Sunday, July 10, 2005

There Goes My Hero

Many years ago I lived in Sydney Australia. Manly Beach to be exact. I moved there after working as a nanny in the Northern Suburbs, so suddenly living in a surfing community with three new flatmates, three cats and a dog was quite a change from what I had been experiencing in Australia so far. Manly was definitely more my speed. I loved being on the beach again - I grew up on the beach at the Jersey shore - and the surfers were just like the guys back home, but with cute accents. I can honestly say that living there was the happiest time of my life.

Two weeks after I moved in, my flatmates excitedly announced that Ralph and Jason were coming to stay. Jason was a former flatmate/surfer of the house, and Ralph was his dog. Now, I love dogs. I really do. But I have never heard people talk about a dog like this. They just went on and on and on. Clearly they were more excited about Ralph the wonder dog coming than their friend Jason. Ok I get it, he's the dog of all dogs. Could he really be all that cool? I mean come on - but nobody could tell them any different.

A few days later, I walked into my house and heard a very loud and unfamiliar bark. In the living room, among my many flatmates and neighbors, were two new faces. Jason - the surfer, and Ralph - the biggest German Shepherd I had ever seen.

He didn't seem to like me the first couple of days. He would bark at me when I came in the house and continue as he would follow me into my room. I knew he wouldn't bite, so I wasn't afraid. I was more annoyed by it. Hey! I live here now bub! It's hard enough being the only Yank in the house, give me a break!

Within one week he was sleeping at the foot of my bed every night. He would not allow anyone but my flatmates in my room. Every morning he would stand at my bedside, pressing his cold wet nose to mine in a silent plea to come out and play. When I would come home from work he would jump around like a puppy. Everyone noticed how he had taken to me. I often thought that maybe he was looking out for me because he sensed I was new, the outsider in the house, and needed a champion. When my flatmates would walk him to the pub, and then forget about him sitting outside in their drunken stupor, he would walk over to the cafe where I worked and park himself at the entrance. He would follow me from table to table, offering a friendly lick or nuzzle to my customers. My boss, who at first freaked out that Ralph was scaring off customers, soon changed his tune when he would hear the little voices crying to their mummies to eat at the place with the big cool dog. Ralph was great for business.

He never needed a leash. He would walk right beside you, even in crowds. He protected our house from strangers but was gentle as a lamb to people when we were out on the town. He let children pet him and pat him, sometimes to the point of pain, and he never snapped or walked away. It was never necessary to yell at him, a simple "Ralph" was all you needed to say to get his attention. He would play catch for hours and hours, and he never went after other dogs. It didnt take me long to realize that he was everything my flatmates had said, and more.

He and I would often go out for late night walks together. It was a ritual we had, a way for me to unwind after work. One night, as we walked back from the Corso, Ralph went off ahead of me to do his business, and I stood on the beachfront giving him some privacy. There were several bars across the street, and as I stood there, a few drunken boys spilled out of one of the bars and approached me. At first they were just flirting, asking me where I was from, what my name was...the usual slurred nonsense. Nothing I wasn't used to, especially since Aussie boys always gave American girls a little extra attention. But slowly I started to get an uneasy feeling. They were too close, too familiar, and had somehow surrounded me. Behind me was a 10-foot drop to the beach. I suddenly had a vision...being pushed...falling...nobody knowing...nobody hearing....as they jumped down to the beach to follow my fall.....

I started to edge away, but they kept asking me questions, trying to keep me where I was. I tried to laugh them off, move slowly away, but they cut me off..and then suddenly...a flash of fur...and Ralph was standing between us. His hackles were raised, his teeth were bared, and the low-throated growl coming from him was something I had only heard in horror movies. His entire body was poised and ready to strike. He looked like a wild coyote about to shred a deer apart. The boys raised their hands as if they were under arrest.

"Woah," one of them said, "is that your dog?"
Upon hearing his voice, Ralph started barking at him ferociously. He sounded like Cujo.
"Yes, he's mine," I replied.
They backed away, just as I had been trying to do only moments before. "See ya," they said. And they ran off.

That was it. Over. Just like that. Ralph turned to me, leaned against my leg, and would not allow us to lose physical contact the entire walk home.

Ralph, my heroMy flatmates were stunned when I told them the story. Ralph had never, ever, behaved like that in public. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that those boys were planning....I don't even like to think about it. I sometimes wonder about that vision. Was it what would have happened if Ralph hadn't been there? How different would my life be now if he hadn't scared them away? Would I even be here to tell this story?

