This is a story about another beloved animal, not a sheep this time, or a chicken, but a dog.
Part 1 – Decisions and Acquisition
It’s the summer of 1955. The Gibson family is thriving, enjoying the sunshine and Ralph’s first summer vacation from school. His 8th birthday will come in October. The family discussions turn often to this big day. Ralph has two wishes for his special day: a bicycle and a dog.
“It will have to be one or the other,” says his Dad. “We can’t manage both. It takes work to learn to ride a bike, but it’s fun too.”
“Is a dog work too, Dad?” Ralph asks.
“Yes, son, but a different kind of work. A dog needs good care, lots of exercise, and much love.”
Five-year-old Lorna chimes in, “Get a dog, Ralphie. I love dogs.”
Three-year-old Anne mutters to no one in particular, “Don’t like doggies. They scare me!”
Seven-month-old Mary is the only one who doesn’t give a hoot what his choice is!
“Sheldon, what if he chooses a bike? I have real problems about the danger to a little boy riding a bike on city streets.”
“I understand that, Marjie, but sooner than we like all his friends will be riding bikes. If we start him now, we’ll be the teachers, instead of them.”
Ralph is a thoughtful kid. This is a very important decision for him. I wonder how long he will mull it over. I soon find out. Ralph comes in for breakfast and says, “I want a dog – a boy dog. When can we get one?”
Excitement is riding high. Knowing that we might be looking for a dog, Sheldon has done some investigation. We all pile into our car and head for an animal shelter on the outskirts of Edmonton. The dedicated people who run the shelter take in these refugees, and work to return them to reasonable health. Then they try to find suitable people to adopt their orphaned guests. We have an appointment to see the dogs who are ready to leave.
The Gibson family troops in and is warmly greeted. We are promptly introduced to a handful of dogs, all of whom are likely candidates to be an eight-year-old boy’s pet. All are in good shape, and friendly. Ralph though, keeps leaving us and going over to a small, sad dog huddled by himself in a corner. The little fellow seems to see Ralph as a friend, and puts out his nose to be petted.
The shelter guide notices his interest. He says, “The dog Ralph seems interested in, is very new here. He has been very badly abused, and is terrified of most people. He could be a wonderful pet, if you can get him to trust you as he does your son. Looking at your family, it strikes me that you might just be what he needs. It’s a gamble. Are you willing to try?”
Ralph is delighted. The rest of us say, “Yes,” (except Anne, who whispers, “Go home, Mommy, don’t like doggies.”)
Papers are signed, advice is offered, and we head for the car. The shelter man carries Rocky (Ralph has already named him). Sheldon, baby Mary, and I are in the front seat, and the other kids in the back. Rocky is handed into Ralph’s outstretched arms. There is a frantic gasp, and Anne manages to scramble over the back of the front seat, and drop down between Sheldon and me. Off we go. One phase of our family life has ended, and a new one is about to begin.
To be continued . . .
Part 2 – 1955 to 1965 – The Changes Time Brings
Part 3 – The End of the Road