Rags & Mattie-Matt

I thank God for the gift of your talent and appreciate your asking for stories about your listeners pets.
I’m 55 years old and have owned dogs all my life. I grew up on and around farms in Orange County NY. My wife and I have 2 sons (now 14 & 12) – we all want to share the story of “Rags & Mattie-Matt”.
My wife & I are huge NY Yankee fans. In 1987 we answered a “free to a good home” want ad and picked up the sheep dog/Heinz 57 mix that we named “Righetti, aka “Rags “for short.
Rags was the Queen of the countryside – this land was her land, and wherever she stoo….well she just thought that she was the boss of almost evrything and everybody – except for me. I was the only one that she would obey with unquestioned obedience. My wife, Su, could call, beseech, scream at and finally beg Rags to be obedient – but to no avail. I would start many a good natured spat by making eye contact with Rags and then nodding my head in a direction and rags would obediently follow my direction. Of course, I would say to Su, “there now, see how easy it is?”

One year later (1988) some idiot dumped a litter of German Shepherd mix puppies by the side of the road. Mattingly (aka Mattie Matt) found her way to our house. Rag’s life (and ours) was never the same.
The two dogs were polar opposites in their personality and temperment.
Mark, Rags was basically a bull-dyke kind of a dog. She didn’t care who liked her, as long as she was riding shotgun in the car with me and as long as she got fed first and received a treat of vanilla ice cream once in a while. If you would have come to our house she would try to intimidate you – and if she did – she’d walk around with a gleeful trot.
MattieMatt on the other hand, was a docile sweet little thing that just worshipped her “big sizzer”. If Rags bared, Mattie would bark., etc. I often said that Mattie Matt was as bright as any stone you could find in the stonewall around our property – but she proved me wrong.
When Mattie was a young dog, she could run like the wind (which used to realy tick Rags off. Rags had short legs and a rather wide body – not built for speed at all). Mattie would run high speed circles around the house – we used to call it her “crazy dog” routine. You know the drill: tongue out, ears up, eyes glazed over and fixed. If she would have run into anything she would have been dead because, my God, could she run!!!
Both dogs would go into an absolute frenzy if I would say “I think I want to go bye-bye.” The combo words “bye-bye” would have 2 dogs jumong in the air and standing near the door of my Isuzu Trooper. We’d often go swimming ina lake or in the Delaware River by Port Jervis. They loved bye-byes – especially bye-byes that got them a swim.
in 1992, Rags and Matt welcomed our first born son Stevie Ray (yes, named after the blues guitarist). They were excited to have a “kid” to watch over. Rags – grew tired of “that kid” ruining her sleep every night, so she moved from the bedroom floor to another part of the house.
In time, Mattie grew real close with “the kid”. Mattie would sleep in Stevie’s room every night on the floor near his crib and then later his bed. Our other son Zach came along in 1995. Rags and Matt were trying to figure out just what in the heck is going on here!!! With all of these kids, it was getting tough for two dogs to go on Bye-Byes.
Mattie would go to sleep every night with her “big kid” and “the little kid”.
Rags would go to sleep wherever I called it a night. If I fell asleep on the couch, rags would be there when I awoke. If I went to bed, Rags would lay on the floor next to where I was sleeping. When I got up, she got up.
Unfortunately, we all get old and die.
Rags, my “big girl” died the day after Mother’s Day in 2001. She had been sick and we thought that we might have had to put her down – but then she rebounded. Evene though she was 13 in 2001, she was still as feisty as ever. On Mother’s Day, we went and visited my Mother in Law at her home on Wanasink lake. Rags and Mattie had a ball that day. I’ll never forget how happy Rags was. She never took her eyes off of me and never left my side all day.
She wasnted to stay outside that night. IIt was a beautiful spring night, just a hint of warm summer air coming around the corner. In the morning, I opened the door to see her laying across the walkway. I knew immediately that she wasn’t sleeping – and my heart broke. I cried over my big girl like I was 12 years old again. I’m crying as I write this now.
