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A Dog's Life - Worth Remembering, Celebrating

A long time ago, when I first came to Columbus - I lived in the University District - along North Fourth Street - at about the place where the Iuka Ravine came to an end.

It was really all not that much different in those days than it is today. Many of the houses look very much the same. And the neighborhood is still one of students at OSU and people who could care less about the campus less than a mile away.

I lived in a bungalow at the place where North Fourth Street stopped climbing ever higher and actually reached the Summit which gave nearby Third or Summit Street its name. The bungalow was a wonderful place. Built to have its usable rooms all on one floor, the house - probably built around 1900 - had hardwood floors, real plaster walls and light fixtures from another era. It was a very nice place.

It was at that place that I decided it was time to get myself another dog. This was no little decision.

I had grown up with dogs. The first one I can remember was a German Shepard who wandered into our yard and who my father let me keep. I called him Rover. He lived in the back yard for a few weeks, then jumped the fence and ran away.

He was followed by a cocker spaniel named Topper who was around for a number of years. When we moved to the country when I was 11, we let him out one day and he never came back. To this day, I still miss him.

We had other dogs over the next few years. But none of them were as important to me as Old Topper had been.

And then I went away to school. It never seemed to make much sense to have a dog when I was in school. I was living in small rooms with few amenities and no place to really keep a dog.

It was only after I came to Columbus that it seemed to make sense to get another dog.

His name was Ralph and he was the best behaved St. Bernard puppy one would ever be likely to find. Ralph and I went everywhere together in those wrenching years when the 1960's became the 1970's.

Our favorite place to take a walk was down the street a few blocks to Smith's Roller Rink and Dance Garden. It was quite a place. Not open all that much to the public in those days, it was still a place where one could walk one's dog on a wooden roller rink if one was so inclined.

Ralph was always so inclined.

Have you ever noticed that we retell the history of many of the people, and places and even some of the events that have made Columbus great? But we do not record the stories of our pets all that much.

There are some exceptions to this general rule. We know that Franklinton founder Lucas Sullivant highly regarded his dog named Dragon. And a bear named "Bear" once performed at State and High when Columbus was being born. And then Borden came to Columbus and so too did Elsie the Cow.

But mostly, the names of the dogs, and cats, and other animals who were just as much founders of the city as the people who brought them here - those names were largely forgotten.

And that is too bad.

Those animals were every bit as important to the founding and success of Central Ohio as the people who brought them here. They gave hope and courage and strength to people who were facing enormous challenges in making a new land their own.

Some people, like Lucas Sullivant, wanted to make sure people remembered the name of his dog.

I can understand that. Ralph the Saint Bernard was one of the best friends I ever had. When I lost him when he was only three years old, I lost something special in my life.

I have never had another dog.

Of course there always cats-lots of cats- and in the years since the 1970's I have been friend to a lot of them.

And I probably always will.