Loss of a Dear Friend

February 21, 2019

Dear Ones,

I have sad news, especially for those of you who’ve been with me a long time. Our beloved Ritter, the almost-assistance dog, has gone on to join his sister Lizzie Dog. He was just so tired and old — sixteen years old, an amazing age for a big dog — that we had to let him go. He’s resting in our back yard, and as soon as we can, we’ll plant a rhododendron by his head so he can enjoy the blooms in the spring.

If you’d like to read about Ritter and his career (which fizzled when he flunked out of college), the article is here. I haven’t amended it to include his death. The Husband and I are still dealing with our loss.

I want to share one story about Ritter. We got him when he was eleven weeks old (hell puppy) from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a trusted organization that breeds and trains dogs to assist a person with physical disabilities. We had a manual with all the commands we needed to teach him. One of them was, “Speak!” Well, Ritter didn’t speak. Never. He never barked…except when I was blow drying my hair. That drove him to loudly warn me I was in danger. So when I got ready to do my hair, I’d let The Husband know. He’d bring Ritter in, I’d flip on the dryer and when Ritter got wound up, The Husband would say, ”Speak!” Ritter would bark (at me), and The Husband would give him a treat and tell him he was a good boy. It worked. Ritter learned to speak on command.

Of course, one time I flipped my head upside down to dry my hair, Ritter ran in and before I realized he was there, roared a bark. I had to peel myself off the ceiling.

Even after Ritter flunked out of the CCI program, he kept his desire to assist anyone any way he could, and as you can see, he gladly sat in my desk chair, listened to audio books, and helped me type. Once he sent a message to my assistant. Every year on the summer solstice he went out with us into our stone circle to wait for the sunrise. I suspect he frequently thought we were nuts, but he kept it to himself.

CCI has a ceremony where they present the dogs to the recipient; if you ever get a chance, I think you’d love to see it and know what good the organization does. (Take tissues.) If you’d like to donate to CCI in Ritter’s name, please do. He was Ritter II, and you can trust your money will go to a deserving cause. If you’d like to raise a puppy — I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot of work, but very gratifying to think someday the dog you trained will help make someone’s life so much better — the information is here.

Thank you for letting me share Ritter with you all these years. Group hug, and remember — all dogs go to heaven.

Christina Dodd
New York Times bestselling author
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All I want to be is the person my dog thinks I am.