A good dog
He entered our family after a string of dog fails brought on by an impulsive mom who was trying her best not to go through the hard work of the puppy stage. Three rambunctious boys and a grown dog rarely make fast friends, and several unfortunate situations were created. So after several re-homing heartbreaks, mom and sons traveled together to bring this sweet little puppy home.
The story actually begins with a persuasive letter school assignment written by a gentle, kind-hearted, slightly awkward 7th grade boy. His mom may have been impulsive and a bit lazy, but she does have a heart.
Mom also recognized that these lofty promises, though well meaning at the time, would fall by the wayside and day to day care of this canine family member would fall to her. She was ready to commit.
Though mom and dad had a deal that dad would only participate in animal care as desired, code for “it’s always mom’s dog”, he did choose his name. Rinze (prounounced Rinzee) is a shortened name of a short careered Wake Forest University basketball player, Niki Arinze. Niki is the nephew of Cardinal Francis Arinze, so there were two namesakes involved, a man of the court and of the cloth.
The day after Rinze arrived in our home, Raleigh experienced its’ single biggest snowfall on record. A record that still stands. Almost two feet of snow fell and the ambivalent doggy dad had to shovel deep trenches so that our new little guy could begin his house training.
Obedience training and beyond fell to mom and the writer of the “can we please, please have a dog letter”. Mom worked on sit, stay, down while brother taught the more glamorous high five, catch a treat and flip the treat from nose to mouth. Cut up carrots were the reward. Not only was Rinze a good dog, but he was a smart one. He performed for carrots almost until his last days. But the liver treat given as he entered his crate for the night was, until the end, the highlight of his day. If any of us can daily get as much joy and excitement as Rinze did over that treat, we will have lived a good life.
When our family changed homes, our beloved pet was 14 years old, and the transition was difficult. He was confused, anxious and depressed. Thankfully grandmom provided extra TLC and Rinze made the adjustment in time. Though he could no longer jump up and grab food from the kitchen counter as in younger days, he did learn to navigate the dozen steps that lead to the backyard. The vet said that kept his muscles strong.
Though the muscles were strong, the mind and emotions began to waver. Toward the end, he was no longer house trained but had mom trained to walk him every few hours or else clean up the resulting messes. The slow and frequent walks encouraged mom to stop and smell the roses as he stopped and smelled the doggy smells. It was a reminder to slow down, take in the day or moment as we walked slowly alongside him. As he lost his hearing over several years, his voice also began to fade. It was a gift to hear a few barks in the last days and know that he still had something to say.
The decision to let Rinze go was difficult and an ongoing conversation within my head. As he entered his twilight months and days, I felt that he would let us know when it was time. He did. It was confirmed by our most tenderhearted, animal-loving child who after some discussion of the realities of his life said, “Mom, I think it is time. We have to let him go.”
And so we did. And in the most peaceful and gentle way, something I feared became a beautiful farewell. Rinze’s passing marks the loss of a well loved family member as well as over sixteen years of family life that has shifted and transformed. All three of those rambunctious boys are grown men making their way in the world and the little girls are knocking on the door of teenage world. Thank you to Rinze for adding much life and color to our journey. He was indeed a good dog.