I’m here to tell you a story about a dog. Not just any dog. This is a story about the legendary golden retriever, Ludo.

Ludo was born on June 28th, one day before my own birthday, in the year 2015. His natural parents, also dogs, were a beautiful, furry couple. He had great genes. My wife and I discovered Ludo online while, appropriately enough, looking for a dog. In a sense, Ludo is a 3rd-generation Cummings retriever. After the smashing success the missus and I had with Maverick and Moxie, we knew we’d get another gold. We did. We got Ludo.

Ludo was named after a character in the movie Labyrinth, whose name was also Ludo. Ludo, the movie character, was a woolly behemoth with a gentle and playful disposition. The behemoth was named after a board game on the main character’s bedroom shelf. The word which named the game which named the character which named my dog is Latin, and means “to play.”

We knew kind of early that Ludo was different. As a baby, Moxie’s favorite habit was sleep. Ludo loved to chew. On everything. Including Moxie.

As he grew, Ludo displayed signs of rebellion. He would talk back, literally, when scolded. He still does that. When Mrs C tells him, in her gruff voice, to stop chewing on his brother’s face, Ludo barks back at her in the most hilarious way. It’s wrong, yes, but we laugh. The consternation on his face when he thinks he’s right is adorable.

When it came time to trust Ludo, we did. We freed him from his baby cage and let him wander around the house when we were gone. That quickly became a problem. Maverick and Moxie had learned fairly early that chewing things up around the house to show dissatisfaction for our absence was wrong. Ludo wasn’t getting that hint.

Despite my wife’s protestations, I released Ludo several times from his trappings to roam free. Several times I lost something I wish I could get back. Like, a couch. Mrs C was right; he wasn’t learning.

Still, I continued to trust him. To give him chances. Surely, sense would kick in. It didn’t. So, the last time he ripped apart a piece of furniture:

I locked him up for good:

That last picture went viral among my friends and family. So much so that memes were invented and hilarity ensued. The hashtag #FreeLudo was everywhere. This was just before Christmas of 2016.

About a month later I was having a beer with my dear friend @dylan_andersen when he handed me two items as gifts. One was a copy of the fabulous book The Ask. The other was a sealed envelope, very light in weight.

Inside the envelope was a stack of bumper stickers. On the bumper stickers were the words #FreeLudo and the URL for my blog right below. I literally cried laughing.

I’ve passed the bumper stickers around to friends and family, so if you’ve seen it around and wondered what it meant, welcome. This is the story about a hashtag about a dog. A dog in jail.

Ironically enough, about the time I received the bumper stickers from Mr Andersen I also bought Ludo a new wire crate to replace his 5th-generation plastic one. In his desperation to escape he had ripped the interior of the original crate to shreds. When I brought the new crate into the house I treated it like it was Ludo’s new gift; his very own home. He fell in love with it.

He never fights about it anymore. When we go to put our coats on, he joyfully runs and lays down in his den. Ludo has a great place to hang out when we leave and my furniture feels safe again. Win. Win.

But “Free Ludo” has become a part of our lexicon now and it’s not going away. Neither is he. He’s a 3rd-generation angel.

He still bites his brother’s face, but his brother doesn’t mind. He still talks back to Mrs C, but Mrs C doesn’t mind. Ludo is still the most energetic and anxious dog I’ve ever had.

But I don’t mind.

Ludo is free to be Ludo, all day long.

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