The Happiest Dog Alive

Little Ricky is the happiest dog alive. Of course I know it’s ridiculous to say that, most dogs are so full of life and love any number of them could claim that title. But humor me here anyway.
He’s a ten-month-old Irish setter who has known so much pain and suffering in his life if he were human you’d easily understand if he was depressed or suicidal even. At nine weeks he almost lost his life in a horrific accident, which took him months to recover from. Then he came down with a rare disease that kept him bedridden with a dangerous fever for another three months during what would have been a major growth spurt.
After barely pulling out of that he was left with rear legs that are grossly deformed, although still somewhat useable.
Watching him hobble about now, seemingly unaware that anything is wrong with him, is tearfully endearing. He lives with a brother who is a spectacular example of the breed, and they interact as if nothing is amiss.
In fact Little Ricky is the better behaved, although his owner suspects that’s because he’s unable to jump on the counters.
Making a decision to put a dog down is almost always hard, and often done after a pet has been in the family for years. But there’s an added sense of responsibility when a pup is young, and there are no clear indications of the quality of life the pup might have. It’s like predicting the future or gambling. Will he recover and have a good life? Should we give him the chance?
In fact, a sibling of Ricky did get the exact illness (perhaps even a less serious version) at the same time, and his owners chose to put him down. It’s not lost on all parties what a joy it is to have Ricky still around.
Joy might even be too weak a word here, because watching this innocent soul hop around the Arboretum like a rabbit on his splayed back legs, the delight in his face as clear as light, would melt the coldest heart. Irish setters are known anyway for their clownish, mischievous ways, and Ricky has more than his share of the setter personality.
There is no stopping him as he darts after the geese, pokes thru brush for squirrels, saves his master from the plastic dinosaurs at the Kindercare. At night he tries to jump on the bed, but of course can’t. After his master lifts him up (often from deep in sleep) suddenly Ricky remembers he has left a toy on the floor, so it’s down, then up again!
He likes to have all his stuffed animals and toys clustered around him. We think he counts.
The very simple and (though told countless times before) relevant lesson has been, for our family and friends (Ricky’s home), the perspective. That remarkable lesson that dogs continue to teach us about living in the moment, and moving on, and seeing the glass half full. I know it can sound treacly and oversimplified. We’re humans, we think, we have a hard time just setting aside things that bother us and chasing butterflies around.
But maybe it’s enough sometimes just hanging out with, or watching, a magnificent creature who does live that way!
Someone like Ricky, The Happiest Dog Alive!

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