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When I went off to college most of my interaction with Ruby stopped. I was far away from her. She loved my mom and was fulfilled in her inner-dog. I would see her from time to time, and she was always as happy as a dog could be for us to visit. She was also always eager to prove that she knew all of her old tricks.
She was never one to spend a lot of time outside and never one to wander away from home. Some dogs are always trying to dig their way under the fence, or jump over it—but not Ruby. She preferred a warm couch to the great outdoors. This makes it very strange that she got out of the yard one day while I was away at college.
In my head, I imagine that she must have been in the yard chasing butterflies, while the gate was somehow accidentally open. Suddenly she found herself alone in the front of the house in a different place than her usual walking route. She was scared and alone. For her it was no different than if you or I woke up suddenly in Somalia.
I know it sounds like I am really anthropomorphizing in this case. I tend to believe all of the science that I read about animals. Dogs don’t feel complex emotions like unfulfilled angst because their owner didn’t read them their favorite story at bedtime. But anyone who knew Ruby could tell that she really did somehow operate on a different plane than other dogs. She had deep emotions and complex thoughts. This was a dog who would get her leash when you’d ask if she wanted to go for a walk. And I’m sure this was less out of repeated training, and more because she just didn’t feel secure without this important safety device.
This all meant that Ruby had never learned how to do the things that a city dog must know in order to survive in the urban wild. She was hit by a car. Her pelvis was broken in multiple places, her tail was snapped, and she had some internal hemorrhaging.
Ruby was also indestructible. What would have killed Underdog didn’t faze Ruby. Yes, she had surgery, a tail-ectomy, and spent months in a cast and traction. But she learned to walk again, got used to wagging a stump, and eventually was able to do most of her old tricks, albeit slower and lower to the ground.
But Ruby, the wonderdog was not immortal. She did eventually go the way of all flesh, but our memory or her goes on. There is a special bond between a dog and her owner. Argos, Hachiko, and Old Yeller are just as immortal in people’s minds as are the Founding Fathers or the great philosophers. However, to me Ruby will always be greatest in the dog-pantheon. She remains the best dog I’ve ever known. I love her. I miss her, and I can’t wait to see her do all her old tricks again someday in heaven.—Ryan