Ralph was my friend for almost sixteen years. He came into my life as a four-pound puppy with the hiccups, and he stayed as my almost constant companion. During his first five years, he alternated sleeping with my two daughters, Abby and Marta. He had back surgery when he was five years old, and after that he slept next to my bed, making sure that I was around. He became more fearful after the surgery and more dependent on me for his sense of safety and security, and he followed me everywhere. He also couldn't walk steps anymore or go on long walks, so we carried him where he needed to go, and got a canine backpack so he could join us on family walks.
Ralph was a certified therapy dog and a member of Abington Hospital's Animal Assisted Therapy program. He loved volunteering and would get excited when we got out his volunteer uniform (a spiffy red bandana). Marta and I (and Marta alone) spent many hours visiting patients, and hanging out with the other human and canine volunteers at the hospital. It was quite a sight to be on the elevator with ten other therapy dogs and see the reactions of patients and staff.
Ralph also came to work with me for many years as my co-therapist. I am a family therapist in private practice and Ralph greeted all of my clients, walking them from the waiting room to my office and back again when sessions were over. He knew when to comfort and also knew when to leave someone alone. We spent many sessions on the floor with folks who just liked his company. We were together all day, every day, for many years, and my office is filled with dachshund paraphernalia from appreciative fans of Ralph.
Mostly though, Ralph was part of our family. My daughters loved him, dressing him up and taking him places, bringing him to school and sports events, doing physical therapy with him when needed, and caring for him as they (and he) got older. My husband grew to love dogs because of Ralph, and he was the one to bring Ralph into our bed to sleep, as Ralph grew older and more frail. Ralph was thoroughly loved and he returned it all.
He was our friend and he is greatly missed.