New Shoes in the Rain

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The best dog ever!

We lost a beloved family member yesterday when our son's dog Rigby was put to sleep due to multiple health issues. Rigby was around 13 years of age and had enjoyed a long and fruitful life, and was much loved by our immediate and extended family, and even participated in our son's wedding a few years ago!

Our son obtained Rigby from a friend's brother as one of several puppies of an unintentional litter of mixed breeds. He was half black Labrador, half Akita, and a very unique looking dog, tipping the scales at around 100 pounds at full maturity. After reaching adulthood Rigby had the coarse coat of an Akita, but his Akita-sized ears were floppy like a Lab's. And his tail was generally up and curled a bit over his back, somewhat like a coat hanger! One could always gauge his mood by whether his tail was up or not, and for many years, as long as Rigby was fully awake, his tail was up.

As a puppy, of course, he was very cute and had enormous feet, so we knew what he would grow into. As time passed and he and his master moved from living away from home to moving back in with us and back out again, we had lots of time with Rigby, even keeping him in our household for several months after our son moved to Colorado not long after graduating from college. Night after night, Rigby would keep vigil at a window off our stairwell, gazing out at the driveway and street hoping to see his master.

Rigby also patrolled the street from his windowside perch, barking at anyone who passed for a long time and certainly barking a warning to those who came up our walk, friend or foe. He was better than a doorbell and more reliable than a security system!

And when his master DID return to see him, or we returned home from, well, anywhere, what a reception we received! Squealing, snorting, running to and fro, gathering the toy of the moment to show to those who returned (the norm was a plush hedgehog squeeze toy that we simply named after its brand name, Booda--Rigby must have had twenty of those over the years!). And it usually took a few minutes for him to regain his composure, but we never minded!

Early in Rigby's life, though, he was not so friendly and agreeable with those he didn't know, as his aggressive instincts were generally activated by the sight of people (with dogs, particularly) while out for walks. He would bristle and stiffen, and sometimes bark deeply in an effort to protect us and ward off these potential intruders. But he was always very loving with those close to him, and gradually he began to be lovable to all, provided no one appeared to be threatened. Our son returned from Colorado to gather more of his belongings a few months after moving, and one of those items was Rigby himself. The boys had the opportunity to live with other young men and dogs in a camp setting in rural Colorado and my wife and I believe to this day that it was this experience that really mellowed Rigby and made him far less aggressive to others, and he remained that way until the end.

And what a life he had, living in a couple of states, traveling with his master, being with lots of people and other dogs. Once while in Colorado Rigby was inadvertently pinned under a house trailer as it was being moved. Our son feared the absolute worst, based on Rigby's cries, but upon examination by a veterinarian, he was pronounced lucky but fine (our son wasn't, but eventually was OK). And he had bizarre food allergies, so our son had to buy exotic dog food from vets made with duck, salmon and other unusual ingredients. Yet whenever he was with us, whether as a semi-permanent resident or as a house guest, the deal that Rigby and I had was that he would get the last bite of any sandwich, a rule that Rigby came to expect by rote and that I was pleased to uphold.

Somewhere along the line I started calling him "Higby" instead of his true name. It was an affectation, and Rigby didn't care. He just wanted to be with someone.

And he'll always be with all of us. Rest in peace, old friend.


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