So Great a Loss

My husband and I had often discussed adopting a dog. We frequently repeated our mantra extolling all the positive virtues of having a beloved pet lie on the floor by the hearth, how daily dog walks would improve our own health, and afterall it was a moral duty to help these animal castaways, etc., etc. So one day we were shopping in Bangor, Maine, when my husband, David, said (rather spontaneously) “let’s stop by the animal shelter and just see what they have.” What they had was Ridge, a shy, nervous Rhodesian Ridgeback/Lab mix. I took one look at his dark brown eyes and knew I could not leave witihout him. He was so terribly skinny, nearly emaciated. A note on his cage stating that he was beginning to eat and gain a little weight again said it all. A staff member told us the stupid prick (sorry, I can’t think of a better description) who brought Ridge to the shelter literally dragged him in with a chain tied around his neck, no collar at all. He was kept outside with no shelter and no attention. Obviously when the “owner” became concerned that Ridge might actually die from this hideous neglect, he decided to dump him before the fact at the shelter. This had been poor Ridge’s sad and deplorable state in life.

After a quick walk outside the walls of his prison, and pawing through mounds of adoption papers, Ridge was officially ours. We gathered up a collar, leash, toy and set off for our cottage in the woods about 35 miles away, near the shore of the Northern Bay.

As we reached our home it occurred to us that we had to leave almost immediately for a dinner with family members. We had forgotten all about that when we decided to adopt Ridge. So we had to confine him to David’s shop with a bowl of water. The dinner would be very brief and we would be back within 90 minutes. He would be fine. Or so we thought. Upon our return, we were welcomed by the sound of something which brought to mind a baby crying and wailing. Ridge! We ran into the cottage to release him from his solitary confinement. He was shaking and “sobbing” with fear. From his mouth was “something” which resembled cotton. A closer inspection revealed that Ridge was quite desperate to get out of jail and find us, his “pack.” He had eaten through part of a wall near the back door and had insulation in his mouth. Mounds of insulation were strewn about the floor. We cuddled him and fed him special treats, chicken obviously being a favorite. We promised we would help Ridge learn to trust us, and that if we left we would always be back very shortly. We kept this promise with one exception.

Time passed by very quickly, and Ridge became very much like our “child.” This appears to be true with so many dog lovers. It seems we cannot resist humanizing our dogs and cats. As I love hiking through the woods, and Ridge equally loved roaming through the woods catching whiffs of any scent to be found in the air or on the ground, he became my constant hiking companion. When I drove to nearby ponds or to the shores of the Atlantic, he was glued to my side. He sat proudly beside me in the front seat, glazing the windshield with his “nose prints.” While I listened to the local classical radio station, WBACH, and explained the composer of this sonata or that symphony, Ridge gazed lovingly into my eyes, hanging onto my every word. He seemed to actually embrace my love of classical music. In the eight years he tagged after me on photo shoots, Ridge became my “little boy.” I would not allow a thought of him not being here to enter my mind. Life without Ridge? Never! And my dear husband was equally in love with “his good boy.” We watched as he turned white around his muzzle, kidding ourselves by stating that Ridge was “prematurely gray.” But inside we knew the clock was ticking. Ridge was still healthy though. He did have to use steps to enter the back of my car, but it was just a litte arthritis.

We left him only once in a kennel, when we journeyed to Newfoundland to visit friends. It was the most painful separation, and we were soon counting the days to get back to Ridge. Even the beauty of Newfoundland, the Burin Peninsula, Frenchman’s Bay, and the hospitality of wonderful friends could not ease the pain we felt at Ridge being so far away. There was a gnawing knowledge that he was very sad and depressed as he sat for ten days in his “cell.” Arriving to pick him up we discovered all our fears were exactly as we had imagined. We could hear Ridge barking, screaming would be more appropriate, as soon as we entered the shelter door. He knew the sound of our car and was signalling us to come find him. Which we did with great urgency. Ridge cried like a baby all the way home. Suffice to say the homecoming was beautiful. Ridge received enormous amounts of attention, gourmet snacks, and long, long walks in the woods. We promised we would never leave home without him again, and we never did. We found every pet friendly motel between Maine and Ohio. When we vacationed, so did Ridge.

