The Tyranny Of Ralph Commentator Peter Breslow has spent countless hours telling bedtime stories to his daughters, and they remember every one. This Father's Day, Breslow remembers the dog that inspired those stories — and contemplates getting a new family pet.
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The Tyranny Of Ralph

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The Tyranny Of Ralph

The Tyranny Of Ralph

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Alison Stewart.

Just in time for Father's Day, NPR's Peter Breslow has a shaggy dog story, or two, or three.

PETER BRESLOW: When my twin daughters were two or three years old, I began telling them nightly Ralph stories.

Ms. DANIELLE BRESLOW (Daughter): The time Ralph paddled up the Amazon.

BRESLOW: Ralph was my third family dog growing up. First, there was the beloved Cindy — a gentle, copper-colored cocker spaniel. Then came Ralph Number One, an adorable mop-headed Lhasa Apso who could go from licking your hand to tearing at it in an instant. Soon after he arrived, he attacked my mother, and so he was retired to a - (clears throat) - farm.

But my mother really wanted another pet, and so we found her a precious Hungarian Puli. As she had a hard time remembering names, my mother decided to christen this dog Ralph also: Ralph Number Two. He was a puffy handful of curly black hair as a puppy. That's when he chewed through an electrical cord and got zapped. My father revived him, but from that day forward, Ralph two was never the same — twitching and jumping and, completely unprovoked, racing around the house doing banked turns off the walls.

Sometimes I would look out through the kitchen window and see Ralph — his jaws clamped around the excess rope hanging down from the backyard clothesline we used as his runner — dangling contentedly in the breeze, two feet off the ground.

To be honest, I never really liked Ralph Two all that much. He was an annoying escape artist who prompted many frantic searches. Still, there was something endearing about his canine zaniness, and so he became the plucky protagonist for my daughters' bedtime stories. As we lay in bed snuggling, they would invariably chime

Ms. EDEN BRESLOW (Daughter): Can we have a Ralph story, Dada?

BRESLOW: Just about every night, I conjured something up.

Ms. D. BRESLOW: Ralph the astronaut…

Ms. E. BRESLOW: Ralph climbing Mount Everest…

Ms. D. BRESLOW: Ralph the lifeguard at the Jersey Shore.

BRESLOW: If I ran thin on material and tried to repeat a tale — let's say…

Ms. D. BRESLOW: Ralph climbing up the Empire State Building — actually skateboarding up the Empire State Building.

BRESLOW: …they would catch me.

Ms. E. BRESLOW: You already did that one, Dada. Tell us a different story.

BRESLOW: The pressure to be original was relentless. After a while, what began as a pleasant nighttime ritual started feeling like a chore.

To keep things fresh, I added characters from my New Jersey past: Larry Maloney, Nippy Garbeck and Paul Rudat. I even threw in Joe Smert, my grounds crew boss at the local golf course, who — I was later informed — went after the clubhouse cook with a meat cleaver. But in my stories, Larry and friends were all Ralph's compatriots in his escapades.

Well, time has flashed forward and my daughters are now nine. They hardly ever ask for Ralph stories anymore, and I know it won't be too long until they grow tired of the nighttime cuddling, despite my best efforts to shrink-wrap them in this golden age.

I've begun to miss those tales of Ralph, and I've even developed a new fondness for him. But we are now contemplating getting a dog of our own. So soon, perhaps, my daughters will start stockpiling material for their own yarns. And while we haven't come up with a list of possible names for the pet yet, I just may vote for Ralph Number Three.

Girls, if we get a dog, what do you think about naming him Ralph?

Ms. D. BRESLOW: I, first of all, don't really like the name Ralph.

Ms. E. BRESLOW: Well, I would think it wouldn't be the best name because you had two Ralphs - a bad Ralph and a good Ralph - and so I really don't think it's a good name to keep the generation going.

BRESLOW: Okay. Maybe not.

STEWART: Eden and Danielle Breslow and their dad, NPR's Peter Breslow. You can see pictures of Ralphs One and Two at

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