In 2012 I had to say good-bye to a friend.
But not just any old pal.
A four-legged, tan, with pronounced under bite, charming, crowd-pleasing, entertaining canine I named Ripley.
In August 1997 he showed up in my driveway, oil dripping from my car that he was hiding under as if to say, “I'm home.”
When I was forced to bid him farewell, he was blind, deaf, had suffered two seizures, endured a liver condition on medication, but never lost his spunk, sense of smell, adventure, or fearlessness. Though he didn't live in pain, his body had been through a lot.
The only difference was his body was ready to rest.
He knew certain words - his favorites – 'hamburger,' 'chicken', (which he loved), 'treat', 'walk', 'park', 'your store' (Petsmart, where he'd ride in the cart), 'rice', and 'daddy' (my late boyfriend Ruben passed away from liver cancer in 2005 and they were buddies); among others.
I had a lot of nicknames for Ripley – Ripper, Rip, Rip n' Run, Ripple, Ripster; etc.
Then a restaurant opened up a few years ago in my neighborhood called Old Rip's. I had to take a picture of that. Ruben would've gotten a kick out of that.
Before Ripley went blind, I used to take him through the fast food drive-thru and we'd share a burger, because, with his liver condition, it was one of the few things he could have. He'd get to where he'd bark at the drive-thru pick-up window as if telling them to hurry.
One time we went through the bank drive-thru and he did the same thing, not realizing there was no food to be served there!
When Ripley could see and hear every week we'd go to Petsmart and he'd ride in the cart, standing on his hind legs.
Once a customer, stopped us and said to him in the most Southern drawl, “Are you the little navigator?” Kids always wanted to pet him.
Every time we pulled into the Petsmart parking lot, Ripley knew we were at HIS store and he'd start barking and going crazy. I'd say to him over and over, “Are we are your store?” “Where are we, boy?” “Where are we?”
There was a sales associate there who's gone now that always gave him extra attention and never forgot his name. I gave her a Christmas card every year.
Ripley went to the same groomer for years, Petlocks Grooming in Fort Worth, and all the groomers loved him. They took special care with him in later years when his health wasn't so good. He loved them all, too, and one of them pet sat for me a couple of times. That was another place that when we pulled into the parking lot he couldn't wait to get out of the car, except for a couple of times when he'd decide to be stubborn and hide in the floorboard.
Ripley and my late boyfriend Ruben had a special bond. Ruben taught him tricks, bathed him, and Ripley would watch him work on cars, something Ruben did on the side to make extra money. Ruben used to sing to Ripley that Neil Young song, “Old Man Look at My Life” because Ruben said they were both old. Ruben worked the graveyard shift so sometimes I'd bring Ripley to work to see him and Ruben would dig through his lunch cooler and find a treat he could eat.
Ruben got a kick out of Ripley one night (among many other times) because he took him down to see the work guard dogs and Ripley, only weighing 15 pounds, actually scared THOSE dogs because of his under bite even though Ripley was not vicious at all!
When Ruben died it was hard on Ripley for a long time and Ripley and I would always attend some cancer fundraisers to memorialize him.
Ripley had the funniest habits. One of them was this spinning routine on the couch after a bath that I always wanted to capture on video and send in to “America's Funniest Videos.”
I only saw three dogs that looked like Ripley because he was so unusual looking. He was a Pug/Jack Russell/Yellow Lab (a miniature Yellow Lab). His first vet had never seen anything like him and you couldn't find him in a book. I always wanted to be able to find his parents just to see what created him!
Once, when I was pregnant, a friend of mine had him at her house temporarily and he got out of her yard during the late afternoon. Another friend of mine and I went looking for him that night and walked all over distributing fliers. Later someone called me and said they found him. We found Ripley tied up in the backyard, unharmed, just happy to see us. The guy who found him was passed out drunk in his house. I left him a thank you note and compensation. I was just so happy to have my dog back!
It's incredibly hard to sum up a senior dog's life in just a couple of pages when he touched as many people's lives as a person would.
A brief vignette of Ripley's story was published in Reader's Digest one year when he was alive but his life was so big and beautiful that it will stay with me forever.