the alpha left us. People who know me and know him also know it was almost certainly well past his time.
In 2012, shortly after a vet diagnosed him with diabetes, he went blind. A few weeks after he went blind, the vet decided one of his eyes needed to come out due to a medical condition I can’t neither spell nor pronounce.
Since then, I’ve cared for a one-eyed, blind and diabetic pug. Two insulin shots a day. Eye drops twice a day to make sure he kept the one eye he had left.
Some people felt sorry for him.
I really never did.
Like I said, he was my bud.
For 13 years, he experienced every good and bad day right by my side. If I was down, he moved closer. I don’t know how dogs know, but somehow they do.
When my daughter was born, he didn’t judge when he took on a less prominent role in the house. He loved his ear scratches just the same, even if they were a little less numerous.
Maybe that’s the reason why dog lovers love dogs so much.
Dogs could care less if, at times, we find a few reasons to care a little less about them.
As long as they eventually get their scratches and their treats and their belly rubs, they love us with kind of sincerity that just doesn’t seem to exist in the two-legged world.
Today I woke up and felt, for a split second, I needed to get downstairs to check on the little guy. Did he have enough food? Water?
Then it hit me.
A few minutes later, I thought I saw him in his bed.
It then hit me again.
I still have some of his food. There is still some insulin left. His fur is still scattered around the main floor of my house.
I miss him.
Miss him in a way that’s bound to sound a little silly to a person who has never owned a dog before.
But I miss him.
When he was alive, every time I saw him I knew my day was about to get a little better. Even when he was defiling and devouring and denigrating, he still had the capability to make worries seem trivial.
Yesterday, I told my six-year-old daughter Ralphie had gone to doggy heaven. I’ve had some tough conversations in my life. That was near the top of the list.
Today I find myself wondering if there really is a doggy heaven, particularly when Ralphie was occasionally more sinner than saint.
It’s the same thought that came into my mind when my family lost two dogs decades ago – a time when I was much closer to my daughter’s age than the age I am now.
My conclusion now is slightly more refined than it was back then, but I think the foundation of it remains the same.
Follow me on this one.
My faith tells me God exists.
My heart tells me God is good.
So it only makes sense to believe that one day, should I be fortunate enough to find myself walking around in Heaven, I will look over and see a little pug patiently waiting for me.
Think about it.
If Heaven really is as great as some people suggest, there’s no way God would leave our dogs off the guest list.
See ya Ralph. Love ya boy.
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