As many of you know, Jane, her husband Steve, and their beautiful 5-year-old “baby-girl” Black Lab Ryder suffered a heartbreaking loss this past summer when their beautiful 6-year-old “big-boy” Rhodesian Ridgeback mix Bismarck passed away.
Bismarck left us on July 27 when his gallant battle with an insidious cancer became too much for his courageous heart and brave soul.
We are all still trying to cope with this sudden loss of a beloved family member.
And we have all been very worried about Ryder. Bismarck was Ryder’s first playmate, her most agreeable companion, her stalwart protector, her sagacious guardian, her loving brother, and her cherished friend.
Our little sprite Rydie, the tiniest Lab with the most astonishing shine… and the most fortuitous air, is suddenly alone.
She probably doesn’t even remember the time before Bizzy. None of us really do.
Ryder came to Jane in the most round-about miracle of ways (a story for another blog), when she was just 8 weeks old, when Jane was entering her junior year of college. Rydie instantly became Jane’s daughter and companion, following Jane wherever she went. Even as a puppy, Rydie knew exactly how to behave in every situation.
If Jane hopped in her car, Rydie did too. If it was time for bed, Rydie was right there on the pillow next to Jane’s head. If Jane visited my husband and me (of course she calls us Grandma and Grandpa), Ryder knew our home was her home too. Ryder had (still does, actually) her own bed, toys, food and water bowls, leashes, etc. at our home.
Jane would bring Rydie to run and play and catch on the beautiful Main Green Quad at Brown University, and there she would attract every man, woman and child with her lively (but never come-look-at-me-‘cuz-I’m-so-adorable) ways.
Rydie learned to fetch. She learned to bring the fetch object (ball, stick, toy) right to Jane’s feet. She listened. She obeyed. She played.
She knew exactly what is was to be loved.
But one thing that Jane (and I) began to notice was that Rydie loved men! She always seemed to be searching for someone… someone whom, Jane and I would joke, she could call her Daddy. We even noticed that Ryder was particularly attracted to men with dark, shiny hair. Like hers, of course.
And there were plenty of this species around as Jane (and me, as I often stopped by Jane’s apartment for her afternoon romp with Rydie) walked and ran and played with Ryder.
Ryder would approach a man… indifferent (except for her hair color preference) to his age, religion, national origin or sexual preference, and attempt a little flirtation with her ball or stick or toy.
Many a man fell prey to her attempts at courtship, but Ryder was looking for someone in particular. We were sure of that.
And as luck would have it (or more likely, the heavens had aligned!), enter Steve. On one cold December evening, Steve happened to be in town visiting Jane’s brother Keith. This is where it gets a little weird, but bear with me.
Steve and Keith had been best friends since grade school, but Steve had not paid much attention to Keith’s “baby” sister… after all, he was (and still is!) ten years her senior. And he had attended college in Boston and then moved to California years before.
But on that cold December night, a spark danced into the two hearts of these unlikely lovers… and all Ryder could do was smile.
Could it get any better than this, you ask.
Steve was ready for a life change and was relocating back to Rhode Island. And he had a dog. A beautiful Ridgeback mix that he had rescued from a shelter in California.
And by that following summer, Jane, Steve, Ryder and Bismarck were a family.
I must say that I was a little concerned about Ryder and Bismarck’s relationship, because both had been “only-children” in a one-parent home. But my worries were completely unfounded.
They loved each other from the first moment they met. They became inseparable. They were a perfect team… the sprite, the sensible. The prankster, the earnest. The comical, the dignified. The frolicking sister, the calm brother.
And that is why Ryder misses Bismarck so very much. If ever there were two hearts that beat as one, it was theirs. If ever there were two halves to make a whole, it was them.
Rydie and Bizzy. Bizzy and Rydie.
Of course we know that Bizzy is all around us. Each day he is here in spirit. Each day he sends us a little breeze, a sunflower, a delightful ray of sunshine, a memory.
And we have waited for Ryder to catch these gifts. To react in her effervescent way. To be her frisky little self.
And… thank you, Biz… it happened.
You see, Jane and Steve opened their hearts and their home to a big bear of a Retriever/Lab/Shepherd mix named Seth, to foster him with love and care and warmth until a suitable home is found for him. His family had a sudden life-altering move and Seth could not go with them.
This arrangement surprised Ryder somewhat. She protected her toys (in other words, she brought them one-by-one under the dining room table). She guarded her bed. She ran after her balls doubly-fast, just as Bizzy had done.
And she growled at Seth when he sniffed her butt and licked her ears.
Ah… Rydie is back.
Seth is not Bizzy. He never will be. But if he can bring a leap to her romp, and a growl to her lips, then he is listening to our Bizzy giving very good directions from heaven.
And Jane and Steve will make sure that Seth stays in Rydie’s life.
He needs her. And she needs him.
The little bunny and the great big bear.