The Adventures of Ralphie

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We’ve had Ralphie for more than three years now! It seems like time has gone by so fast, in addition to all the joy and love he has brought us, he has also made us laugh … a lot.

The ad for Ralphie said, in part, “I’m Ralphie and I am the best EVER!! … All in all, I am a sweet and happy boy waiting for some friends to play with.”

He has truly lived up to that, and more. Michelle and I can attest, he is the best ever, and we are so lucky to be his friends.

Below are just a few of Ralphie’s funny, notable adventures.

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Yoga Dog Saves the Day

This year, Michelle and I began doing yoga in the basement. Ralphie didn’t want to be left upstairs by himself, so he’d lay a blanket between our yoga mats and sometimes get up and lick us if we were laying on our backs.

One day, as I was starting the DVD, Ralphie got off his “mat” and ran hurriedly over to where we had a grocery bag, tipped on its side. He typically doesn’t react so frantically and I feared the worst–a mouse.

We hadn’t had a mouse in the house since Christmas Day 2012, but as Ralphie frantically ran around the bag sniffing, I knew what I had to do.

I grabbed a broom, slid the handle between the straps of the bag and, in one quick motion, lifted the bag. There was nothing beneath it … was Ralph wrong I asked myself.

And then I looked–squinted into the bag–and there it was, a mouse. Not only had he been right, but he had basically chased the mouse into the bag! Humane and easy enough to take the mouse on a little walk up the block and let him go outside to find his next basement, and Ralph had accomplished more to aide in the capture than Sadie had when we had the Christmas mouse.

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Dog About Town

Recently, we decided that it was time to start bringing Ralphie more places. It started out with a dinner at Palamino. When he was good there, we decided to take him more places that welcome dogs. He’s been to restaurants and breweries and festivals beer gardens and even Lambeau Field–or the parking lot, at least. He always gets a lot of attention when he is out and about.

Early on when we got him, I learned that if I howled, he would howl too. Then, later, we realized that he would howl when he heard a siren as well.

img_55791One weekday evening early this fall, Michelle and I decided to take Ralph to our favorite bar, Burnhearts, and sit at the picnic tables they have on the sidewalk. There was a sizable crowd outside as well.

Soon, an ambulance drove by and, much to the surprise of everyone else outside, the quiet, large dog began howling his low, mournful howl. His intensity rose as the truck got closer and the crowd outside watched and laughed.

We laughed too, even though we knew it was coming.

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Home Alone

Ralph has run of the first floor of the house when we’re gone during the day. I like to joke that we have jobs, but his job is home security.

In that sense, he has a spotless record, however on the few occasions where we’ve left something in his space that he is not used to, he let’s us know by shredding it.

Most notably, this has happened with the recycling bin and cardboard boxes. One day, we left a 12-pack of La Croix on the floor. When Michelle got home, he had shredded the box and even carried a couple of cans over by his bed without puncturing them.

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I recently purchased him large, orthopedic bed, and he has always had a bed in the living room. However, due to a multitude of evidence, we know that he spends most of his day asleep on the couch.

I’ve even come home and looked in the front window and saw him dozing on the couch.

Not a bad gig.

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Ralph’s Favorite Place

Ralphie loves Humboldt Park. He loves the sights, the smells and wildlife.

In fact, just the sight of Humboldt causes him to whine. While running errands one day, with Ralphie in the car, we passed the park and he started crying. We both felt bad denying him his favorite place, so he compelled us to take an unplanned walk in the park.

Another time, while walking in Humboldt, he saw a bunch of geese and started trying to pull me toward them. He caused enough of a ruckus that they got nervous and flew at us and as they passed 10 feet over his head, he jumped, a really meager effort and twisted in the air trying to sniff them. It was a feeble, hilarious effort.

He gets a lot of attention at his favorite place. Ralph’s beard is very noticeable. When we are out in public, he typically gets a lot of compliments on it.

One day, as Ralph and I walked through the Humboldt Beer Garden to get another beer, I saw a little boy take on look at Ralph and then immediately turn to his father and say, “Dad, that looks like an old-fashioned dog.”

I don’t know if he was referencing the beard, or some of the grays on his snout, but either way, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

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Ralphie loves going into water up until the moment he can’t stand anymore, then, with fear in his eyes, the turns and swims frantically back to land. This past summer, we were able to get him to willingly swim in the lake Up North, although he didn’t really seem to enjoy it.

At a friend’s pool party, I’d tried numerous times to get him to jump in the pool, as the other dogs at the party were doing, to no avail. Later in the day, my friends and I engaged in some horseplay–trying to push each other into the pool.

Mike and I were trying to throw each other in, but then someone pushed us and we both splashed into the pool. Instantly, I heard another splash and when I surfaced, there was Ralphie in the water swimming toward me, worry on his face.

I know in my heart he was trying to save me or protect me, but he realized quickly he was in over his head. I grabbed him and ferried him over to the ladder and helped him get out of the water.

I laughed, but was also heartened that his first instinct was such a selfless one.

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A New Friend

Our home is in the middle of our block. On our walks with Ralphie, I’d taken to letting him of his leash and allowing him to run that half block–through four front yards–to our house.

Michelle always gave me a hard time about this and particularly felt the older lady, a few doors down, wouldn’t want him running through her yard. I ended up speaking to this older lady one day and she said, “Ah, you are the one with the big, black dog, I love watching him run past.”

After breathlessly relaying this anecdote to Michelle, I knew she wouldn’t have any problem with him running though the yards anymore, now that we knew this women enjoyed seeing Ralph.

One day, Michelle and I were doing yard work while Ralphie lounged in the grass. We saw our neighbor coming out of her house and, as Michelle said ‘hello,’ Ralphie rose. I called to him, but he began walking toward the older woman, slowly.

Now, on most occasions, when Ralphie meets people, he can be pretty crazy, running around, wagging his tail, barking, sniffing and licking. This time however, his pace was slow as he walked toward our neighbor. Michelle was about to call to stop him but instead she walked alongside him.

He wanted to meet the neighbor. And she wanted to meet him to. She told us as he approached. When he reached her he sat, looked up and wagged his tail. She pet his head. She smiled.

I was proud … and amazed … and grateful. This moment, a small window, to the instinct and heart of an animal … a sweet, handsome boy that I am so very lucky to call my best friend.

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I’ve also written about adopting Ralphie and his first year as part of our family.

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