Farewell, My Ripley

That sign that hung outside Ripley’s crate at the Humane Society read:

“This old dog’s got a lot of stuff: a tail that wags and a coat that’s soft. Two drooping ears and a love for bones. The only thing missing is a loving home…a caring home…a cozy home. Won’t you give this guy a place he can call his own?”

I did. Little did I know twelve years ago that I was adopting the craziest, most mischievous, neurotic, and loving dog.

Ripley hates being alone. The first time I left him home for a few hours I came home to blinds chewed and broken. An empty bagel bag on the floor. And I was greeted by a dog that ran in circles and bounced off my shoulders.

Literally, he could jump as high as my shoulders. All 60 pounds of him. And he jumped on me. A lot.

He could clear the staircase in two steps. He literally seemed to fly down a flight of stairs.

All the jumping, and energy, led to obedience school. The first night as every dog sat and waited for a treat, Ripley was weaving through my legs. His leash tying my legs together while he kept pulling to greet the other dogs. At the end of the six weeks Ripley and I walked away with the certificate for most improved.

By the way, we repeated obedience school a second time. And if you have met Ripley, you are probably amazed that he has ever spent a day in obedience school.

Some might remember him as the friendly dog that visited campers near the campfire anxiously awaiting  to be petted. His smiling face. Perky ears. Wagging tail. And back covered in animal excrement. Those that pet him surely haven’t forgotten.

Food has always been his best distraction. Peanut butter and bacon being his favorites.  A Kong filled with peanut butter was a surefire way to keep him distracted for a half hour. I’ve always attributed his peanut butter consumption to his shiny coat.

He loves the outdoors. He used to leap through deep snow like a snowshoe hare. Chasing squirrels was his exercise routine. Although, I’m not sure he would have known what to do with one if he ever caught one. We would take long walks through the woods where he would run. And run. And run. And run some more.

He has never been a fan of water, however, he loves boat rides. And fishing. He loves to watch me reel one in. And promptly kiss it. Thankfully, he never decided to give sushi a try.

A Rottweiler mix that thinks he’s a lap dog is bound to be full of love. And Ripley is. We have spent many nights curled in front of a fire. He snoring and me reading. I woke up once to find him sleeping on my back. All 60 pounds of him. That had to stop once I became pregnant.

Being the baby for so many years I worried about the addition of our newest family member. But there was no need. Ripley adored him from day one. Even when he tried to ride him like a pony. Another baby entered the picture 8 months ago, and Ripley became his protector from the start. Unfortunately, the baby and Ripley will never develop too close a bond.

You see, the Ripley that used to fly down the stairs has fallen down them several times in a matter of days. From top to bottom.

The Ripley that was always under foot is now sleeping in one spot for hours on end.

The Ripley who could smell bacon a mile away needs to have it put right at his mouth to eat.

The Ripley that couldn’t be away from me doesn’t even know when I leave.

The Ripley that barked when things didn’t go his way now cries when his body hurts.

So tomorrow his suffering will end. And my heart will hurt.

The vet will come to our home, and I will scratch his ears and not leave his side. For twelve of his 14 years he has always been there for me, and I will make sure to be there for him in his final minutes.

And the last words he hears will be “I love you. May you run freely in the land of peanut butter and bacon.”

Let Eric Play!

Eric Dompierre, a 19 year old junior with Down syndrome, will be ineligible to compete in football and basketball at Ishpeming High School his senior year because of age restrictions set in place by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). The current regulations require that a student can’t play in high school athletics if he/she turns 19 before September  1. Twenty-three other states allow waivers for students with disabilities.

Michigan isn’t one of them.

After first reading about this situation in March, I decided to search around the Michigan High School Athletic Association Web site to see if I could learn a little more about the regulation and why MHSAA is against the waiver.

In my search, I discovered a blog by Jack Roberts, Executive Director of MSHAA. On January 17, 2012, Jack wrote a blog post about dreams in which he stated how we all work toward making our dreams a reality. He went on to quote Jesse Owens saying: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

Eric has a dream—the dream to continue to compete in football and basketball his senior year.

I wonder if Jack has any idea how much harder people with Down syndrome work to get to this level? It starts with physical therapy before age one. I watch my son with Down syndrome work at least twice as hard as other babies to reach his milestones. He gives it his all, and I couldn’t be more proud. It takes determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort—all of which he agrees it takes to make one’s dreams come true.

If Jack meant anything he said in his blog post, he might consider using his position to encourage principals and superintendents to allow the waiver on the age limit for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. (MHSAA’s bylaws state rules can only be changed by a two-thirds vote from superintendent and principals of MHSAA member schools.)

On May 2, Eric took his case to Michigan state lawmakers in Lansing, which is quite a distance from Ishpeming.

Determination. Check.

Dedication. Check.

Self-discipline. Check

Effort. Check.

Let Eric play!

Below are two articles regarding this situation and a petition to MHSAA:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/sports/for-high-school-athlete-with-down-syndrome-age-is-an-issue.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mich-student-with-down-syndrome-urges-lawmakers-to-reconsider-age-limit-for-school-sports/2012/05/02/gIQAz56LxT_story.html

http://www.change.org/petitions/mhsaa-allow-my-son-and-some-disabled-students-to-play-for-1-year-past-the-current-age-limit