I buried her in a shaded spot in the back of our yard. Mattie lay near the hole and lay staring at me. Mattie was so confused. I wrapped Rags in one of the jackets that she and I used to play tug-of-war with and then covered her with dirt.
Mattie was a basket case for the rest of the summer. Our vet told us, “she has never had to think for herself before. Rags made all of the decisions and Mattie was the obedient servant.” Mattie walked around the house for days looking for Rags. sometimes she would lay near where Rags was buried – it was a hard summer.
Eventually, Mattie just grew used to being the only dog of the house. She never did get any smarter. Eventually her hearing went, and then her sight. Mattie would sleep alot, but everyday, she’d wake up in the afternoon and walk to the end of the driveway and wait for her kids to get off of the bus. then she’d walk them back to the house.
In 2005, Mattie was now 17 years old. She was skinny, slow moving, had a form of dohhie dementia and was also turning incontinent. Mattie also had a nasty habit. She came to realize that she could get my attention if she just breathed on me. So in the dead of night, she’d wander over and pant a few breaths in my face. I should have probably had her pant a few of those breaths in Rags face in 2001 – she might have woken up!!! God, was her breath foul!!
Su & I knew that Matties time was drawing near. Even though she was incontinent, we couldn’t bear to put her down. She showered us with love and responded to our attention in such a gentle manner, that we knew that Mattie was at peace and not suffering.
One night in May 2005, I took my boys to their LL baseball game. Mattie wandered off. I searched for her. I walked the field, the woods – stopped by peoples homes – every one knew who Mattie was – but no-one knew where she was. After a week, I gave up trying to find her. that still bothers me to this day – because she didn’t give up.
We held a memorial for Mattie, next to where Rags was buried. We said our goodbyes, and buried some Mattie momento’s – but we were in for a surprise.
Another week went by. I was attending a conference in Ithaca at the lib capitol of NY State (every STOP sign has a weenie posted The War spray painted onto it. At the conference, a couple of the presenters felt compelled to share their idiotic world views with the audience – I thought of you, wishing that I had shouted “sit down you big liberal dope!!!.. or get off of my stage!!!”)
On the last night that I was to be in Ithaca, I called home to say hi to Su and the boys. Zach answered the phone, I’ll never forget the excitement in his voice as he said “daddy, it’s a miracle. God has given us a miracle. Mattie’s home. Mattie came home. She’s alive!!!!”
Yes, somehow, the dog that I said was as smart as a stonewall had found the courage and ability to survive for 2 weeks . A deaf, nearly blind, slow moving animal had somehow survived until she made it to a neighbor’s house, who called Su and said I think that the dog you are looking for may be here.
Su knew that was to be Mattie’s last day. She was feeble, smeeld horrible and was in pain. But she responded to Su’s touch and to that of the boys. Su said that Mattie knew that she had made it home.
Su laid up all night with Mattie and kept her hands petting her gently. Every time Su stopped, Mattie would moan. Su petted and carressed Mattie all night.
Mattie was alert enough for the boys to say good by to her as they left for school.
Rags – came down and showed Mattie what a great place doggie heaven is shortly after the boys left. I made it home around noon that day. I was so happy to see her,so happy that she made it home. I begged her forgiveness for calling her “dumb as a rock.” I begged her forgiveness for not continuing to search for her – I cannot believe that I gave up. It still bothers me.
I buried Mattie next to her “big sizzer” and marveled at the gift her life had brought to us all.
I still talk to Rags and Mattie – what a pair they were.
Last November, we picked up another pound puppy and named him Ace (in tribute to Mariano “the Ace” Rivera). Ace is a riot. He is an 85 pound Rott/Retreiver mix who thinks that giving hugs and licking faces is a fun thing to do. And, oh yes, he also goes nuts when I say – “so, do you want to go bye’bye?”
Thanks again for all that you do.

Vic from NY