Ralph was my hero that night. And he will always be my hero. Nobody in my life has ever stood up for me like that. Nobody has ever put his life at risk for me. Stood his ground, ready to attack, four against one, only thinking of my protection and well-being. To me, Ralph will forever be my champion. The dog of all dogs. And nobody can ever tell me any different.

53 comments:

Neil said...

Wow, that's a story I've only seen in the movies, like Lassie. What an amazing dog. I've never had a dog, mostly because I've always lived in small apartments. But I think I want to go out now and buy one.

darth said...

ralph sounds like a wonderful dog! growing up, a neighbors dog "adopted" my brother and i as kids, and decided that it was her job to protect us no matter what (including ignoring the fact that she wasn't even ours)...it gave us such a sense of security as kids, that i remember even today :)

Kallun said...

And this is yet ANOTHER reason why dogs are better than cats...

WhiteBoyBob said...

Great story (if a bit alarming). As you say, who knows what might have happened.

We have two greyhounds (Jake and Lucy) and they're the softest, most gentle dogs ever. They'll let children tug them about and they just stand there (like Ralph). One day my wife was walking on her own down a path with our dog Jake and 5 young men were just hanging around. When she got close they started call things out to her and Jake just stopped, put his hackles up and started really growling at them. Amazing! He'd never done anything like that before and he hasn't since. Just goes to show you what amazing animals they are.

Brookelina said...

Neil - He was like a movie start, but he was way better than Lassie! Ralph was real!

Darth - I know what you mean. Ralph wasn't really "my dog", but in my mind, he will always be my dog.

Kallun - too right! Though there are some cool cats out there. Check out Ubermilf's recent blog about her cat.

WBB - it IS amazing. How do they just know when we need protection? Is it instinct? Or just sheer love? And thanks for including their picture!

Brookelina said...

Neil - movie star. LOL I wish they would let you edit comments after they post.

im here somewhere said...

*sniffle sniffle*
i want a puppy...

we had a huge bulldog. we got him from the university, he was a lab dog. he was really sweet to everyone in the family, but barked at strangers that came up to the house. one day, he was outside and i saw the mailman coming so i let him in, but his leash was caught in the door, leaving the door open about an inch. bruno got out, ran to the mailman, stood in front of him, just wanting to bark and let the mailman know he was there. well, the stupid mailman grabbed his mace and got bruno in the eyes. bruno then decided he was under attack, reached up, grabbed the mailman in the nuts, with his teeth, puncturing him eight times....he tried to sue us! his wife tried to sue for loss of services 500,000 dollars! ya, like it was worth that much lady! anyways, we won the lawsuit, but we had to put bruno down..*shiffls sniffle*

yournamehere said...

Reminds me of an old joke: A young man from the city goes to visit his uncle, who's a farmer. As he's being given the tour, the young man notices a three-legged pig. He asks his uncle, "How did that pig lose a leg?"

The farmer says, "Let me tell ya, that's one hell of a pig. Once, when your cousin Jimmy fell in the old well, that pig came up a' squellin' and led us to the well. Saved Jimmy's life."

"Okay," the young man says. "But how did he lose his leg?"

"Let me tell ya, that's one hell of a pig," the farmer states. "Once, we were all asleep and the pig starts slammin' up against our bedroom door just makin' the most godawful racket, and it turned out the house was on fire. Not only did he save our lives but I was able to stop the fire before it spread. That is one terrific pig."

The young man starts to lose his patience. "Yeah, but how did he lose his leg?"

The farmer looks at him and says, "A pig that great you don't want to eat all at once."

sunshine said...

Oooh he sounds like a real sweetie, and a prince of a gentleman too! I just love dogs to death. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em. I love that picture of him, too. You just want to reach out and give him a hug. Thanks for sharing!

The Dummy said...

WOW! That's the most amazing dog story I've ever heard. Ralph's my hero now too.

The Dummy said...

Oh yeah, and because of this story, I'm going to forever be partial to German Shepherds when I get a dog!

Cincysundevil said...

