When Ralph was a puppy, for lack of a better word, he was insane. His fur stuck up in every direction, due to his hate for being brushed. His sloppy tongue hung from his mouth, panting. He was always short of breath, for he was always moving. Even in his sleep he would run. I could see his little heart pounding and his paws twitching, as he pranced through imaginary fields of grass.

As wild as he was, he loved my family dearly. I don’t mean to brag, but I was absolutely his favorite. Every time I left the house, he would go to my room and cuddle with my clothes. I know this because somehow every garment I owned would end up covered in his little brown hairs.

Soon it seemed cuddling wasn’t enough. Piece by piece, my clothes started to go missing. I was furious and flattered at the same time. Surely he wanted something of mine because he loved me so much; but did he really have to steal my things?

It was a Saturday night, when I decided to try a new technique of keeping my clothes. I wandered to my room when he wasn’t looking and shut the door to my closet tightly. Then I kissed him goodbye, gave him a bone, and left for a mere hour.

On my way home, my heart was thudding hard against my ribcage. I had forgotten to put my Uggs on the top shelf. I dashed into the house screaming his name. “Ralph! I’m home! Where are you?” I yelled desperately. He always came to greet me the second I arrived at the house.

I began dashing through the living room, fumbling around furniture. Ralph was nowhere to be found.
Then a small rustling came from under my bed. Nervously, I took a peak. He wagged his tail excitedly, but didn’t move from his work. It seemed as though he was stuffing something into- oh no. My brand new Ugg boot lay, wet with drool, in the clasp of his puppy jaws. Ralph began thrusting his face towards the boot faster, realizing his play was soon going to be halted.

I reached forward and pulled at the boot, unfortunately he pulled harder. It felt as though my whole body was being pulled under the bed, along with the boot and Ralph. The only option I had was to wait it out. I lay on the floor and looked up at the ceiling trying hard to think of anything positive he had given me.

His dirty paws gave mud in every corner of the house. His refusal of peeing outside gave me hours of cleaning. His energy gave me no time to sleep.

I felt a nudge at my side and rolled over to find Ralph dropping the boot in front of me. I snatched it before he changed his mind, and noticed it was slightly heavier. I groaned, thinking of all the spit that was now adding weight to my boot. But no. Spit couldn’t make the boot THAT much heavier.

Ralph wagged his tail at me, and watched as I inspected the boot. Impatiently, he began nudging the inside of it, the way he had done under the bed. I pulled the boot away from his grimy face, and reached inside.

It was the antler that my dog so very much loved. Soft around the edges, but a horrible roughness sat at the ends. Where it was cut off, I presume. I could feel it’s softness, as I ran my finger along it’s sides. So smooth, but clearly lacking the life it once had. It was heavy in my hands. Not enough that it caused straining in my arms, but definitely heavy. The weight pressed down on my palms as though it was scared of heights, and begging me to put it down.

Ralph made a small bark to get my attention, then began cuddling against my side. I remember reading a book about raising a puppy once. It said something like, “A puppy loves you. The training, is teaching them how to love you.” 🙂