I cherished every minute of my 15 years that I shared with Mr. Ripley—a mixed breed Terrier. At 16 years old, sadly, he passed on Wednesday, May 30th.
The ASPCA in Charlottesville, VA listed his breed as Benji Dog. He had Wheaton Terrier eye-lined eyes and a true Wheaton disposition. His rear though, seemed more Golden Retriever with a large swooshing tail that curved to the right. He was calm, smart, giving and filled with joy.
Lost during Hurricane Isabel when it passed through Virginia in 2003, he was found the next day behind the Keswick post office and brought to the ASPCA in Charlottesville, VA.
I wandered into the ASPCA on Monday continuing my 6 month search for a new companion to adopt. From an outside cage, this little face popped through the opening. In an instant, we both seemed to say, “Oh there you are.” I put a hold on him immediately and picked him up that Friday after the Virginia required waiting period. When he entered my huge, fenced yard, with squirrel-filled trees, neighbors waiting with welcome treats, I thought I heard him say, “Wow! I hit the doggie Lottery.”
Ripley was a travel-ready dog, eager to take his place with front paws on the center console, back paws on the rear seat, head alert and focused on the road ahead. With the car packed with toys, I’d often see his Frisbee flying across the seat through the rear view mirror as he played with his favorite toy.
He made friends everywhere we went and made me friends as Ripley’s mom. He led our walking route to all his people pals to check on them and, of course, to get treats they stashed for him.
Ripley had a pack wherever he went. Ginger was his first love, Corkie his love at the lake and Jack and Fred his walking buds. In D.C., he only had eyes for little Liv. Once we were in Florida, he quickly met a new pack on our regular walks around a new lake. Ben-Ben, Jake, Danny and Mike were his everyday walking pals. These last two years were spent walking, sniffing and hanging with Shanti.
Ripley created jobs for himself. We came to Florida to care for my dad after his stroke and Ripley was the ultimate caregiver. He was attentive and vigilant. He’d bark when dad needed someone and he’d come get the closest person available.
When dad lay down on his bed after mom’s funeral, Ripley jumped on the bed and draped himself over dad staring straight into dad’s eyes. He’d never jumped on the bed before, never. He was also right there with dad just before dad passed. He refused to go back into dad’s bedroom for a week.
Ripley gravitated to those in need. He would pick out the person in the room with a walker, a cane, or wheelchair, or the one not feeling well and he’d stay right beside them until they left our house or we left theirs. And he knew when he was needed for comforting by someone staying over and would opt to sleep with them instead of me.
Ripley was a special being. Everyone said so. People in cars stuck in traffic would roll down their window and say, “What kind of dog is that? He’s beautiful.” I’d get stopped while walking by folks passing by in cars, on bikes and by other walkers. Ripley would greet everyone, then lay down and wait patiently while we talked.
And still, he was a DOG—true to his Terrier breed. He chased squirrels, rabbits and even deer. He’d be gone for a while, then give up and wonder home defeated—never catching anything but ready to chase the next creature to cross his path.
Ripley was a foodie, not fussy and he never begged. His strategy was to lay near someone, quietly, until they put their fork down and then look up adoringly. If he got a treat, great, if not, he walked away. He loved his doggie treats and would make sure he always got three in one offering—two was just not enough. He was very excited about his nightly Greenie and loved licking out the yogurt cup when dad was finished. He’d park himself below the kitchen counter when food was being prepped hoping something would fall, eager to help clean it right up.
And yet, I could have food for guests, on very low tables in the living room, well within his easy reach and he would not touch a morsel. Even when we moved to the kitchen or out on the deck, leaving the leftovers still on those low tables—he would not eat a bite. Everyone was amazed.
Ripley was my Rock! He made every day a joy and helped me through any challenge. His necessities broke up my day with great exercise and lots of playtime both inside and out. Family members, clients, neighbors in any community we lived all knew and loved Ripley.
Wednesday morning he couldn’t stand as his ACL had torn on his right leg. Too old for an operation or to manage rehab, he was hurting. With his pleading, Wheaton Terrier eyes, he ask me to help him through his final challenge.
We shared 15 years and I’ll miss him every minute of every day. Thank you Hurricane Isabel for bringing me such a wonderful gift. Here’s to you Mr. Ripley. What a marvelous companion you have been!