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"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

(Roger Caras)

Ralph, a Chihuahua (mix?)
Ralph, a Chihuahua (mix?), 10 years old
© 2011 Gib Brown
Ralph, 10+ years old at time of adoption.

I volunteer at the SPCA and was selected to be on a special committee, the members of which were to work exclusively with the almost 150 dogs that came to the shelter from a hoarder. The SPCA had done an amazing job placing the vast majority of the dogs either in private homes or with rescue groups. However, a few of the dogs were deemed unadoptable for either health or behavior reasons and their futures were not exactly rosy.

Try as I might, I found myself becoming increasingly attached to an elderly, crippled, nearly blind Chihuahua mix whom I fervently prayed would soon be adopted. Because of his health problems however, he failed to make it to the adoption floor and finally his health began to deteriorate rapidly. Rather than greet me enthusiastically he would lay tightly curled in a ball and it seemed to me that Ralph had given up and was ready to go.

Shortly after Ralph's downturn, the volunteers who had worked with these dogs were given the opportunity to adopt one of the unadoptables to which they had bonded. I was heartbroken to realize that Ralph would never find a loving home, but felt I just could not take on another dog and one in frail health with special needs as well.

Things don't always work out as planned however, and someone else knowing how attached I was to Ralph (and he to me) put a hold on him in my name. Consequently I communicated with the SPCA vet and the head of animal services and determined that they were recommending euthanasia because of his failing health and the fact that even with medication he seemed in constant pain. I was devastated but had to agree that he was not the same dog he had been almost 2 months ago and agreed with their recommendation.

Then something in me rebelled in this dog dying without ever having been adopted and known the security of the arms of a loving owner. I requested permission to adopt him and have him put down not at the shelter, but at my own vet's where I might have his body cremated and retain his ashes. My request was approved and at noon I formally adopted Ralph. I made an appointment at 3:30 that afternoon to have him put down.

After I left the SPCA I decided my first priority was to give Ralph as much quality time as possible before his appointment with my vet. One of the things Ralph had enjoyed most at the SPCA was my carrying him in my arms while I walked the grounds. Not terribly surprising then that I ended up at a local park and decided we would take our first and final walk (I would do the walking and he would do the riding in my arms) around the fields therein.

Ralph surprised me however. He was anything but the lethargic creature of the previous week and wanted down to do the walking himself, so I complied. He had a wonderful time with his nose deep in the grass and walked much further than I ever thought possible. He was also quite animated and seemed to be enjoying himself very much. By the time we left for the vet I was in a deep quandary as for the last hour he had been giving me totally different signals from those I had expected.

To make a long story short, my vet examined him, had another vet check out his front legs and neck and they decided that with a little patience, care and a dental (scheduled for next week) Ralph had good days to look forward to in his future. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Update - September 2010: Ralph came through the dental with fying colors, but a few less teeth. Of the 8 teeth he had before the surgery, only 1 survived. The other 7 were in terrible shape and all of them had abscessed. Hopefully now Ralph can be free of the pain that must have been depressing him terribly and can enjoy whatever time we have left together.

Update - June 2011: Ralph is doing extremely well. After a bit of experimenting we found medication to keep him pain free and comfortable. Although he has a bit of trouble walking, he can run amazingly fast and loves running after me when I'm out in the acre agility arena. He's affectionate and very spoiled and I feel so very fortunate to have this little boy in my life for however long he might have left.

Ralph, a Chihuahua (mix?) at 10+ years of age
© 2011 Gib Brown
Ralph, at 10+ years of age of age.

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Last revised: 06/2011