Ralph left us on Thursday, May 8, about 5:30 p.m. We will miss him, Don most of all. Ralph was Don’s dog, through-and-through. In a way, I met Ralph before I met Don.

Ralph came into Don’s life in the early 90s as a young dog of undetermined age. A co-worker returned to her car after a late night at a bar to find Ralph tied up to her antenna with an electrical cord. She was unable to care for him, so Ralph became Don’s dog – a real stroke of luck that benefited both Don and Ralph.

Don & I met playing bridge on line. His screen name was RalphDog. I played bridge with RalphDog long before I knew there was a Don behind that name, long before we exchanged our first e-mail. When I first met Ralph, he growled at me, and gained my respect (if not my immediate fondness). It wasn’t long before we became buddies. When Don and Ralph moved to Canada, we became a family – Don, Ralph, Otis (my cat) and me.

A mutt, he was a mixture of chow and God-knows-what-else. He had a mottled tongue, and a wonderful orange coat of soft fur. He wasn’t fond of children, and in his younger years wanted to single-handedly rid the whole world of evil squirrels. (My guess is that he never did catch one.) He somehow knew when Saturday arrived – he’d leap onto our bed, and energetically licked my face. Don always said Ralph thought of me as his girlfriend.

Mom was quite fond of Ralph – she created the “Good Doggie” moniker. He would stand patiently by her side as she was preparing food, and his wait was rarely in vain. She’s slip him a bit of ham fat, or chicken skin, or a piece of beef, and only ask permission after the deed was done.

When we moved to the country 5 years ago, Ralph was in heaven. He’s scout out rabbit lairs, squirrels, and property invaders, real or imagined. He’d wander the entire 10 acres as his domain. But as the years progressed, he’d stay closer to the house. His eyesight grew dim, his hearing faded, and his chasing waned. He developed some kind of dog senility – one moment he’d be your friend, tail wagging, then next, without warning, he’d be baring his teeth. He became unable to descend stairs, but would refuse assistance. He would engage in random, insistent barking, at nothing. He just wasn’t enjoying life anymore. It became time to say goodbye.

Don’s dog to the end, Don make that terrible, but right, decision. On Thursday evening, our wonderful veterinarian Carol, and her assistant Michelle, came to our house. In Don’s arms, Ralph breathed his last.

We still have the rest of our menagerie – 2 parrots, 1 cat, 2 other dogs. But Ralph was the dean of our animal kingdom, and will be greatly missed.

Bye, Ralph. We love you and will never forget you. We’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.