Adopted Dog Finds the Adventure of a Lifetime

When Bart adopted a 5-year-old dog named Ralph, he gave him the truly good life: plenty of exercise, lots of training, and a chance to see the world.

Bart + Ralph

With pandemic isolation weighing on Bart, adopting a dog named Ralph seemed like the perfect adventure. And it was—for both of them. With Ralph by his side, Bart and his sons traveled across the country with Ralph as their copilot.

"Today, Ralph weighs a healthy, muscular 60 pounds, sprints with agility, climbs mountainous terrain, and hardly stops smiling! "

Pandemic isolation by February 2021 proved difficult living in a rustic cabin on a remote seven-acre lake. I was lonely. My sons just graduated high school and have the whole world ahead of them. Then 5-year-old Ralph was posted online by Angel Ridge Rescue. A slow-moving, somewhat aloof, obviously pampered 80-pound (30 pounds overweight) Cattle Dog/Shepard mix!


His elderly owners had loved him, fed him well, and fell ill. They could no longer care for Ralph. He was described as independent and lacking manners. Quite true! The perfect stubborn but gentle companion—a worthy pupil—for a home-bound, live-alone college professor. I adopted Ralph immediately.

Ralph came to his new home a nervous wreck. At first, he missed his prior owners very much. He truly longed for them. But with activity outdoors, and hiking around the lake, often on wilderness trails, his training began immediately.

Ralph even trained to be a registered service dog! But Ralph was obese. Ralph had difficulty running and could not jump in or out of a car. Within months his weight came down, and when his uniform harness arrived, complete with stylish patches, medical tag, and training registration cards… he wears them proudly. He trained in the area parks, along bike trails, even in the aisles of several local big-box retailers.

As summer opened, Ralph became the star actor in hundreds of short videos and thousands of photos. Ralph traveled in a conversion van through 20 National Parks in just over 30 days, with me, my recent high school graduate sons, and their friend. Touring the DC complex, including the Lincoln Memorial, to Chicago, Ralph scaled the Badlands, visited Mt. Rushmore, observed Yosemite Falls, experienced Old Faithful, and rode a sky tram to the top of the Grand Tetons at Jackson Hole.

Always at our trusted side, Ralph trotted Bryce Canyon Hoodoo trails, and slogged through stream beds in Zion Park’s deep canyons. Ralph also took in the North Village Grand Canyon views before scoping out the Hoover Dam, passing through Las Vegas, walking among the Sequoias, and he awoke early to catch a sunrise at Yosemite’s Half Dome from Glacier Point. An aspiring actor himself, Ralph even visited the Los Angeles Observatory and famous Hollywood hillside signage!

Visiting the Santa Cruz beachside, Ralph walked the Golden Gate Bridge, along the San Andreas Park… and his coup de grâce? Ralph scrambled beyond the tree line of Mt. St. Helens! He and I watched and waited as my sons and their friend scrambled all the way to the top and returned exhausted.

Today, Ralph weighs a healthy, muscular 60 pounds, sprints with agility, climbs mountainous terrain, and hardly stops smiling! Still afraid of lake waters (we suspect he lived his first five years mostly indoors without much adventure), Ralph is learning to like swimming. Inspired by Ralph, I’ve also lost 25 pounds! Adventure is out there. Thank you, Angel Ridge!

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Bart won Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Meadowlands, Pennsylvania a 2021 Love Stories award.