My Rhodesian Ridgeback

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.

For more information on the breed, go to: or

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8 Responses to My Rhodesian Ridgeback

  1. Mary Roya says:

    What a great blog. I have three dogs. Great companions!

    • Maris says:

      Mary, we used to have more than one dog, but now that we live in a condo, one dog–especially one as large as Zuri–is all we can handle. Enjoy your three.

  2. Love the photo. Zuri looks like a real sweetheart. Have a Happy Birthday, Zuri! There’s just nothing like the love and loyalty of dog.

  3. Diane Burton says:

    What a great post! Dogs have such a place in our lives. The first time I ever heard of a RR was when a neighbor in Portage walked hers down our street. Very distinctive. Happy Birthday, Zuri, and many more.

  4. I hope Zuri enjoyed his special day. What a great-looking guy! Zeke our JRT turned 10 this week, and while he’s doing well, I still think about and dread the day when he’s not. I always think it would be the best for him if, when it’s his time, he drops while chasing a squirrel in the backyard. Let’s hope both Zuri and Zeke are around for a long time yet and that Zuri gets to be the “model” for another Crows story.

    • Maris says:

      Your Zeke should live for many more years, but I agree, I hope both of our dogs are with us for a long, long time.

  5. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first
    comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for inexperienced blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    • Maris says:

      I certainly am in no position to give helpful hints, but I do know I tend to read blogs that have something of interest to me. One writer I know invites other writers to submit a favorite recipe and tell a bit about their books. I check out the recipes and usually also read the info about the book, which is what the writer hopes will occur. Another blogger I follow lists wines she’s tried and rates them. As a wine drinker, I find this of interest. And, of course, as a mystery writer, I always read anything that gives insight to law enforcement. With a criminal psychology degree, you should have a lot to offer in a blog.