Reflections on Ralphie’s First Year


“Animals should fit into your schedule,” I matter-of-factly told Michelle in the first week after we brought home Ralphie.

We were discussing whether she should walk him in the morning–if that would increase his comfort and tire him out for the 10 hours we’d be gone.

“When you love something, you make sacrifices,” Michelle retorted.

I’m not Michelle, so I had a lot to learn.


It is hard for me to recall a time before Ralphie lived with us. Paradoxically, it doesn’t seem like he has been in our life this long.

The process of getting Ralphie still seems charmed. It didn’t seem like he would be ours, and then, all at once, he was.

When I got Sadie, I was masquerading as an adult. Now I am one, the love I have for Ralphie and the cat seems heftier—A love you can only feel after a few decades on this earth, when you’ve already lost some things and realize how precious our time is.


“I love coming home and having him greet me. Even when it hasn’t been longer than a work day that we’ve been apart, he is so excited, I can’t help but smile. Ralphie loves to snuggle, while I’m sitting on the ground and he digs his head in to my chest,” Michelle said.


Ralphie’s tell is his tail.

It frantically, joyfully wags when I grab his leash, or when he sees me retrieve his food cup.

It laconically wags when we stare at each other and I pet him or when he sees the cat coming his way–Sadie doesn’t return his excitement, but she doesn’t hiss or avoid him either.

It wags wildly when he tries to get my Dad’s dog to chase him and sweetly when he kisses our friends’ dog, Beau.

Sometimes, he doesn’t even turn around to look at me, he just puts his head all the way back and looks at me upside down. He is a dopey, playful dog. I don’t think I like anything as much as he loves peanut butter and walks.

“One of my favorite memories was taking him swimming in Lake Michigan, Michelle said. “I thought for sure he would love the water and he had enough after 10 minutes.

“He loves snow. Winter was not so bleak because Ralphie got us outside almost every day and he loved walking and running through the snow.”


I was so proud of him when, in March, he achieved freedom from his cage. In order to make this happen, we slowly increased his freedom, sometimes monitoring him through the window or with a camera. It is much nicer, when we are at work, to think of him snoozing on the floor (but he is probably on the couch), stretched out and comfortable.

He makes us laugh and he makes us smile. He has a lot of fans among our friends and gets a lot of compliments on his beard. “He makes people happy with his big head and kisses,” Michelle said.

Sometimes we wonder about his life before he found us. Where was he? Who had him? Why don’t they anymore? We’ll never have the answers, though, thanks to a DNA test, we do know he is a lab/rottweiler/collie/boxer-mix.

We are grateful that he is in our life everyday, and doubly grateful to HAWS Waukesha, the shelter where we found him.

“I think he’s made our house feel more like home. I feel so lucky that we got him. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect dog for us,” Michelle said.


Our One Year Anniversary

On Monday, July 21, we celebrated our one year anniversary.

We decided to do the things that Ralphie loves. We took him for a ride and let him sniff out the window the whole time. We bought him his first ice cream. We took a walk. We gave him a meaty bone. And we showered him with attention.

I don’t think he even realized the day was special–besides the ice cream. We celebrate him everyday.

Before we had him, those celebrations seemed like sacrifice. They don’t feel like sacrifices anymore.

That is love.



  1. Dad · November 28, 2014

    Wow! I really liked all of it. Ralphie is one lucky dog/

  2. Pingback: My Year in Concerts: 2013 & 2014 | A Slight Discomfort

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