The Rest of the Story
I realize that most of this site seems like a downer. It was started when I was obviously very sad. But I’m not one to not finish what I start. What I’ve realized is that as sad as the last few months have been, it is all a part of a much larger story. One that is filled with wonderful memories–of laughter and good times. This page is dedicated to the wonderful life I had with Ricky. So numerous are the good times, that it would take me years to finish this site. Suffice to say the good times far outweigh the sad times. This is just a small glimpse focusing on the very beginning with the understanding that all the in-between was pretty awesome.
The Very Beginning
When I bought my house back in 2004, I knew that I wanted to get a dog. I had wanted one since my childhood dog, Heidi, passed away when I was about 10. All my relatives had dogs; some multiple. I couldn’t wait. But I did have to wait until I got the house redone and then I had a trip to Europe planned. But when I got back in June the dog search was on.
I went to all the shelters in the area. There were hundreds of dogs. It was sad to see so many of them. There was a part of me that felt I should be so picky; that any of those dogs deserved a loving home. I started looking online at different Websites. One of the most comprehensive was Petfinder.org. One afternoon, I decided I would spend my lunch hour going through the list as far as possible. I had gone through about 20 pages–400 dogs–and I landed on a little brown Chihuahua-looking dog. He was doing a downward dog pose and he seemed a little, well, stoned. That’s the only way I could describe him. He was described as a one-year old Chihuahua mix. He was dark reddish-brown with white forepaws. He didn’t look like your average Chihuahua. His name was “Jimmie.” More on that later. Was that a sign? The rescue that had him was the Echo Park Animal Alliance. So that was the second sign–the rescue was local.
I clicked on his information and read that he had been found wandering in Debs Park. Over the years I often wondered what had happened. Had he been with his family and simply wandered off? Did they try to look for him? Did they dump him there? I’ve always felt bad that they lost out on such a wonderful pet. But because of them, he was able to come into my life.
I emailed the contact information and heard back right away. When anything happens “right away” in Los Angeles, it usually is a good sign. We set up a time to talk by phone that evening. The lady I spoke with was really sweet–one of those crazy dog people (ahem). Marsha asked me about my job, my home and why I wanted a dog. She told me what the process was and asked if I was still interested in continuing. I was thankful that a house visit wasn’t required. Some of the rescues I saw (including the one through which I got Oscar) required a home visit. I just didn’t feel like being judged in that way. She sent some paperwork in advance for me to look at and we made an appointment to meet at a local restaurant that weekend.
On Saturday morning, June 19, I headed over to the Backdoor Bakery on Silver Lake Boulevard. I was at the counter picking up my order when I saw them walk up. He was adorable. I waved to Marsha and he immediately snapped to attention. As I walked up to them he seem really excited and happy and stood on his hind legs and put his paws on my legs as if we were old friends. I thought to myself, “Man she really must had trained this dog to play me.” Little did I know that it was just Ricky being himself–friendly to just about everyone. We sat and talked for about half an hour. She said she had a “good feeling” about me and asked what I though about “Jimmie,” who at this point was pretty much sitting on my lap. I said if she thought it was a good match, I’d love to take him. She whipped out a contract and handed it to me. I whipped out my checkbook. We were both prepared.
The contract was basically a code of conduct. Things I would and wouldn’t do with him. I couldn’t drive around in a convertible with him or have him in the back of a pickup truck. I had to have him leashed at all times outside when on a walk. I had to get him registered within a month, see a vet, etc. The rescue people take these things really seriously. Unfortunately, I guess they see dog owners at their worst or rather the sad results of lousy dog owners. I signed the contract and the check. She told me that I could pick him up at family that was fostering him the next day. I hadn’t really thought I’d being going home with a dog that day, so I was glad I had the time to get things ready. But at the same time, after meeting him, I was ready to bring him home.
They next day came and my friend Nicole came over to pick him up with me. We went over to the foster house. They must have been having a party, because there were people everywhere. He was sitting on the sofa with the foster mom. When he saw me come in, he sat up and started wagging his tail. The foster mom stood up and he jumped off the sofa. She had a little bag with his stuff in it–just some food, a little blanket and a leash. Thank god there was a leash because I hadn’t thought to get one. He seemed very happy to go with me, which I thought was a little weird, but I was glad that he was presumably fine with what was going on.
Nicole drove us to a pet store. I don’t know why but we drove to a PetSmart that was really far away. I don’t know why we couldn’t find one closer. There were probably a dozen pet stores in-between. “Jimmie” sat on my lap the entire way and just snuggled up against me. He even fell asleep for a little bit. We got in the store and stocked up on all the usual supplies: doggie bed, toys, bowls, etc. Nicole wanted to buy him a name tag but that was the one thing I really wasn’t ready for–the name.
After shopping we brought him to his new home and then we took off to meet another friend, Corrie, for dinner. We met up at Doughboys and sat outside. He sat on chair next to me and charmed everyone. The topic then turned to names. I had no clue what to call him. I knew that I couldn’t keep the name “Jimmie.” People would think I named him after myself.
The Name Game
There a great book called, “The Dog Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice on Lifetime Maintenance.” I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s written as if the dog is a household appliance, but the irony is that its really one of the most humane books on the subject. It talks about dogs and dog-owning in scientific terms. It tries to approach dog ownership from the standpoint of understanding what works best for dogs and why.