You're making me want to get another dog. The last one I had was poisoned when I left him with my folks when I moved to Phoenix to go to Arizona State. Rooster (that was the name given to him which I thought was a great dog name) was the most spoiled, smart dog I ever had. Whenever my sister first had my two nephews, he would always position himself between the kid and any stranger that came into the house. He'd bark up a storm and was ready to attack anyone who got near the kids. He was smart because he loved to sleep under the covers down by your feet. He would jump on the bed and when you told him to move, he'd start shivering like he was freezing half to death whining the whole time. So you'd give in and he'd snuggle your feet all night.

MoDigli said...

Brooke ~ Ahhhwwww! I loved this story. He is definitely your hero. Thank god he was there with you when you needed him.

Do you still keep in touch with Jason and Ralph?

Brookelina said...

Lilred - that's horrible. Damn mailman deserved to be neutered.

Todd - Some Pig! (don't know if you get that reference)

Sunny - wasn't he just gorgeous! He was a very huggy dog.

DD - glad to hear it!!! Someday I plan on getting another Shepherd, that will of course be named Ralph.

Brookelina said...

Cincy - he sounds like a Ralph. Poisoned! If I were in charge of the world - as I have discussed before - I would make the punishment for crimes against animals the same as for crimes against humans.

Mo - I knew someone would ask me this. I lived in Manly in the early 90's. Ralph was about five or six then. I went back to visit in 96, and he was living down in southern New South Wales with Jason's parents - as Jason was out of the country. I tried desperately to get one of my flatmates to drive me down to visit him, but nobody could (it was the holiday season, nobody had the time). Since then I haven't asked anybody about him. It's been too many years.....and I don't want to hear anybody say out loud what I know to be true.

MoDigli said...

Mmmmm..... I know what you mean. But, perhaps Ralph's always-faithful soul is now your guardian angel?

Marel Lecone said...

What a wonderful dog. Thanks for sharing. Well-written. Thanks again.

Evil Petting Zoo said...

very cool story...except the potential victim of bad men part...now I want a dog even more.

Evil Petting Zoo said...

oh and i like the foo fighters reference...wonder if anyone else caught that? have you heard the new album? tiffani is picking it up for me.

Rusty said...

Chan the almost-blind pug and I love that story. (snif, snort)

Spirit Of Owl said...

Look, I'm glad you got away safe, but me... well I can't be having with dogs. They do my head in with their hairs and barking and poo and stench and slobber and shagging your leg and snaffling vigorously at their bits and that's all before breakfast! Not something I ever think that I want in my house. Besides, me and the kids cover most of that stuff between us anyway.

Actually, have you ever seen The Omen? I think that you're probably the AntiChristess or something, and this dog has been sent by the Devil to protect you. You just wait and see, soon enough you'll be in politics.

Brookelina said...

Mo - can't even think about it. He'll always be Ralph in Australia to me.

Marel and Rusty - thank you!

Evil - I was wondering if anyone noticed the reference. I love that song. Let me know how the new album is.

Owl - first you insult dogs, then you insult me. I'm going to knock you right off my bloglist! How DARE you call me a politician!!!! You take that back!

The Moviequill said...

that was quite the manly story for a woman (hey, I loved it...and you said you couldn't write? pssshaw)

Major7 said...

My dog is a cone-head.

Brookelina said...

MQ - thank you muchly.

Major - better than a cokehead.

Spirit Of Owl said...

I never said you were a politician. Not yet anyway. I reckon things will move mysteriously in that direction though... ;D

CheyenneWay said...

Awesome story! I used to have a dog when i was a kid. Named him after my bestest friend in grade school. Levy had the biggest ears and no one could quite figure out exactly what kind of dog he really was. All i knew was that he was mine.

Harley Quinn said...

I LOVED this story! (except for the part about those guys of course). I have a purebred Siberian Husky w/blue eyes (seneca) and a 120 lb purebred solid white german shepherd (Pharoah). They're also my babies and I love em to peeeeces I tell ya.

Ditto what Kallun said fo reals!

Thanks for sharing :).

JJ said...

My wife walked into the living room one day to find two highly undesirable men loitering about. They claimed to be looking for the people who lived there before us, but they looked like rapists from central casting.

We had two dogs at the time, one of which was a 110lb Rhodesian Ridgeback with jaws that could crush steel and a growl that sounded exactly like a lion. It was same thing, though: we had never seen them menace anyone until these to guys showed up, which makes us think she really was in trouble.

One look at the dogs, though, and they couldn't get out of there fast enough.

gone said...

Ralph must be buddies with UberMILF's cat.

Brookelina said...

Ok Owl, for that you deserve a good plucking.

