Mighty Dog

July 14th, 2014 8:31 pm by Kelly Garbato

Thirteen years ago tonight, we saw Ralphie for the first time.

He was from Indiana, and we were living in Rochester at the time, so we didn’t even have a chance to meet him before the adoption was finalized. I just knew he was the dog for us. I can’t explain how, really; we went through one or two other possibilities before we settled on him. We just knew. I fell in love with him instantly, across five hundred or so miles.

There was a wiener dog parade happening in Ohio that weekend, so one DRNA volunteer drove him from Indiana to Ohio, where she was met by Lela and her husband, who brought him to New York. We met them that night at their home in Jamestown. I remember that one of the other dogs in the car nipped the husband on the face en route. I tried not to stare; the injury kind of looked like a cleft palate. Lela seemed wistful to be giving up the most well-behaved dog only hours after having acquired him. Well behaved, for a wiener dog.

I wasn’t long out of my parents’ house when we adopted Ralphie – I remember thinking that the rescue was crazy to give this shiny new young couple a dog, just like that – but I found myself longing for a dog pretty much from the moment the last box was moved in and unpacked. There was Shadow, of course, and she’d always be my girl (well, my mom’s girl mostly, but she had more than enough love to go around, in spite of the hell that certain members of my species had put her through). I just wanted a dog of my very own so very badly. The first of many, I hoped. And already we’ve loved more dogs than many people manage in their entire adulthoods: Peedee, O-Ren, Kaylee, Jayne, Mags and Finnick. We’ve been lucky in that sense. All the lost and pain of the last fourteen months…I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Ralphie was the beginning. Special. My little boyfriend.

I wish I had more pictures of our first days and months together. I went hunting around on my hard drive this morning, and the earliest photos I could find are really atrocious scans, lacking even a firm date. Just: summer, 2001. This makes me sad. Wistful.

The top one I named Mighty Dog.

2001-Summer - Ralphie'MightyDog'

2001-Summer - Kelly&Ralphie-0001

He looks so proud and formidable, don’t you think?

Apparently I got my first digital camera some time in November, because that’s when the pictures really start to pick up. Still, they’re pretty sparse compared to present day.

Fast-forwarding a few years, I’m shocked to see that I didn’t take a single picture of Peedee’s homecoming. The earliest ones are a few days post-adoption. I guess we were too busy making sure the guys got on well? Even with O-Ren, we only have a few photos taken that first day. To be fair, she was recovering from kennel cough and looked all kinds of pathetic. Still.

Compare that to Kaylee and Jayne, or Mags and Finnick, of whose special days I have literally hundreds of photos. And not just from the first day: the first weeks and months. All day, every day. First meets, first eats, first baths. I’m a little camera-crazy, actually. Probably in no small part because I regret not having so many other memories locked down, immortalized in pixels and bytes.

But there’s no going back, just forward.

I miss you, little bear. I’m glad you didn’t let us change your name. You’ll forever be our Ralphie, through and through.

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