My dog Ringo hears more baby talk from me in a single day than my niece and nephew (both of whom I love dearly) ever did throughout their entire lives.
Here are just a few of the choice nuggets I repeat over and over to him, in a child-like, cartoony voice:
1.) Are you da funny little baby? Are you da funny little baby widda cute little face?
2.) Why are you so cute? What will happen if you get too cute? If you get too cute the world will explode and I will cry.
3.) Are you da funny little baby who lives in my house? What are you doing in my house? Why are you so cute?
Yes, they are all variations on a theme. And I am a 50-year-old man. And 8-year-old Ringo has been my funny little baby since I adopted him a little over seven years ago.
After I made the decision to adopt my first-ever dog, I spent one early morning looking through the “pets” section on Craigslist. It was just after midnight, and I found a picture of the little boy who would change my life forever. A dog rescue had posted his ad, and they had named him “Oreo,” but ever since I’d developed dog-on-the-brain I just knew I wanted to name a dog “Ringo.”
And as soon as I saw his picture, I knew he was my “Ringo.”
I was ready for a dog, and I like to think Ringo – barely a year old at the time, a 14-lb. Welsh Corgi/dachshund mix – was ready for me. I’d recently moved into a dog-friendly apartment, I worked in a dog-friendly office, and I’d been sober for a few years, so my life was no longer about going out and getting wrecked every night. I was happy with being with my boyfriend, and watching TV.
I sent an email to Happy Angels Dog Rescue saying I was interested in meeting Oreo, and I got an immediate response. Within the next few minutes, I filled out an application (at just past 1 a.m.) and sent it.
Within a week, Ringo was at my house. He looked dazed.
I’d taken the next day off from work to be with him, and I took him on our first walk through the neighborhood. He was still being vague with me, tolerant and indifferent. It seemed like I was just another human on the end of a leash to him, but when we got back to the apartment, we took a nap together on the couch. He fell asleep on my side in a patch of sunlight, and I believe – at least I felt as though – that was the moment when we truly bonded when he knew I was someone he could trust.
But will he ever really trust me? Deep down? When I leave him with my sister if I go out of town, does he know for sure that I’ll come back for him? I wonder because someone did give him up, when he was still a baby.
According to his papers, Oreo/Ringo’s previous owner – who had already housetrained him; he had some skills – dropped him off at a shelter. He was scheduled to be euthanized, but the rescue got him out of there just in time. He was just under a year old, I estimate. I can’t imagine what that was like for Ringo, who now barks at the garbage truck, hates strangers leaning over him and guards my boyfriend and me as though his life depends on it. Maybe to him, it does.
It’s hard for me not to judge that previous owner, even if I don’t know what circumstances led him or her to surrender this funny, stubborn, hungry, devoted, mean, friendly, loving and living thing to an, at best uncertain/at worst fatal future. The thought of Ringo in an overcrowded shelter abandoned and scared, hurts. But if he hadn’t been surrendered, he wouldn’t have been rescued, and he wouldn’t have ended up with me. I know that. You have to take the bad with the good.
Thank God for shelters and rescues.
Millions of animals are euthanized each year, and there are still people making money from breeding them. I can’t understand the mentality of someone who makes the decision to bring more dogs into the world, for a profit. And I urge anyone who wants a dog or a cat to go to a shelter or a rescue, because I guarantee, sooner or later, you will find love there, as long you’re willing to give it. If you’re willing to give love to a rescue animal, you will receive it tenfold.
We have been through so much together. Obedience school, rally class, walks, naps and car rides. He went to work with me at a couple of different jobs (my bosses insisted he hangs out with them). He has a little bed and seat belt harness for the back seat. He is my precious cargo, my little passenger. I’m aware he is not a human child, but he is my child. He is family. He is my little baby.
He’s also my muse and my model. From the very beginning, I trained him to be still for the camera, and he is the most patient of mannequins, unbothered by costumes. Here are a couple of pictures of Ringo from Halloween a couple of years ago, as Herbie, the Love Bug. Yes, I made his costume. I dressed Ringo, my first dog, as the first movie I ever saw in a theater.
Now, Ringo is approximately 8 and a half years old and a sturdy 18 lbs. He is not always the kindest dog in the world – he’s snapped at a couple of people, he’s particular about who he lets in the house or car, he has very firm opinions about mail carriers and skateboards – but he can be the sweetest. He kisses me when I put my face near his. His cuddling is healing. He perks up at the sight of my boyfriend, wagging his tail, showing how eager he is to love and be loved by his pack. And no matter what is going on in the world, if he rests his head on me, time stands still.
He will be my funny little baby forever.