Raggie is Joe's little boy, plain and simple. He sought Joe out from the beginning. It was Sunday afternoon, April 1, 1990, and Joe had just performed a solo piano recital after which he, his sister, and I returned to their home (and Joe's studio). I sat in the livingroom while Joe put away his music and returned a few phone calls. In moments, I heard a soulful lament from the front yard and looked out the window to see a small black ragmop soaked to the skin in the freezing, pre-spring rain, singing his little heart out in a most unhappy and relentless refrain. Being well acquainted with the neighborhood, I was fairly certain this was not a local pet gone astray. I looked at Joe's sister, asked if she minded if I invited the little transient in (which she obviously DID, but which I promptly overlooked), opened the door, and called him over. He was only too happy to oblige, trotting joyfully up the doorstep and into the house.
By this time, Joe had stepped from his studio to see what was happening. Now, Joe, being an even bigger softie than I (as if that's possible), took one look at the pathetic beast and fell promptly in love. But I kept the cooler head, knew there was a possibility he was a beloved pet gone too far a wandering, and insisted we call the dog catcher to come pick him up. He was, after all, wearing a nice collar (no tags), held proper weight, and gave no behavioral indications of having been abused. I felt it was important he be taken to the pound where his owners would most likely start their search. And so, I called the police.
That was a mistake. The policeman who answered the phone first stated that the dog catcher didn't work Sundays and that I would have to call back the next morning. When I inquired what I was supposed to do with the dog in the meantime, he suggested I turn him loose again. When I questioned him about the existence of the leash law in town and why he was recommending I perform an illegal act, he begrudgingly agreed to come pick up the dog ... but not before asking how large the dog was and whether he demonstrated any aggressive tendencies. I assured him the hapless beast was no maneater. Within a half hour, the 200+ lb. officer arrived at Joe's home to confiscate the 20 lb. pooch.
Meanwhile, I promised Joe I'd do everything I could to locate his rightful family and keep tabs on him at the pound. I called the dog catcher first thing Monday. He told me the dog was most likely abandoned by his previous owner. This man often picked up half a dozen animals on Mondays that had been driven into town and dropped off to seek out new homes on their own. I was appalled and asked him how long the dog would be held before being euthanized. He had five days. On Friday, he would be destroyed.
I left descriptions of the dog with the other animal holding facility in the area, the vets, the radio stations, the sheriff's department, and the local newspaper. No one had reported a similar pet missing. Days went by, and no one surfaced to claim the little guy. By mid-week, I'd promised Joe that on Friday we'd go get him if no one else had. Friday came, and Raggie came home.
Raggie and The Lion King, Noddy
This little boy has one great love and obsession in his life: food ... well, not exactly food ... more like anything he can in his wildest imagination interpret as food ... basically anything with an appealing odor: wheat cat litter, votive candles, crayons. He's quite single minded about it. He knew he wasn't supposed to eat that pound of semi-sweet chocolate bits that could have killed him, yet eat it he did. He knew he shouldn't have eaten that entire loaf of moldy raisin bread that very nearly did kill him, but that didn't stop him either. We've become extraordinarily vigilant about leaving anything within his possible grasp that might in any way prove appealing to him, but it's difficult to anticipate what he might find irresistible. I mean, crayons? We have learned to keep a "Raggie Survival Kit" on hand: hydrogen peroxide and liquid antacid.
Going hand in hand with his food obsession is a weight problem. Raggie was quite lean when we first brought him home, probably right around 20 lbs. Within a year or two, he had consumed his way up to nearly 45 lbs. and was no longer able to jump on the bed. Having spent considerable time castigating my mother and other friends for the obese condition of their canine companions, I simply couldn't justify allowing Raggie to maintain this atrocious weight just for the sake of my convenience in being able to feed the dogs free-choice. I put the no-longer-quite-so-little boy on a severe diet along with the other dogs who had started to adopt his poor overeating habits, and eventually got him back down to around 20 lbs. His weight has risen a bit since switching to this oh-so-tasty wheat cat litter, but I'm making every attempt to keep him in check.
Joe dotes on his "son", and they both flourish in the attention. Just one more bit of loving to add to the family.
Our little old man passed from this world on August 31, 2006, surrounded by his family here at home. Raggie's quiet presence and peaceful soul is missed amid the chaos of our full house.
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