On the subject of names, it said that dogs can more easily recognize hard consonants and long vowels. “Brewster” didn’t really fit that bill nor did he look like a “Brewster.” I had started to lean toward something that sounded Spanish. I thought that might fit him. But none of them seemed to fit his personality–whatever that means. We tossed around a dozen names or more, and none of them seem to fit. Nicole, actually came up with “Ricky” (Nikki is her nickname). It had the hard consonant and long vowel sound. It was Latin sounding–Ricky Ricardo, Ricky Martin, etc. But I wasn’t sure. A name is such a commitment.
I think at least two who weeks went by and I still hadn’t really come up with a name. Chico, Chavo, Pedro were among the top contenders along with Ricky. Then one day I came home and he had gone to the bathroom on the floor. The first word that popped out of my mouth was, “RICKY!”
And the rest is history.
And what a history. I couldn’t have been more blessed to find such a wonderful companion. I learned very early on that doors had to be closed in the house. I had a habit of not locking to door between the house and garage. The first time I came home I opened the garage door as I drove up and who came scampering out? It scared the life out of me.
I also learned that you couldn’t keep him confined to spaces, but you could keep him out of spaces. Even though he was a Chihuahua he was a mix and so he was a “big” Chihuahua. So when it came time to travel, there was no way he could come with me. This was really disappointing, but I did try. At one point I bought a hard side travel crate. I tried crate training him at one point. I put him in the crate and left the house for about a hour. I came home and there he was, at the door waiting for me. What the heck???? I went upstairs and somehow Houdini had gotten the door off the crate. To this day I can’t figure out how he did it. Ironically, that crate would over time, become his favorite place to hang out–I called it his “house.” Just as long as I didn’t close the door.
I do wish I would have crate trained him better. And the same goes for Oscar. A lot of people don’t understand crate training. It’s not mean and sadistic unless used as punishment or if they’re kept in the crates for really long periods of time. Dogs actually like confined spaces. As the Owner’s Manual talk about, being out in the open is actually scary for them. If you think about their genetic ancestors, being out in the open meant being vulnerable to all sorts of predators. That’s why, even though they had this huge, four-story townhouse to run around, Ricky would spend much of his day in his little house and Oscar in the dark in the laundry room downstairs.
Crate training is really important for some other reasons as well. At some point, your dog will probably be in a crate. If they have to spend time in a hospital, they’ll probably be in some type of crate or confined space. And in the case of an emergency, you may have to transport your animals to safe locations. Transporting in a crate means they will remain safe and if they’ve been acculturated they will be calmer. Plus, if you have to evacuate to a shelter, they may require that the pet be crated.
One of the nicest things that people have said was what a sweet dog he was. Many people mentioned what a great host he was at my parties. A dear friend came to a party one time and marveled how every time someone showed up, he would run to the door and greet the guests. Someone else talked about how he “maneuvered” through the party making sure he gave and got attention from everyone. He was such a friendly dog even to people on the street. The only people he wasn’t nice to were the people that seemed crazy; just what you don’t want, right?
Ricky and I were a package. We went so many places together. People were always kind enough to invite both of us if there was a party where he wouldn’t be a bother. We went to the beach a few times. I’m not sure if he liked it or not. I think he liked the cool air but he was never one for water. Bath time was never easy. So the idea that the water (surf) was chasing him was too much to handle. But he was always a good sport about it. Ricky would often accompany me to events like AIDS Walk or Special Olympics. We had matching volunteer shirts, only because they company that supplied them made a doggie shirt in that color.
I wish I had had the chance to travel more with the boys. Flying just wasn’t an option and as time went on and my “vacations” became limited to either trips overseas or trips to Florida to see Mom and Dad. So there just wasn’t the opportunity to go anywhere. The one trip I took with Ricky was to Palm Springs. We went for a long weekend and stayed at a little resort call “A Place in the Sun.” (Yes, just like the movie.)
One of the best days ever was when my friend Valerie took us to Bark in the Park–the annual day when you can bring your dog to Dodger Stadium. The boys were decked out in their Dodger Blue harnesses and joined probably 150 other dogs in a parade around the warning track and in front of the dugouts on the Dodgers Stadium field. We sat in the right field bleachers and had so much fun with them. It all made for a very special memory.
“What Kind of Dog is He?”
I was asked that question so many times and I never had an answer. I knew Chihuahua but was sure he wasn’t a purebred. I thought perhaps a Dachshund mix or maybe even some type of pitbull. He had some very Terrier-like qualities, or so they tell me. I finally had him tested at the hospital, just for curiosity sake. I got the results after he passed and boy was I surprised. The results said that one parental line was pure Chihuahua. The other side was a mix of one breed and a mixture of several others. So one grandparents turns out to be. . .Bichon Frise!! Really? Never would have guessed that. (My godmother used to raise Bichons so I was somewhat familiar with them.) The other grandparent they couldn’t be sure but statistically they think the following in order of dominant traits and perhaps a mix of one or more: Australian Cattle Dog, Chinese Crested, Greyhound, English Springer Spaniel and Doberman Pinscher. I don’t know much about Australian Cattle Dogs but in looking at some pictures I can see it. And I can see parts of the others. The Spaniel though would account for his thick coat and some of his markings. I’m not sure if it solved the mystery of created a new one. But it was still interesting nonetheless. Any guesses on Oscar?
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I really didn’t know how much my life would change that day ten years ago when he came into my life. And while the void right now seems really large, I do know that the all the good times and wonderful memories far outnumber the sad times, even his passing.
Now, several weeks later, it still feels odd not to see him around the house. I keep expecting to see him when I come home. But I do realize that even those last difficult weeks were times of deep caring that were all a part of the journey–a journey I was so blessed to be on with him. He may not be at the foot of the stairs to welcome me home, but he is forever in my heart.