In Memory of Rio

Rio Cartoon
Rio was a “found” dog. We believe he was born on or about Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1997. On May 20th, of the same year, we found each other at the corner of Rio Rosa and Rio Royal Way in North Natomas, . He soon became a valued and treasured member of our family. He was also my constant, irreplaceable painting buddy.


Rio Cartoon
After a lengthy and fruitless search for his original owner/guardian, Rio arrives at his new home.


Photo of Rio
Rio’s first day at the American River, Watt Avenue entrance, Sacramento CA. Over time we learned that while Rio loved to be around water and to wade in it, he didn’t have any desire to swim in it.


Photo of Rio
His fascination with tennis balls began early. If there was a tennis ball within sniffing range, Rio would find it even if he had to dig for it.

Photo of Rio
First time in the snow … Soda Springs, CA.


Photo of Rio
Rio quickly became my “painting buddy” on private paint outs, sketch trips, workshops, classes, and Free Fridays. Where my easel went, so went Rio. Priceless.


Photo: Photo of Rio
Rio loved to go to the river and never missed a Free Friday outing. His behavior? Flawless!


Photo: Photo of Rio
A well deserved cold drink in the early evening after a workshop. Location: Headwaters of the Sacramento River, Cantara Loop, Mount Shasta, CA.


Photo: Photo of Rio
Rio was a gentle, kind, patient, tolerant, giant. My wife, Marlene, and I were often asked about his breed to which we replied, “He is our Shepa-Laba-Weiler-Dane-Mastiff-tyrannosaurus. It seemed Rio’s main goal in life was to please us. Rio became angry only twice in his lifetime. Each event was at the expense of large, insistently aggressive dogs. In his prime he was 145 pounds of solid muscle. The final scorecard … Large, aggressive dogs: 0 … Rio: 2.


Photo: Photo of Rio
Rio was often recognized as a kind of honorary goodwill ambassador of the neighborhood. Folks who didn’t know us, knew Rio. It was not uncommon to have strangers ask, “Aren’t you the people we see walking that large, beautiful dog?” And then, of course, there was always a few passersby who would yell out, “Hey Woody/Marlene,are you walking Rio or is he walking you?”


Photo: Photo of Rio
Marlene (Rio’s “mother” figure) often joked that Rio was “Woody’s Supervisor.” It’s not surprising then that sharing an ice cream break with the boss became an extra special family ritual.


Photo: Photo of Rio />
Free Friday, May 13, 2011. Heartfelt thanks to Bondi Abraham for taking this wonderful photo. We will treasure it forever. I had no idea Bondi was snapping pictures with her new iPad2. This photo captures the last few minutes of Rio’s final visit to the river. He so enjoyed this cool, shady spot he really didn’t want to leave. Marlene and I eventually carried our weakened 88 pound buddy to the car and home. Rio had a difficult night. The following morning Rio let us know it was time to say goodbye. He had one last ice cream bar. His gentle tongue eagerly relished the moment. Rio was put to final rest shortly after 9AM that morning.


Photo: Photo of Rio
Our buddy Rio. He was unique, what a dog might be, should be, or ought to be. If perfection were to exist, Rio would be the perfect dog. Priceless. Only brain damage can erase his memory. Born: April 14, 1997. Put to rest: May 14, 2011.



27 thoughts on “In Memory of Rio

  1. What a wonderful tribute to what must have been a great companion. I’m sorry for your loss, but glad you enjoyed his love.

  2. I’m sorry to hear that Rio has passed on. He was fortunate to find such good, loving parents, who had the courage and strength to act responsibly when it was time. I am keeping you in my thoughts as you mourn the loss of a dear, loyal friend… a good buddy is a rare find and he was your gem. Hugs, Kari

  3. We will all miss Rio. What a great neighborhood ambassador. He had the best “parents” in the world.

  4. Thanks for bringing Zane to visit Rio over these many past months. Rio loved the attention and most certainly the special treats you gave him!


  6. Writing this with tears in my eyes. Great dogs are hard to come by. I have 2 that I am thankful for. Chase the butterflies and tennis balls in haven Rio.

    Your mom and dad are great to you. All dogs should be so lucky to have a Marlene and Woody.

    Rest under the trees.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, Charlotte. You and your painting group had some good times with Rio. He truly loved the attention you gave him.

  8. Thank you for sharing photos of Rio. I met him only once when I came for the river painting but of course have never forgotten him, so dear personality. I’m so very sorry to hear he’s gone. THere is a helpful book you might look for called Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates. God bless him an all our pets forever.

  9. I was very touched by your memorial to Rio. I can’t think of anyone not relating to your love of a canine companion. I’ve just finished a wonderful book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain. I recommend it.

  10. Very nice to hear from you, Carol. Mar and I appreciate your thoughts. I’ll most certainly look for the book. Thanks.

  11. Thanks for taking time to write, Ron. When Rio and I found each other fourteen years ago, I never imagined what an impact he would have on my life.

  12. Nice thoughts, Barb. Thanks for the tears. These days the tears of the Hansen family flow like waterfalls! There is no free lunch.

  13. Woody & Marlene, We’ve been kept company by, been staff for and eventually lost beloved pets as well, and know the hole it leaves in your emotional being. This kind of friend can not be replaced. Our best to you and our shared sorrow for your loss. ~B&K

  14. Rio was one of kind, there will never be another. Max and I will miss him.
    Rich and Max and now Minnie too!

  15. Yes, the classroom just isn’t the same without him with our “Big Stinky.” Thanks for responding and thanks too for the love and patience you and others showed him

  16. So nice to hear from you, Rich. Thanks for the response. As memory serves, I think you are the only person to ever have his painting equipment “anointed” by Rio! You were always most kind to Rio and generous with weekly treats. Thanks for being Rio’s good friend.

    As an aside, please know our little group of Friday paint slingers miss you and your work. Maybe you could bring Max to the river one of these Fridays? Maybe Minnie too? None of us has met Minnie yet. Stay well.

  17. Bob and Kandi … You, and others who have lost an irreplaceable pet know the emptiness that follows. Time will heal, but right now that damned hole seems large enough to hold a universe or two, or three. Maybe even four, or more! Thanks for caring.

  18. Hi Woody and Marlene,
    So sorry about Rio. I know he will always hold a special place in your heart, and my thoughts are with you. Having owned dogs for many years, I know the hold they can have on us, and I know you will never forget him.

    I hope to see you in Shasta this summer.

    Woody’s REply: Marlene and I thank you for your thoughtfulness. Coming from a Mt. Shasta High School classmate, makes your comment extra special!

  19. Hi Woody and Marlene, So sorry to hear about your loss. Your house and studio and life won’t be the same, at least not for awhile. I’ve been through this many times in my life–all of them so painful. So, as someone told me, remember all of the good times–when he plopped himself down, listened to the lectures, didn’t mind who stepped over him…. A wonderful friend and companion. Shirley Neill

    Woody’s Reply: Good advice, Shirley. Thanks.

  20. Sorry to hear about Rio’s passing. Our dogs are our best friends, and their lives are way too short! I’ve got a photo of Rio, when he was a (large) youngster. I’ll have to see if I can fine it and send it to you.

    Woody’s Reply: Thanks, Carol. I look forward to seeing it!

  21. So very sorry to hear about Rio…..we all lose our pets and cannot replace that special one that Rio was.

    I still enjoy receiving the newsletter, but have had poor health for a bit, so am not painting at present. Hope for better days soon…………..

  22. Sorry to know about Rio; He was a SPECIAL companion. Andi

    Woody’s ReplY: Yes, VERY SPECIAL. Thank you.

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