Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ripper, the Jack

"We're going to name him Ripper," my brother and father say.

Me, staring in disbelief: "That's ridiculous! You can't name him Ripper...that's like naming your child Cruella."

"I think you're outvoted, Mist."

Me, stomping to my room.

I was 13. We'd recently decided to get another family dog, after the devastating loss of our pug, Maggie.

Maggie was my baby. She was the cutest pug I'd ever set eyes on (my current pug Darcy is pretty cute too), and while the family was on vacation in Florida, she was struck by a car and killed instantly. Only 4 years old, and no chance to say goodbye.

So I was hesitant to welcome a new dog into our family. But the house just wasn't the same without the clickety-clack of nails on the floor, and the incessant barking that happened when the mail carrier walked up the driveway. We were in desperate need of a furry friend, and although we had owned two pugs in the past, my dad and brother were obsessed with a different kind of dog.....

The Jack Russell.

If you have never had the pleasure of meeting the infamous Jack Russell, here is a description of the breed:

The Russell Terrier is a strong, hardy, earth-working Terrier. He is full of life and moves with confidence that matches his keen expression. The breed's handy size, small flexible chest, nose, strong voice and fearless nature make it an excellent specimen to work vermin below ground. Its weatherproof coat may be smooth, broken or rough and is predominantly white with tan and/or black markings.

Earth-working? Fearless nature? An excellent specimen to work vermin below ground??? What were we getting into?

The characteristics that they attempt to shade over here include: stubborn, sometimes vicious, and relentless.

Hence, the name Ripper.

Ripper wriggled and sniffed his way into our home and our hearts, although not without some hesitation on my mother's part. Being a stubborn breed, he was exceptionally difficult to train - he insisted on peeing in the same spot in the house, time and time again, and it took months to get him to go outdoors. He would run away the second the front door opened, tearing off down the street like a bat-outta-hell.

And the ripping...did I mention the ripping? He would shred and tear to bits any piece of paper/kleenex/food that was within reach (and his reach was amazing - he could jump as high as the kitchen counter). In his heyday, he managed to scarf down one of my mom's EI cheques, a $20 bill, many pieces of homework, a whole pack of cigarettes, a box of Girl Guide cookies, whole garbage cans full of kleenex and other female products....the list goes on. And although he sometimes ralphed the stuff up, his ravenous appetite for the inedible never once landed him at the veterinarian or in surgery.

Our dog was well known amongst our high school friends. Having people over or throwing parties was an adventure - we never knew what Ripper would do, and I usually spent most of the night chasing him around, trying to wrestle another cigarette pack out of his mouth. Or  you might have spotted me at 1am, chasing him down the street.

Despite the craziness, he was an entertaining and loving dog. He adored our backyard swimming pool, and in the summer months, he would spend whole days swimming back and forth. He even learned how to dive, right down to the bottom of the shallow end.  We would throw golf balls in and marvel over his ability to pick them up. Most people loved Ripper, because of his never-ending desire to play. He would chase balls for hours, only to collapse at the end of the day in his bed. When he got the chance to be free in the "wilderness," he would dart back and forth, finding all of the holes in the ground and trying to chase the vermin out. But no matter how much he loved to frolic in the outdoors, he was always a sucker for a warm body, and would happily snooze, curled up on our laps.

When I got my pug, Darcy, it was Ripper's job to teach her a few things. Being 10 at the time, he was slowing down, but certainly not retiring. He took it upon himself to show Darcy how to bark and jump madly at the coffee bean grinder; how to attack other dogs (especially the big ones); and how to swim and dive in the pool. Darcy has now taken over Ripper's place in the world, although thank god, she's never had a taste for paper or kleenex.

Ripper lived almost 17 years, and passed away peacefully two weeks ago. Happy until the end, he continued to scrounge for food, despite having lost all of his hearing and most of his sight. His sense of smell never waned, and at the first whiff of a cookie or cracker, he would be by your side begging for a little bite. The morning following his death, the birds chirped and hopped over his small grave, feeling wistful for the old four-legged creature who used to chase them from the bird feeders.

You were a legendary dog, Ripper, and will forever be close to our hearts.


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