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April 9, 2013

April is always a sad time of the year.

Nine years ago - April 27, 2004 - I lost unexpectedly my sweet little Newfoundland boy Ringo at the young age of seven, and my heart remains broken to this day.

For those who have ever had a Newfoundland in the family you know what precious little creatures they are. They pour their heart out to their family and think of nothing but how to please.

They have a gentle and innocent soul that remains with them throughout their life which explains why they maintain a "puppy spirit" late into their years. I could never bring myself to call Ringo a dog - the term did not fit - he was always a puppy.

Newfoundlands are famous for their sweet disposition and soft expressions. They are noble, majestic, and powerful and absolutely devoted companions.

British poet and romanticist Lord Byron immortalized the Newfoundland breed in a memorial poem he wrote for his Newfoundland Boatswain in1808. It began, "Near this spot are deposited the remains of one Who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices."

Even though I always called Ringo my baby boy, since he came second after his big sister Bingo, he grew to be 195 lbs - proper Newfoundland size. He was the love of my life, full of joy, beauty, and grace.

He never knew how big he was or how old - and as I said when he died, he was seven years going on one. He wanted to love you, whoever you were - and might knock you over in the process!

And, oh, how he loved his older sister Bingo. When he came from Nebraska in May, 1997, flying in as Bingo had done the year before on Delta Airlines, Bingo, who had up to then been aloof toward other dogs, came alive. She adored Ringo and loved being adored by him. She taught him how to be a Newfoundland and for his whole life, whatever she was doing, he wanted to do, too.

Whatever she sniffed, he sniffed, wherever she went, he followed. I loved watching him in the morning bound - so beautifully bound - across the yard to Bingo when he suddenly realized she was no longer nearby - he didn’t want to be far from her for long.

And even though she was eventually quite a bit smaller than he, she could still level him with a look! And Bingo loved dancing for Ringo. He was her captive audience. She would take her colossal rope - her favorite toy - swirl it around above her head all while keeping her eye on him to make sure he was watching.

Ringo was lost to leptospirosis - a bacterial disease thought to be rare in the part of the country where I live. It is a treatable disease but veterinarians rarely look for it in their initial diagnosis. It will enter a pet’s bloodstream through an open cut or it can make its way into water sources from the urine of wild animals.

He fell ill on a Sunday and I took him to the local animal clinic that same day. He was misdiagnosed and treated for Lyme’s disease - and even though he did not show signs of improvement that day - I was assured in repeated calls to the attending veterinarian that he would get better.

He never did. Within 24 hours he had slipped into a coma and could not be revived. He died the next day.

Oh, how I loved Ringo. The loss was so immense and continues to be to this day. But I am grateful that Ringo came into my life and that I had the pure joy of being with him every day for seven years. As painful as it was, it really is better to have loved and lost Ringo than to never have loved him at all.

In September of 2007 I lost my baby girl Bingo at the age of 12.

They now rest side-by-side under the shade of a tree here on the farm.

Together again.