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Weeks later, one of the women called us and told my mom that they just couldn’t keep Ruby anymore. She said that it was all just too much for them to handle. I suspect that I’ll never quite know the truth of the matter. Had my mom called them? Had Ruby just refused to acclimate and accept them as a substitute family? Had they just decided that a dog just wasn’t right for them? In hindsight, I’m sure they were more cat people. Or could it be that they knew something that they didn’t want to deal with? I’ll never know.
Regardless of the reasons, they brought her back. They had renamed her Murphy Brown after the TV character (a lesbian hero of sorts at the time). They said they had taught her some commands, like “walkies-walkies,” which apparently let her know that it was time to take a walk. Interestingly enough, I never could get her to respond to “Murphy” at all. I tried some experiments to test it, but she didn’t even appear to hear me. In fact, it seemed that I could get her to respond to all sorts of words that weren’t even close to her name, but Murphy was not one of them. “Walkies-walkies” seemed to be no different.
Dogs will respond often more to the tone of voice than they will to the actual words you are saying. Some research has shown that they only actually hear the stressed syllable of the word you use. But Murphy and Ruby both have the “y” stressed. Whenever I’d say “Murphy” it was almost like she’d gone temporarily deaf. I could say “dog” and she’d look up, or various even made up words that would catch her attention. But “Murphy” even applying the same tone, and masking my disdain she would never even hear.
They had returned our dog, but something was wrong. She was lethargic and she wouldn’t eat. She barely even acted happy to see us at all. After several days of this, we suspected that something more was wrong. So we took her to the vet and they did some tests.
Ruby tested positive for canine parvovirus, a serious disease that dogs can get. A virus, spread through infected droppings and even the soil it has touched, “Parvo” is fatal to about 50% of dogs. The ones that survive often have lasting problems, particularly in the digestive tract. Infected dogs must be isolated and medicated. We left ruby at the vet for treatment and prayed that she would survive.—Ryan