Ralphie’s Story

My Mom, Jeanette, is a huge animal lover, just as I’m sure anyone who is reading this has in common with her. After her beloved little Yorkie Joey died about 7 years ago, she vowed, as many of us have, never to get another dog because of the inevitable grief that comes with their passing. She said she simply was not ready to give her heart to another dog…….that was until of course, Ralphie came into her life……………….
Being from a family who has only gotten dogs from shelters & rescues, I was friends with a woman who ran a shelter whom I ran into shortly after Joey’s passing. I told her of my Mom’s recent loss & seeing an opportunity to place one of her never ending supply of homeless dogs she told me about “Hobo”. Hobo was what you might call a hard to place dog. He was a less than perfect looking adult dog that had been abandoned. He had been dubbed Hobo because he was left in an unsheltered crate during the middle of the night in a cruel Chicago, below zero, snow storm at the back door of a closed Veterinary clinic. He had no name, no story & no information what-so-ever of what had been his previous existence. We were told that his age was approximately 7 years. As it turns out, he was significantly older. He was being kept at the veterinary clinic at which he was abandoned & would not eat for them. He was badly in need of someone to love him.
I told my Mom of this little dog & of course at first didn’t even want to hear about him. But after some gentle persuasion from my sister & myself, she agreed at least to go to see him. What we found was a small, very thin, Rat Terrier Mix with a misshapen head & jaw line and very sad eyes. His appearance, partly because of the abnormality of his jaw & partly because of most of his teeth being deformed and jutting every-which way was less than beautiful. A few of his teeth actually jutted out past his lips which gave the appearance that he always growling. He was extremely shy and scared and so alone. My Mom didn’t even want to touch him, for fear in the knowledge that if she took him & fell in love with him, she would again one day go through the horrible & inevitable grief that comes with losing a pet. She insisted that she could not go through that again & that she was still grieving the loss of Joey. We sadly left poor Hobo there & went home. Well, by now you must know that my Mom’s decision not to take him didn’t stick. By the next morning, after an agonizing night, we went back to rescue little Hobo. And because this sweet, sad little dog now had a home & a human to love & be loved by, the name Hobo just wouldn’t be appropriate any longe. His name would be Ralphie & from the day that Ralphie entered my Mom’s home & her heart, Ralphie would be the luckiest, happiest & best little dog in the world. No matter what happened before, his life truly started that day. He walked into my Mom’s home that day, wagging his little tail like he had lived there his whole life. He must have known that he was finally home.
After some extensive dental work, which still left him with a let’s say ,”a unique look”, & a quick brush up on housebreaking, he was a prefect, well behaved, happy little love sponge. His appetite flourished and you could no longer call him thin, but rather “plump”.
Until my Mom’s poor heath prevented it recently when she moved in with older sister Dawn, my Mom & Ralphie lived alone in that home in perfect bliss, never separated for even one night his whole life with her. He went on 4 family road trip vacations to Florida & one to Wisconsin Dells. Six years of the “Good Life”.
In the past year Ralphie’s health deteriorated with liver problems, arthritis & going blind & deaf, but always being a trooper and still enjoying life with my Mom. Last March at what we believe to be age 16 or so, it was time to make that horrible decision to put Ralphie to sleep. Even though Ralphie never gave up my Mom would not be so selfish as to keep him going at the expense of him suffering and losing his dignity. Ralphie was put to sleep March 31, 2009. It was probably the hardest & most unselfish thing my Mom has ever had to do. Mom is still heavy grief & will never forget that sweet little dog that she shared 6 years with. Ralphie was buried in a pet cemetery in Mundelein, Illinois with our other beloved family dogs & the following is what she read at his gravesite on that horrible day.

My Sweet Ralphie,
I remember the very first time I saw you. You looked so very pitiful. They called you Hobo, because you were left outside all night in the freezing cold with no one to care for you. The wind chill was twenty-five below zero. How could anyone be so heartless? I just lost my Joey and didn’t want to love another dog, only to go through the pain of losing one again. It hurts too much. So even though my heart told me to take you home, I fought it and went home without you. I regret that I didn’t take you home with me that very first day. I’m so sorry I left you alone that night. Deep down I knew I had to give little Hobo a home. So the next day I went to claim you for my very own. Ralphie you have been one of my greatest blessings. I wish we could have had more time together. I’ll never forget the way you jumped out of the car and ran to the front door and waited for us to open the door and let you in. You ran in so happy, running all around the house as if you knew you were home. I tried so hard not to love you completely because I knew how much it hurts to lose someone you love with all your heart. But how could I not love you! It was impossible! How could I not love someone so sweet, with those beautiful loving eyes, that happy wagging tail, that happy bark, those soft silky ears of yours? The first thing I had to do is change your name. You were no longer a Hobo! You had a home and someone to care for you and love you for always. I named you Ralphie. It means “protected by the wolf.” I am that wolf. I would always be there to protect you my Ralphie. You would never be left in the cold again. It was so sad to see you go blind and deaf. I wish I could have changed that. May you be strong and healthy and be able to see and hear all the beauty around you now. I pray god will show his kindness and allow us to be together again, along with all our other pets. I pray they were all there to greet you and welcome you. Be happy with them and sometime we will all be together again. Thank you my sweet Ralphie for the six years of complete happiness you brought into my life. I wish it could have been longer.

That time will come when you will see and hear me call to all of you…
“Mommy’s home!!!”

Always in my heart until we are together again, all my love for always,

April from IL