One of my earliest memories is that of me falling onto the dog. We called him Raffy, our toddlerspeak twisting his real name, Rufus. He was black, with patches of white and light brown on his legs and face. A gentler soul could not be found. But on this morning, when two year old me fell on him, hard, he turned his head and growled, probably startled and pissed off. He didn’t bite, and I like to think it’s because he realized it was just me. Just a toddler whose brother pushed her onto the dog.
Raffy wasn’t allowed into the house, and his favorite spot was right outside our front door, like a welcome mat. My crashing bodily into him was most definitely not welcomed. I don’t remember feeling fear. I had the utmost trust in Raffy.
It was a few years later when my Dad ran over his tail. His other favorite spot was under the car (Raffy, not my father), and we had gotten into the habit of checking that he wasn’t under there, or anywhere near it when we left the house. This one afternoon however, the most horrific wail pierced our quiet Sunday afternoon. We ran outside, and poor Raffy was walking away from the car slowly, the middle of his tail squished. Fortunately, no bones appeared to be broken. He did have a permanent bald patch on his tail as a reminder of his one-foolhardiness.
When I was 10, Raffy was at the vet a lot. He was old (I think, because he’d been in my whole life up until then), and was sick a lot. I didn’t ask questions, I just wanted him to be better. He had an awful wound on his body (I can’t remember where), which had gotten infected repeatedly, and at one point, had maggots crawling in and around it (it was as gross as it sounds). Off to the vet he went again.
At 10, preoccupied with school and whatnot, I didn’t notice that Raffy hadn’t been around for a few days (I know. how does THAT happen?). I asked my mother on the way home from school, where’s Raffy? Is he still at the vet? She said without hesitation, oh no, he’s moved somewhere else. He’s at a farm for old dogs, where he’s very well taken care of.
I was crushed, but I was 10, I was preoccupied, I got over Raffy pretty quickly. It wasn’t until years later, that I knew that my mother had fabricated the farm story. Raffy had to be put down. I only grieved him years later.
We had other dogs, other pets, come and go over the next few years. But none were like Raffy. He’s the dog who loved us the most. Even when he was a landing pad. Even when his tail was run over. Even when we had to send him off to a farm for old dogs.
I miss you, pal.
(I have no photos of Raffy. That makes me sad.)
Who was your first pet?