by Andrea Yerramilli
Ralphie, Always Loved is a children’s picture book about a dog, and it’s not just another dog story. Not to me, anyway. Ralphie began the story of his life with rejection after rejection, till he came home to us. Imagine his excitement about being taken “home” for the first time, and then his dejection at being brought back to the shelter. Then going “home” again, only to be returned again, and then thinking third time’s the charm . . . but it wasn’t. Ralphie must have believed that he was going to make it, because he was not bitter or grumpy, as I can sometimes get when things don’t go my way. He was Ralphie and he took it all in his stride.
Ralphie was always happy, he was always busy, and he loved to make friends. I don’t think there was ever anyone or anything that he did not like. If it was food, or anything edible, he ate it. If he was happy, he showed it. If he was scared, he jumped onto your lap and sat there shaking. (He was 50-odd pounds, but he didn’t care.) Ralphie lived his life, all sixteen and a half years, to the fullest.
Ralphie accepted being part of our family with excitement. He looked up to his human dad and his canine sister for guidance, and he looked to me, his human mom, for cuddles and a belly full of delicious food. When we had kids, Ralphie accepted them and loved them fully. Every night he started out behind the rocker in the baby’s room, and moved from one family member to the next until sometime in the middle of the night, when he jumped up and snuggled up near me—which is where he slept till morning.
When Ralphie was fourteen, our family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, and because he was too old to fly, we drove cross country with him, a five-day journey that will live in my heart and memory forever. He soon became the talk of the town in our new home, with his wiggly walk and his old, graying face. Everyone stopped to say hello to him. All the love he put out into the universe was returned to him many times over. Ralphie reinforced for me that, in the end, love is the only thing that matters. He was an embodiment of everything kind and loving, and I couldn’t let his story end with him. So I wrote this picture book.
Ralphie, Always Loved is a story of pet adoption, pet loss, and a loving family. It is also the life story of a dog who loved life and lived it well. I wrote this book because I wanted Ralphie to live forever. He inspired me to love, and I think he can inspire little ones to love. I hope he will also inspire the parents who read his story to keep on loving too, and to know that love never ends!