5621 Days in the Life and Times of a Dog

On March 22, 2021, after 5621 days of a well-led life, Ralph, our well-loved, spoiled, and enormously entertaining Yorkie, passed away.

His was a full life filled with adventure and love. But it almost didn’t happen. He started life as a reject. The pet store where we found him said he had been returned by the original buyer. Ralph turned that rejection into one fabulous life,

He is survived by his loyal and well-trained servants, Kelsey, Charles, Susan, Joe, and his fellow canine companion of somewhat suspicious origin, Seamus. While he will be sorely missed, this is not meant to be a sad elegy but a celebration of his life and times on this planet.

He was predeceased by his fellow Yorkie, Max, who, while not enjoying the same longevity as Ralph (leaving us at the tender age of nine), managed to jam much living into their time together.

Both Ralph and Max had their dark side. They hated squirrels and would hunt them like Velociraptors whenever one dared enter their yard. They both went through a brief flirtation with crime when, unable to capture and terminate with extreme prejudice a squirrel, they turned their sights on our chickens.

Yes, Ralph and Max had a period when they were a Fowl Hit Squad, dispatching chickens with remarkable efficiency. Throwing themselves on the mercy of the court, they secured a light sentence, served their time, and resumed their place in the home hierarchy…at the top.

Ralph lived in five states and visited many others.  He ran on the beach in Kiawah, climbed mountains in New Hampshire, and explored the woods of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He had more experiences and frequent flyer miles than many humans. Once, after Max died and Kelsey and Ralph flew to Florida to meet Susan and I, we put Ralph in a stroller and snuck him into Disney.  Ralph went everywhere in those 5621 days of his life.

In his later years, Ralph enjoyed carrying a toy around the house, expecting you to follow him until he dismissed you. Not too fast, not too slow, just do what he wanted, and everyone would be happy.

When age began to take its toll, he found a way to cope.

Losing his hearing, he compensated by relying on Seamus as his guide, taking cues from Seamus as to when to bark, or get excited, or run randomly around the house for no apparent reason. While he may not have been able to hear as well, it mattered little. He always considered commands and directives as more suggestions than mandatory expectations.

“Get off the couch!” meant “if you are well rested, perhaps you’d enjoy returning to your own bed if it is your desire.”

Back in January, Ralph gave us a bit of foreshadowing of the inevitable. Injuring himself on one of his walks in the woods, his behavior had us concerned his time had come. But he recovered, and life resumed some sense of normalcy. Still, the shadows of our shared mortality grew silently longer and darker. I wrote about those moments and the joy of the delay in the inevitable. (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2021/01/11/a-life-perspective-a-one-well-lived/)

While most of the world struggled over the past year with the pandemic restrictions, Ralph enjoyed each moment since he considered everyone being at home all the time at his beck and call normal, if not Nirvana. If there is a silver lining in the cloud of these times, it was that.

Over the past few days, the change was evident. For Ralph to turn down food, something he expected every two hours, promptly and without delay, was an unequivocal statement that it was time. While we tried to look for some hopeful signs of another reprieve, it was not to be.

I firmly believe Ralph hung on through March 21st to celebrate Kelsey’s Baby shower, the imminent arrival of a new life, and enjoy his last full day of life with those who shared his.

His was a life worth living, and if the price of sharing it with him is a few days of sadness, it is a price we pay gladly. While his passing has left a hole in our hearts, time and memories will soon work their magic and fill them in.

If there is such a thing as the Rainbow Bridge, Ralph took very deliberate steps as he walked over it, stopping every few seconds to examine, reexamine, rereexamine each spot, turned this way, then that, took aim and peed on every color.

He would have it no other way, nor would I.

Go find a place in the sun, my friend, you’ve earned it.