And Ripley Was Her Name

My husband, Jeff is an avid hunter of both small and large game. Being from Wisconsin, it’s like second nature to partake in the hunting seasons. October 1st of 2005 would be a hunt Jeff would never forget. He and a few friends traveled to Ladysmith, WI for Jeff’s first Black Bear excursion with hounds. The Plott Hounds aided Jeff and treed a large female Black Bear after several hours.
Later the same night, my husband called me and spoke with our two boys Trevor whom was 9 and Caleb 7. The expressions on their faces were evident that his hunt had indeed been successful.  I was next to hear the news first hand as Jeff’s call became direct concern towards me.  I was 8 months pregnant with our third boy and many complications.
After several minutes Jeff became silent for a moment to ask me a question he would truly know the answer to. “Karinne, “ Jeff begins. “I was talking with one of dog owners today after our hunt. There is a dog, a female Plott Hound who doesn’t have the heart to hunt bear anymore. “ I knew what was coming next. Of course, I started laying out the scenario to Jeff. “We have two boys with another on the way. We are in the mist of remodeling our home. I won’t be on maternity leave for another month. Who is going to care for this dog during the day? Is it housebroken? Has she ever seen a vet?” Jeff response was chilling to me and I would never forget. “Karinne, when these dogs loose their will to hunt, the owners don’t want to spend money to feed these dogs. They destroy those that don’t hunt.” That was it. I wanted her home with us. 
The next time I would see Jeff he would be on our front yard walking this malnourished, timid, brindle colored Plott Hound. I opened the front door to greet my husband who I had not seen in a week. I then lean over to hold the head of this beautiful girl. Jeff and I talked as we walked around the yard with our new family member, watching her smell everything and take in her new surroundings.
Ripley was her name.
I bought everything you could think of buying for a new dog before they came home. A new bed, a variety of treats and toys, food, dishes, shampoos, and nails clippers. If Ripley needed it, we had it.  Later we would learn her bed was not needed as her spot was between Jeff and I in our bed. That night, we bathed her and watched her eat as if she had not eaten in days.  It wouldn’t be long before the boys had her chasing them around the yard and putting on some much needed weight.
She was perfect.
Our youngest son, Mason was born that year, November 18th weighing in at 9 and a half pounds. Mason and I were just fine. We were home within 2 days greeted by Trevor and Caleb who had hung homemade “Welcome Home” posters. There was Ripley, wagging her tail.  She would become Mason’s protector.  When I would lay Mason on the living room area rug, there was Rip to lie next to him.  When Mason would wake during the night for feedings, Ripley was up. There was never a worry that Ripley would be to rough with the baby.
February of 2006, Jeff and I decided to take the kids and Ripley to my father’s cabin in Lakewood for a much needed getaway. We worried about Ripley being on 80 acres that she would start running and not stop. We couldn’t have been more wrong.  Rip and the boys played all weekend in the snow, sledding and four-wheeling on the trails. It didn’t matter what the boys did, Ripley was there joining in the fun. We didn’t have to call her once to come in closer to the cabin. I know she was comfortable in our home, but there was something about her there, at the cabin where she seemed to exhale for the first time in her life. It was like she finally found her place in this world. I can recall the exact time I thought this. Ripley and the boys had come in from playing in the snow. Mason was sleeping and there sat Rip at the top of the stairs leading to the loft, piercing through the log staircase out the wall of windows overlooking the land. And in that instance, I took her picture. (This is the picture attached.)She was beautiful. I remember staring at her after taking several pictures to assure at least one would turn out. If it was at all possible, Ripley looked like a female. Her hair was always shinny and groomed, her eyes were like that of a female with eyelashes to match.  There was no mistaking it. Ripley was a girl.
March 25,,2006, Jeff left for Ft. McCoy Military Base as he did almost every week to check up on his construction sites.  Trevor and Caleb had finally broken away from their favorite cartoons ready to start their day. Mason was down for a nap and there was laundry to be done. The boys were giggling in their room for some time when Trevor came running into the living room asking me for a camera. Out walks Rip with Caleb’s camo pants and long sleeve shirt on. Those boys actually got her front legs in the long sleeves and her back legs into the pants. That poor girl sat while we laughed. Ripley stared at me with this look as if to say, “Alright, you had your laugh, now get me out of these clothes.” Unfortunately, their dad had the camera. They took the clothes off Ripley.  As I walked up to Rip, I patted her on the head.  I did tell the boys they could dress her up when their dad got home and we would take a picture of the three together.
