Whose Dog Is It?

Ralph was supposed to be my sister’s dog.   She had just graduated from high school and was going to have more time than usual because of a commuter college student’s schedule, so we all agreed it would make the most sense for her to be the primary caregiver to the dog.

We set up a box for his bed in her bedroom.  Meanwhile, I started sleeping on the floor next to the box so I could hang out with Ralph as much as possible.

Ralph wasn’t taking to training well; he hopped up on beds, he made messes on the carpet and he walked us on the leash more than we walked him.  Still, Ralph was sweet and friendly and we all made excuses for his incessant puppy behavior.   We didn’t know anything back then about crate training; it wasn’t long before Ralph figured out that beds were much warmer, comfier and cleaner than his own little box in my sister’s room.

My sister was supposed to be his trainer, but she was often gone for long stretches on the weekend.  With my mother’s new job giving her her weekends back, she started spending more and more time at home.  Her favorite thing to do in the summer was to sunbathe in our tiny little patio area behind the condo; when the shadows populated the small space, she would move her towel, baby oil and cigarettes out to the green, grassy hill behind our fence.  Once Ralph came on the scene, he was her constant companion while she sunbathed.  He loved hanging out with her outside and would roam in search of doggy smells and rabbit smells while staying in my mother’s sight.

Slowly, over the months, Ralph became my mother’s dog more than my sister’s dog.  As soon as he heard her car pulling up outside our condo, he would hop into the bay window and wag his tail until she opened the door.  Moreso than any of us, Ralph looked for my mother and sought her out at the end of a long day.   And I think at the end of a day, she appreciated having him there, always happy to see her, always waiting for a pat and a smile, no matter what had happened that day.

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