Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Just over a month ago now, we said goodbye to our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Florence. She was 11. Laura has suggested, as some of my earlier articles about Florence are well-read, that I might write a conclusion. Honestly, I’m not sure where to start.
Florence was a hard dog. All ridgebacks are highly intelligent and capable of independent decision-making. You have to be a leader, not a boss, and that’s a tough gig. They don’t respond well to heavy discipline and can be wilful. They’re also loving, affectionate and fiercely loyal. I’m not sure if we will have another dog but we won’t have another ridgeback. Not because they’re not great dogs but because my experience with Florence was unique and I could not imagine anything replacing her.
Florence and I had run together extensively, as a running companion, I cannot recommend an RR highly enough. Once you find a rhythm with them they’re perfect, close enough for company, far away enough for headspace. It takes time to find that rhythm though, ridgebacks mature slowly and when young will use running time as an opportunity to exercise their somewhat mercurial sense of humour. We found our pace though and ran for many happy hours in the early dawn.
I didn’t expect the running to stop when it did. It turned out that the limp she had wasn’t down to her overindulging while I was away on a business trip, it was an auto-immune condition. It was ok though, we pivoted. She became my office dog. I stopped walking her, figuring that she didn’t need any more pressure on those joints and that, while losing our running time was hard if it meant more years together, it would be OK.
I think she agreed. She seemed happy to snooze on my office floor while I worked, and by my couch in the evening. I don’t think she missed the outdoors. If she’d had to stop barking at the postman, that might have been different, but she never had to stop that.
I could see her getting slower, and I would say ‘Maybe she won’t be with us at Christmas’ but in truth, I never believed that, she was such a constant, I thought she’d simply be with us forever.
When I went into the kitchen that Thursday morning, I knew something was wrong. I can only imagine that something catastrophic had happened overnight. I think she knew I was there. I called the vet and asked if she could come in for the last visit. Maybe if she’d not been so strong she just would have stayed asleep that morning, but she was strong and so she was hanging on. I had to carry her to the car and into the vets. They were kind.
I’ve said goodbye to animals before, as a pet owner you expect to, but I’ve never seen it be traumatic and chaotic like this. I still feel slightly stunned by it all. She was a complex animal, often challenging but always a friend. I don’t know what else to say, other than I miss her.