The boys and Rip ran outside as I finished up the laundry and their breakfast dishes.  Not much time had gone and I hear the front door open and close with what sounds like a stampede driving through our home. Then, for an instant, I could hear a train coming down the tracks that run along side our property. It was different. The horn didn’t seem to be in its typical rhythm.
A half an hour had lapsed I was startled by pounding on our front door. I looked around the corner and out the sidelights to see a woman. As I open the door she was crying. I looked towards the road and saw her mini-van, with a man and two girls stepping out and onto my driveway.  The only words I could understand her saying; collar and orange. I asked the woman if she was alright? Then a complete sentence, “Do you have a dog with an orange collar?” My heart stopped and my mouth dropped. I yelled for the boys. They came running to me, but no Ripley. I asked the boys to stay in the house to listen for the baby as I ran out the door struggling to get my shoes on. I was demanding this woman to tell me what happened as I repeatedly screamed Ripley’s name. I couldn’t hear what this woman was telling me. I could hear the replay of the train horn from earlier. RIPLEY… It was all coming together. I continued to yell Ripley’s name, at the same time making sense of what this woman was telling me. Then she said, “I think she made it though.” She made what?” “The train. I think your dog beat the train. We tried to call your dog over to us before the train came.” YOU WERE CALLING MY DOG ACROSS THE TRACKS WITH A TRAIN COMING?” This woman, an instant enemy and I didn’t even know here name. I was more than angry. I couldn’t believe how ignorant one individual could be. I continued to scream Ripley’s name as I ran down the railroad tracks, looking back over my shoulder hoping to see her running behind me.
I stopped. I turned to look back towards my house. In the distance through my breath, I could see this overweight woman holding who I guessed was her daughter. My heart was beating in my ears. “Ripley.”  I didn’t speak her name aloud. I couldn’t move.
RIPLEY!!! I shouted even louder this time. “Come on girl! Come here!” As I walked back up the railroad tracks I looked down just watching my feet. One, two, three, four…I found myself counting railroad ties. What the hell is the matter with me? I continued to walk towards my home and I stopped. RUN KARINNE!!! I yelled in my head. There she was! How did I miss her? She was lying in the grass of our side yard. I ran and knelt down next to Ripley. I whispered her name. Come on…get up.  I knew she was gone. She had blood dripping from her ears and nose.  She was just lying there like she does at home on the floor.  “I am so sorry.” I pet Rip’s head and raised mine to see the woman who did this to my dog. My children’s best friend. I slowly stood and asked, “How do I tell my kids?” She did not answer. I walked past her and into the house where the boys were waiting for me.  They began to cry as I entered the room. After comforting them for a short time, I called Jeff. It was difficult telling Jeff as I cried uncontrollably over the phone. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t leave Ripley there in the yard. The only thing I could do was to get a wheelbarrow to lay her in.
After speaking with Jeff, I called my mom to tell her the news and asked if she would come over to watch the kids. My mom pulled into the drive, crying. I walked to the garage to retrieve the wheelbarrow and walked to the property line where our Ripley lay. Trevor and Caleb came running after me. They wanted to see Ripley and help me move her.  They each held a toy of Ripley’s in their hands and a blanket to line the wheelbarrow.
I crouched down to Ripley’s side and gently slid my arms under her.  Dear God. I closed my eyes and slowly pulled my arms back out. I stopped when I could see I had Ripley’s blood covering my arms. I began crying harder, closing my eyes again, I prayed to God. “God please. Give me the strength to pick up Ripley and place her in this wheelbarrow.” I tried again and failed. Again I prayed to God to allow me to lift Ripley into the wheelbarrow and put her to rest.
God answered my prayer. I lifted Ripley up as if she were weightless, in lieu of her 80 pounds and gently laid her on the blanket. I moved in front of the boys so they could not see the blood as I slowly eased my arms from under Ripley and pushed my sleeves down over arms. The boys stood next to Ripley petting her and crying. Placing her toys between her front paws. I brought her into the garage and covered her.
The morning seemed to take days. Jeff made a memorial for Ripley and there, we buried her.
I think of Ripley everyday. She rests near the place she passed with a stone head that reads, “Our dearest friend.” Beautiful plants and wild flowers surround her. We visit her frequently.
After reading Saving Sprite, it was much easier to write about Ripley.
Thank you Mark and God Bless you.
Karinne from WI