Cheyenne - Levy is a great name for a dog! Ralph's ears and nose were both really huge. We used to call him "big nose". He didn't seem to mind.

HLD - I am so jealous that you have those dogs. I live in a tiny condo - someday I will have a house and a yard and a dog. That's my mantra.

JJ - wow, even scarier to walk into your own home and experience that. I bet your dogs would have torn them to pieces.

Jacob - I know! I even mentioned her in one of my previous comments!

Spirit Of Owl said...

Wahay! Brooke and me are off for a good... oh. Look, I can't help it if Dark Forces are at work in your life. Actually I should probably stop now or I'll find a crowd of large German Shepherds hounding (haha!) me at my door...

Perhaps you won't be an ambassador or anything. Maybe you'll focus on being a holiday rep or something.

Gordy said...

I want a dog sooo much. We are hoping to be able to adopt one or at least act as foster parents, for a local shelter.

Great, if slightly scary, story. BTW, where is the dog now?

Brookelina said...

Owl, it's hard to keep a straight face when I see your feathery little face on my board. I promise not to let my minions...err...dogs I mean...tear you to shreds. Although I'm sure it would be a top seller on pay-per-view.

Gordy - my goal is to have another Shepherd named Ralph, and then to adopt a pound puppy as well. Someday! As for Ralph, all of this happened many many years ago......so....that's all I'll say...

Ruben said...

Impressive! Very impressive post my lady!

im here somewhere said...

brooke, it was actually pretty funny. they hired the best attorneys, top floor of the IDS in minneapolis. we had some scuzzy guy in a dental building who always forgot to zip up his pants. anyways, during the preliminary hearing, we had to see pictures of the guys nutsack and upper thigh here bruno bit him. it was all i could do not to pee my pants from laughing so hard.

i really miss my bruno..

JJ said...

Mailmen are insane about dogs. I was sitting on the front porch with a three month old puppy in my lap one time -- back when I lived in an old house with the mailbox on the wall next to my front door -- and the mailman starts shouting at me that he won't deliver my mail until "that animal" is either inside or on a leash.

So, I got up with the puppy in my arms, and calmly opened the front door to put him inside but my viscious Doberman shot through the opening and savaged the mailman... okay, kidding about that last bit.

Brookelina said...

Thank you Ruben!

Lilred - your family showed remarkable restraint. If anyone had maced Ralph they would have been served as the daily special at the restaurant.

JJ - I like that ending better. You're such a good writer!

Jack's Shack said...

I love dogs. They are just so cool.

MoDigli said...

Did you notice Cincy has 1 from Brunei?
I wonder when you're ganna break into double digits? maybe today?!

Mariangela said...

I love this story. I wish I could have met Ralph.

im here somewhere said...

i was home with a three year old by myself so i couldnt do much besides just get bruno back into the house. if my boyfriend would have been home that guy wouldve been maced in the face right back. my b/f was an equal oppertunity revenge expert.

Übermilf said...

I love dogs, and I would gladly have one if I thought he'd be happy. To me, dogs want a job. The only job I have for him/her is sniffing around the yard and chasing squirrels. I'm not sure it's meaningful enough.

I think cats just have more limited means of protecting their owners. But they do what they can.

joanne said...

Great story. I was telling my friend Rosanna (the one who's dog is staying with me) that I am probably going to get attached to her German Shepherd and when she has to go I will be sad. Maybe it's just going to be a cue that I need my own dog. :-)

Dogs are great.

MoDigli said...

I see Brunei has broken into double digits!!! Just noticed it today. :))

I got Oman today - and she dropped a comment, too. That was pretty cool. :)

MoDigli said...

ps. I'm jealous of your phillipines! I don't have any from there.

This is so silly!!

justanothernickname said...

i didn't have time to read your post........but i did see your profile pic..........and thought.........hmmm shes hot, i better comment......k.....fine

Brookelina said...

Jack - I agree!

MoMo - I think I need to start brushing up on my Brunei trivia.

Lilred - too bad your boyfriend wasn't there with a hammer.

Ubie - if you have a yard with squirrels then already you are a perfect dog owner.

Jo - if I had the room for a dog..believe me I would have one now. Go for it!

Nickname - thanks. I think.

serially single said...

amazing story. made me tear up a bit at missing my own great dogs who i haven't seen in a while.

Brookelina said...

Thank you! I'm off to check out your blog, your name is great.

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jasonabusesmel said...
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