Last week (June 6th) my dog turned eleven. Zuri has lived the longest of any of my Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and so far he seems to be in pretty good health. He did start getting fatty tumors (non-cancerous) when he was around four. Now he has them all over his body. And he has trouble moving when he first gets up. Arthritis, I suppose because after he’s moved around a bit, he’s better.
Ridgebacks normally live between 10 and 14 years. I’m hoping Zuri makes it to 14. He’s bigger than the breed standard by almost 4 inches (at the shoulders) and heavier by at least 50 pounds. He’s not fat, though he could probably lose 10 pounds. Most of his weight is in his size and muscle.
When I bought him, back in 2001, I wanted a pet quality. We used to breed and show Ridgebacks, but those days were behind us. His breeder was reluctant to sell him as a pet—his ridge is almost perfect—so she made me promise if he turned out to be show quality, that I’d let her show him. I agreed, but by six months, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. By then Zuri was almost 31 inches at the shoulders and, more important, only one testicle had dropped. So he was neutered, and he’s been our companion ever since.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks became a recognized American Kennel Club breed back in 1955. The foundation stock of the RR was developed by the first European settlers in South Africa who needed a hunting dog that would also be a good family dog and could survive in the African bush. By selective breeding between the dogs they brought with them—Great Danes, Boxers, Mastifs, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Salukis, and others—and the half-wild ridged dog of the Hottentot tribes, The Rhodesian Ridgeback became a distinct breed.
My husband and I discovered the breed when we attended an AKC dog show in Santa Barbara. We loved the look of the dogs and started reading up on them. We liked the idea that a Ridgeback could be a great family dog and also a hunting dog. Over the years we’ve owned several Ridgebacks. Some have been better than others. (Like people, not all dogs, even purebreds, are not alike.) I have fond memories of many, have watched them herd pigs, get the paper for us, flush pheasants, kill a groundhog with one shake, and stare-down a salesman who decided he didn’t really want to stay too long, and I have enjoyed their companionship. I’ve cried when each reached the end of his or her life, but I think the day Zuri goes will be the most difficult for me. He has been exceptionally special.
If you have read THE CROWS or AS THE CROW FLIES, many of the things that P.J. Benson’s Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy does are things my Ridgies have done. In fact, I named her Ridgeback Baraka in honor of the first RR I helped birth, helped show to his championship, and cried over when he reached his final days. But the game of “growlie” and the way P.J.’s RR will bump into her (or snag her leg), are definitely Zuri’s tricks. Around most people he’s a perfect gentleman (people call him the gentle giant), but if you
want to get rough, beware.
Happy Birthday, Zuri. May you enjoy many more.