I want to tell you about my new buddy, Rikki. Before I do, I want to tell you about my old pal, Dante.
Dante was a miniature poodle mix. He was quite a mix, too. His mother was a sheltie-dachshund mix and his father was a purebred miniature poodle. We had both the mother and father, so we had Dante from birth. In fact, we were there when he was born.
Dante was the runt of the litter and he never did get very big. The first picture doesn’t really show it, but he only stood eight inches at the shoulder. We found homes for his siblings, but Dante stayed with me. That is literal. He wouldn’t leave my side. He was a constant companion and would very happily lay next to me in my computer chair all day long if I sat in the chair all day long.
Dante was given his name because he never realized that he was a small dog and he had the determination and fearlessness of a large dog. He was named after the movie, Dante’s Peak.
That fearlessness nearly caused his death. One day I was out weedeating when a stray husky ran into our yard, snarling. As usual, Dante was by my side, though he didn’t like the weedeater. He stepped between me and the husky, I presume because he thought he was protecting me, and the husky grabbed him by the head and shook him like a rag doll.
It was over in a heartbeat. In fact, before I even grasped what was happening, Dante had a punctured skull and a broken jaw. It was the first time in his life that he had any reason to doubt his feeling of fearlessness. A passing motorist stopped and kindly offered to take Dante and me to the vet. We had no money, but God provides and the vet waived the costs and the neighbor didn’t ask for anything at all.
Dante’s jaw was fractured badly and the vet tried his best to wire it. He warned me ahead of time that the repair might not work because the bones were simply too small. The vet was right. The jaw healed, but at an angle, so Dante’s mouth couldn’t close properly.
He recovered though. From a distance, a person couldn’t even tell anything was wrong with him. Up close, however it was much more evident.
Though his jaw jutted way to the side, he surprisingly had no trouble eating or behaving like any other dog. That is, except that he was no longer fearless and kept even closer to me than ever before. That didn’t stop him from loving everyone he met, though. People fell in love with him instantly.
He especially loved going camping and fishing but he didn’t like the sound a reel makes when I brought in the line.
He lived several years after his encounter with the husky. Sadly, a couple of years ago, he had severe respiratory distress. A trip to the vet and x-rays revealed that he had a huge growth in his chest. He died shortly after that.
After 11 years of being a loyal and extremely loving companion, his time on Earth was over. I was, and still am, grief-stricken. I knew that he could never be replaced, any more than a son or daughter, brother or sister can be replaced. I had no desire and no inclination to replace him, either.
Now, about Rikki.
About a year ago, my daughter wanted to go get a dog from the local no-kill shelter. She’d recently lost her dog, as it happens, Dante’s brother. She wasn’t trying to replace him, but she needed the comfort of another dog to help fill the void, especially since she’d also lost two cats as well, all within about 4 months. Her husband is a deported Guatemalan, so she had nobody but us, and that isn’t a lot of consolation, though we’ve always done our best.
The shelter had a number of small dogs, but some of them were pairs. They had to be taken with another dog, which was an additional expense. Daughter, Cat, fell in love with a little poodle who was part of one of those pairs. The feeling was mutual. The little dog took right to Cat.
There was a problem….the other part of the pair of two dogs. It was a very shy tiny terrier mix, though both dogs were full grown. As it happened, that little dog was exactly what I needed. Both of the pair, which came all the way from California, were clearly abused, yet they came right to us. She curled up in my lap, which apparently is something she’d never done with anyone who’d come by and seen the two dogs.
If you haven’t guessed it, that little female dog was Rikki. She chose her own name. She wouldn’t come to the name she was listed by and we tried a number of other names. One day, we were talking about “Rikki Tikki Tavi”, the mongoose of stories, and Rikki came to the name. She has answered to it ever since.
This is Rikki. As can be seen by the photo, she also loves fishing and she is about the same size that Dante was. The temperament is different, though. Rikki is timid from the abuse she suffered in her previous life. She has come to realize that I’ll not abuse or hurt her, though. Once that barrier was crossed, she seems to have naturally picked up several of Dante’s traits. For instance, she loves fishing and she follows me everywhere. She also enjoys sitting in my computer chair next to me and is doing so as I write this.
It is a different friendship and a different special dog. She will never replace Dante in my heart. Yet, she loves me and I love her. Isn’t that the point? To love and be loved is one of the greatest gifts that God ever gave mankind. Our differences are unimportant. Our capacity to love is of supreme importance. Don’t you agree?