Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ralph, by KC Tate

Ralph was brought into our clinic in 1998 by a school teacher who'd found him on the children's playground. She thought he was injured since he walked with a slight limp and was slow moving. With his short little legs and from the looks of his pads, he'd been going for a long while. Once the teacher found out he was heartworm positive, she decided she didn't want him and consigned him to the pound. All of us at the clinic had fallen in love with this funny looking dog and a couple of girls decided his name should be Ralph.

When I found out he was pound bound, I told the Doc I wanted him. He had a heart murmur, but after heartworm treatment, the murmur went away. Doc estimated him to be between 2 and 4 years old. I brought him home during his heartworm treatment and discovered I had a wanderer on my hands. The first week, Ralph took off and I thought I wouldn't see him again; he had a bad case of wanderlust, plus he hadn't been neutered. A couple of days later, he came back, limping and exhausted. A couple of weeks later, he got out again and left. By the fourth day, I had given him up for gone when on a Sunday morning I was reading the paper and heard whining. Checking on my dogs, I couldn't find the source. Once I heard it again, I checked out front and there stood Ralph, whining and wanting in!

He managed to survive heartworm treatment and was immediately neutered. He decided this was a pretty good place and stuck around after that. He was also now getting regular walks - on leash!

As time passed, Ralph took to leaving if the chance arose, but would return within a half hour. I followed him one day in my car and discovered that this dog was taking himself around the block! He didn't go anywhere else but around the block. It became a joke: Ralph wanted to walk and if the opportunity presented itself, he walked himself around the block. We'd laugh and assure the neighbors he would be back.

I got on the Internet one day to see if I could figure out what breed he might be and found a dog that looked nearly identical; it was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Although the PBGV does not have front legs that point two different directions, there may have been a bit of basset hound in him and he did bay, but he definitely had the attitude of a PBGV: stubborn, independent and a sharp sense of smell.

In 2008, Ralph developed ulcers in his eyes and we visited an opthalmic specialist who was able to age him by looking at the back of his eyes with a scope. He said Ralph was 14 years old, so the vet had been close. By 2009, Ralph began developing calcium overgrowths in his scapular area (the top part of his front legs) and huge knots started developing, first on his right leg, then his left; he began to limp and was in some pain. He went on a regimen of pain pills and Glycoflex, but continued to putter right along.

Soon, he started losing his sight, then his hearing. In December, 2009, Ralph quit eating, which was not at all normal. On January 4, 2010, I had to put my good friend to rest; a necropsy revealed liver cancer, which had not shown up in previous blood work. It just came on within a couple of months and within a couple of weeks, he was gone.

Ralph was to have been an adoptable dog and many people were interested in him, but I discovered early on that he did not play well with others; he liked to chase balls, but wouldn't give them back and would try to bite you if you tried to take it. I was never able to work that out of him, so he stayed with me. An amusing note: It did not dawn on me that my neighbor's name was Ralph and now I had a dog named Ralph! I went out into the backyard one day and called for Ralph. Out of nowhere came a response – my neighbor was outside next door and thought I had called him!

Ralph also had a fetish for car interiors. I was bringing him back from the vet one afternoon when I stopped by my doctor's office. The secretary had heard Ralph's story and was delighted he was with me and went outside to see him. She came back in laughing, telling me he was so cute, especially the way he was gnawing on my door panel just like "he was eating an ear of corn". I didn't think it was real funny when I saw what he had done to the car door panel. Ralph definitely was a character and there will never be another like him.

He was truly something else and will forever be missed.

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