SPCA in Cattaraugus County
From Tragedy to Triumph: The Story of Ripley
Almost eight years ago, Mastiff mix, "Ripley" began a life that only the strongest of souls could have survived. Chained to a tree, Ripley never knew what it was like to go for a walk. He wasn't able to exercise his body or his mind. Ripley had no interaction with other dogs or people. His "owners" never brought him inside, not in the burning heat of summer or the frigid cold of winter. He was fed and given water, but not adequately. He wasn't able to move away from the small space he was chained to and he developed many physical and psychological problems. Dogs are, by nature, social and active animals that need exercise and interaction. A life of solitary confinement is torture for a dog, and Ripley lived a life of torture for seven years. Over 2,500 days of physical, mental, and psychological pain. Had an animal protection agency or even a good Samaritan known about this, something could have been done much sooner to change Ripley's life. But on a country road, it would be nearly impossible for a driver passing by to understand what was happening to Ripley. From a distance, it could be easily mistaken as a dog who was put outside to get some fresh air for awhile. So Ripley sat suffering for seven years...
Finally, someone realized the desperate situation Ripley was in and the SPCA was contacted. An investigator came up to check on Ripley, and he was immediately taken from the property. It was the dead of winter and Ripley was taken to the warmest part of the SPCA and given heavy quilts. By this time, Ripley was already suffering from mange, frostbite, bacterial infections, and hunger. And almost anyone would be emotionally dead after this experience. This big dog slept and slept. No matter what time of day it was, he kept sleeping. The radio, the workers, and the barking of 100 dogs couldn't awaken this gentle giant. Day after day, night after night, Ripley kept sleeping. He was nicknamed, "Sleepyhead." Ripley's fans would stand over him and watch him snore. We all hoped and prayed that Ripley's "hibernation" was the beginning of his strength, not the end of it. "You've made it this far, Ripley. Don't give up now," we would tell him. I will never forget the first time I saw Ripley awake. He got out of bed, wagged his tail, let me pet him for a few minutes, and then went over to his food dish. He ate a little bit, drank some water, looked at me, yawned, and went right back to his bed and fell asleep. After heavy duty sleeping for over ten days in a row, Ripley began to stay awake longer and started to want to go for walks.
A dedicated SPCA worker said she knew a couple who loved dogs, especially mastiffs, and would want to help Ripley. Once this couple was told about him, they immediately wanted to help him. They weren't thinking of adopting him at the time because they already had young French Mastiff, "Togo." But they wanted to help Ripley in every way possible. So Ripley's future "dad" started coming down to the SPCA and walking Ripley. Ripley loved his time out of the kennel so much. Soon Ripley's future "dad" and his future "mom" decided that they did not want to see Ripley spend the rest of his life at the shelter. Even though Ripley went for lots of walks and spent a lot of time cuddling and hanging out with the workers and volunteers, the majority of his days, like most shelter dogs, were spent in a kennel. Ripley's future parents said they couldn't see him spending the rest of his life, "in jail," so they decided to foster him, and pay for all of his medical bills. So Ripley went to numerous veterinarians who gave his future parents expert opinions on the best way to begin to heal all of Ripley's physical and psychological problems. (Ripley had the habit of chewing himself, a habit that begins when an animal suffers from long-term boredom and begins to lose their mind and turn to self-destruction.)
Ripley's future parents began fostering him and intended to keep him until they found in the most loving and mentally-stimulating home in North America. His future parents took him for long walks on beautiful trails through the woods behind their home with his future brother, Togo. They bought him lots of toys and Togo taught Ripley what to do with toys. Togo became the friend, companion, and brother that Ripley never had, and helped Ripley finally live the puppyhood Ripley never knew. Ripley and Togo shared a great big couch in the living room and watched "Planet's Funniest Animals," on T.V. together. Soon Ripley's future parents realized that Ripley already had the best home in North America, and that they loved him too much to ever give to another person, no matter how good that person would have treated him. So they adopted Ripley and he became an official member of their family.
I am privileged to babysit Ripley and Togo when their parents are running errands. The innocence of Togo and the courage of Ripley is like spending an afternoon with God himself. Ripley is my hero in so many so many ways. In a world that consists of both horror and joy, I would often wonder if happiness was randomly tossed out and could only be felt when things go the way we want to them to. Ripley taught me that happiness can still be felt no matter how bad we have suffered mentally or physically. On hot summer days where my apartment is terribly warm, I tell myself that this is nothing compared to the heat of the sun that Ripley felt. On nights I come back from a day of dog walking and I am cold and wet, I tell myself that my chills are nothing compared to the cold Ripley felt. I truly believe Ripley's story can help so many people. I only wish I could take some of his magic and toss it out to those, both human and animal, suffering the effects of poverty, hunger, disease, war, etc. For a dog that had every right to hate everyone and everything, Ripley loves everyone and everything. He watches Togo and me play of play ball with a great big smile on his face, and then jumps in between us and intercepts the ball. When his parents come home from errands, Ripley jumps off the couch and happily runs over to his heroes. So for anyone reading this who has ever faced an obstacle or obstacles in their life, don't give up. You have a real purpose and you can overcome anything you set your mind to. Ripley says so!
Ripley (above) all smiles and happy!
Ripley when he first came to the shelter
Ripley (on the left) taking a walk on one of the paths his dad made for him. Ripley's brother Togo (on the right) has taught Ripley 100 different things to do with a tennis ball.