The cold and dreary weather has kept me on the treadmill instead of outside. But that’s probably for the best anyway. My walking buddies are gone. And it would be a little dreary without them, no matter the temperature.
Ralph and Millie were gone when we got back from South Carolina. For the first few days, I kept thinking they would just show back up some morning, bounding with energy and ready to go on our daily walk. But as days passed, we faced the facts. Ralph and Millie weren’t coming back. The next hard part was telling Brent. We waited until after he was done with finals.
Ralph was Brent’s dog. Before he left for college, he made me promise that I would pet Ralph and talk to him every day. It became part of my daily walking routine. In the beginning, Ralph always went with me. As the years passed, sometimes Ralph would wait at the back steps while I did the walking. But he was always ready for our little talk, whether he did the workout or not.
Brent & Ralph - 2006 - before Brent left for K-State
We got Ralph at the Stafford County Fair one year. Our neighbor brought a pen of puppies to the fairgrounds. The “Free Puppies” sign was more popular among the 4-Hers than the concession stand. Brent begged to bring one home. And we did. We told Sharilyn that she wouldn’t have had to drag all the puppies 11 miles to town. She could have dropped one off 2 miles north since that's where he ended up.
Our other dog, Mindy, taught Ralph all about life on the County Line. As Ralph’s muzzle turned more gray than black, we thought it was time for Ralph to be the dog equivalent to Yoda. He could teach a new puppy about barking to alert us to visitors. He could demonstrate the importance of staying around home. He could let a new dog know that cattle weren't to be chased. So we brought Millie home in June.
Would it have mattered if we'd come home one day sooner? Probably not. But it still makes me sad. We drove up and down the dirt roads around our house. We talked to neighbors. Nobody seems to know what happened to Ralph and Millie.
I'm the first to admit it: I don't equate pets with people. I don't like to have animals in the house, and I would never refer to a pet as a child. But I sure do miss my walking buddies.
Maybe the Hutchinson Animal Shelter's application should have a line or two regarding the track record of human applicants. During my growing up years, we had a bunch of different farm dogs, probably 6 or 8 of them.
Some were run over. Some ran away. Some got sick. My dad suspects one was stolen.
As the kids were growing up, we've had six dogs. They met the same fate as dogs from my youth. It's part of the cycle of life on the farm, I suppose.
But Brent's dog, Mindy, died of old age.
And we hoped it would be the same for Ralph and for Millie.
This was a post I didn't want to write. I prefer happy endings.