One day in the Spring Ridge seemed to be limping after a run in the woods. He loved to chase squirrels even though he knew it was an effort in futility. The next day I took him to his vet as his limping was still present. The vet examined Ridge from head to toe, played on the floor with him, and said, “he’s fine. Just keep him quiet for a day or two.” I casually asked if he felt Ridge would have much more time with us. The vet said, “Oh I think we’ll have him for another four or five years. He’s very healthy and has a strong heart. He just needs to lose a little weight.” I felt relieved.

The next day David and I drove to Bangor to look at new laptops. We had a nice dinner, and in four hours returned home to the woods. Ridge was now used to us taking a few hours to go shop or visit friends, and he was quite secure in his own home. But on this day when we returned he seemed lethargic to me. I mentioned it to David, but he said not to worry about him. After all, didn’t I just have him to his vet the day before? By evening though Ridge was drinking his water bowl dry every hour. I found that to be very curious. Just before dark I took him for a little walk to my sister-in-law’s home in the woods near our cottage. He seemed fine. We returned home and Ridge went to his “nest” upstairs. Which he always did at dark. Soon he returned to the living room, and I heard him fall behind me. He was barely conscious and was frothing. Ridge was struggling to breath. I was hysterical. Dave and I put him in my car and drove him down the road a few houses to his vet. He came out and examined Ridge immediately. With great sadness in his voice he said, “Ridge is dying. He has had a tumor on his spleen and it’s ruptured.” He told David to drop me off at home and follow him to the animal hospital where he would put Ridge to sleep right away. I heard him say, “he may not make it over there.”

The one thing David always said he hoped he never had to do was have “that needle” put in Ridge’s arm. This was so sudden and unexpected. Everything was a blur, a nightmare. I went into the cottage as David drove with Ridge to the hospital. David said he talked to Ridge as he drove. When he and the vet arrived at the hospital, the vet went in to get the syringe, medication, and stethoscope. David cradled Ridge’s head in his arms and told him what a good boy he was and how much he loved him. Ridge looked at him one more time, then closed his eyes. The vet came to the car, and David said, “I think he’s gone.” The vet confirmed this. David said even at the very end, Ridge did the one thing to keep him from having to watch him receive the needle……he died all on his own.

We cried all night, and in the morning David buried Ridge at the back of our yard by the woods. My daughter had sent me a nice St. Francis stature with the saint holding a little birdbath. Ridge always drank out of that, so we have used it as his headstone, along with a sign David made which simply says, “Ridge, Good Boy.”

Those of you who have lost a pet will understand how we felt that day last June. There is such a great loss of an innocent, pure, and always faithful little animal. They don’t deserve to live in a cage or cell….they are pack animals and love their pack. How they enrich our lives….even while they may also be infuriating at times. I would hope everyone would consider adopting a pet from a shelter. You will be amazed at how much they enrich your life, bringing you great joy, teaching you patience and unconditional love.

We now have a new tyke around the old cottage. Her name is Drzl, and she is a young (20 months old) lurcher. Half greyhound and half Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is a real challenge as she runs 35 mph, and is such a comedienne. She loves us deeply, and we love her just as dearly. We’ve learned we have room in our hearts for her to make her mark, just as our dear Ridge did during the eight wonderful years he came to live with us. More on Drzl and her unusual and comical personality later.


So Great a Loss

Patty Gross

Penobscot, United States

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 10

Artist's Description

Ridge was adopted from an animal shelter in Bangor, Maine in 2000. After spending the first three years of his life in utter terror. Many atrocious acts were committed against this sweet dog. His life with us was one of mutual respect, loyalty, and love. He came to us as a very neurotic, frightened young dog. I like to think he left with a sense of pride in the wonderful and handsome dog he became.

Artwork Comments

  • wesbennett100
  • lesleys47
  • Patty Gross
  • Terri Chandler
  • RuthLambert
  • barnsis
  • RuthLambert
  • RuthLambert
  • Patty Gross
  • Enivea
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.