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October 30, 2019

The Case for a Second Rhodesian Ridgeback

“You’re going to have your hands full with that one. But the funny thing is, you may find that one just isn’t enough.” John chuckled to himself as his pack of Ridgebacks escorted us to the door. I did the laugh I do when I don’t want to let on I’ve missed the punchline. I’ve had a lot of practice. 

“You’re going to have your hands full with that one. But the funny thing is, you may find that one just isn’t enough.”

John chuckled to himself as his pack of Ridgebacks escorted us to the door. I did the laugh I do when I don’t want to let on I’ve missed the punchline. I’ve had a lot of practice. 

I offered John a final thanks before walking out the door with my puppy.

Even then, I knew Eko was the one. The dog of my dreams and the dog for my heart. My solace and inspiration, my guardian and my motivation. He would be my constant companion for an unforgettable journey.

Together, we brought my dreams to life more fully than I ever imagined. The love we shared  filled my heart. And after tens of thousands of miles of adventure, we found our home with Emily in Chicago. Eko had delivered me from one of the lowest points of my life to the inarguable peak of my happiness.

I endeavored to live at that blissful summit for as long as possible, but I discovered a mountaintop makes a poor home. By staying where I was in life I wasn’t preserving my joy. Instead, it was deteriorating into dull comfort.  

As always, Eko was my totem. The bland familiarity of our daily routine sapped much of his spark. I quickly recognized the same listlessness in myself. I knew I needed to challenge myself in order to grow, but I couldn’t quite figure out how.

Then one day at the beach I saw Eko return to himself. One moment he was lazily strolling along the water, and the next moment he was poised and electric. Eko gave a mighty bow, and I turned in time to see him crash into another Ridgeback.

Even just a few years ago it was rare for us to cross paths with other Ridgebacks. I watched with awe as the two danced their way down the beach – both seeming to spend more time in the air than on the ground. After a brilliant show, Eko trotted back to me happily panting. He was delighted to have found a spirit as wild as his own.

I understood in that moment that a full heart is not a sign your work is done. Instead, a full heart is a sign which reads”No Vacancy.” No room for love. No room for growth.

Eko showed me a full heart is meant to be poured back into the world so that it may be rebuilt and filled again. And I finally understood John’s premonition. I could think of no better way to show my appreciation for Eko and to increase my capacity for love than by offering my heart to another Ridgeback.

“What did I tell you, Will?” John said.

Three years late to the punchline, I laughed while holding  puppy Penny.

I expected her to be a spark, but Penny turned out to be volcanic lightning. And let me tell you, nothing gets you off a mountaintop like having it explode around you.

Penny’s works of mayhem overstressed Emily, overwhelmed Eko, and overtaxed me. I was pushed from one of the most comfortable places in my life into a constant state of discomfort. Penny repeatedly challenged me and I repeatedly failed. 

Miss Mayhem was my reckoning. She forced me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about dogs and about myself. There were an abundance of unhappy moments and difficult days, but I never regretted the decision to bring her home. Because each day we spent with Penny was a day spent becoming better versions of ourselves.

Eko was reinvigorated, I was recharged, Emily was… possibly reconsidering her agreement to marry me? Yes, we sacrificed our time and our comfort, but what we received in return was invaluable – vitality, growth, and a realization that Emily must really love me to put up with all this!

To watch the relationship between Eko and Penny blossom was a constant source of joy. Eko played the regal older brother, Penny played the wild jester always looking to impress. By creating an environment where they shared mutually positive experiences (aka treats and lots of playtime!) the two became inseparable. One of the greatest gifts I gave my constant companion was a constant companion of his own. My feet were not swift enough to keep up with Eko at the beach, and my days were not long enough to nap with him, so that invaluable work was entrusted to Penny.

Eko’s death threw our world off-balance, especially Penny, who never knew life without him. I never saw myself having two Ridgebacks, but after living the experience once, I couldn’t see myself any other way. Bringing Zero home not only allowed me to heal, it also gave Penny everything she had once given Eko – an indefatigable playmate, an adoring sibling, and a constant source of comfort.

Like so many others I’ve discovered I’m happiest when there is an “s” at the end of Ridgeback. And each of my Ridgebacks has been happiest while sharing life with another Ridgeback. 

The most frequent concern about getting a second Ridgeback seems to be, “How could I ever love them as much as my first dog?” The simple answer is you can’t. Not because your love is limited, but because you discover the opposite. You don’t take love from one dog and give it to another. You realize your heart has the capacity to love and cherish each dog and the unique experiences you share together. No pair is the same, but by cultivating that relationship you learn the sum is always greater than the parts.

Having two Ridgebacks is certainly not a mandate. One is usually more than enough! Nor does getting another Ridgeback provide any guarantees about your happiness or the happiness of your current dog. The guarantee is only that you will be challenged, you will grow, and you will have the opportunity to travel to new heights. Along the way you will be responsible for building new bonds, carving new paths, and finding new ways to fill your remade heart. 

If you are entertaining the idea of another Ridgeback, I’d encourage you to trust your instincts. Bringing home a sibling for our Ridgebacks was one of the best decisions we’ve made – both for us and for them.

In fact, we so strongly believe in the above that it didn’t seem right for our two-legged Ridgeback to be a singleton either. Allow me to introduce our newest pup, Quinn!

This little ridgeless was born just last week. Emily and Quinn are both healthy and happy. Lincoln’s delighted to be a big brother, Zero is ecstatic to be a doting nanny again, and Penny is ready to groom another minion.

I couldn’t be more excited to remake my heart again. Again!  

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