Ruby 5

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the seriesRuby

This is the final installment of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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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

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Ruby 4

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the seriesRuby

This is part 4 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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Ruby made it through her bout with the disease.  The virus took a lot out of her, but she survived, and she eventually returned to the same pup we’d known before.  There was no doubt that she loved us, in an emotional and committed way.  There was also no doubt that we loved her and would never give her away again.

As her strength returned, I decided that all of her innate talent should not go to waste.  I taught her commands in triplicate, English, German (which I was learning in high school), and hand signals.  She learned all of this effortlessly.  If I told her to stay, or held up my hand fingers up- palm facing her, she would stay for as long as I left her.  Sometimes something would happen and she’d forget, but not usually.  If I got distracted and left her there, sometimes I’d find her hours later asleep in the same spot.

Her best trick was one that took a little more doing (she learned it in less than a day), and I honestly don’t remember exactly how I taught her.  She would jump through a hoop if I held it up and said “jump.”  But, if I took the hoop and crouched down, holding the hoop in front and over my head, she’d run, jump onto my back, and off my back through the hoop.  She’d do it every time, and the very instant that I told her to.

Ruby grew to a little larger than her mother.  A mutt that I dubbed a “Schnoodle-Wieiner,” she looked exactly like Benji (the 70’s movie dog), except a bit smaller.  She had a dark brown tail, light red short hairs, longer somewhat curly blonde hairs that covered that, and sparser dark brown straight hairs.  On the whole, she was a light brown color with darker brown ears that flopped slightly forward, shorter than a dachshund’s but similarly shaped.

She was a little neurotic.  She’d lick things, mostly the carpet, in a compulsive manner when she was bored.  And she was obsessed with having her chest rubbed.  That was where she wanted to be petted most.

If I were in a chair, Ruby would walk up to my foot and move over it with her chest (between her front legs and under her head) and rub her chest back and forth on my foot until I would move my foot to rub it myself.  If I stopped, she would back up, take her foot and paw my foot to tell me to start again.  To her this was the best thing going.  It was just something that we shared, and a way that she wanted to be petted.—Ryan

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Ruby 3

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the seriesRuby

This is part 3 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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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

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Ruby 2

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the seriesRuby

This is part 2 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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Ruby quickly became an indispensable part of the family.  She would crawl on top of my back and fall asleep as I lied on the carpet watching TV each night. She would also wake up shortly before I would and start scratching at my door to get in.  My mom would usually get to her before that and would lift her onto my bed.  Ruby would wake me up by repeatedly licking my face.

When she grew big enough, she would jump onto my bed herself and wake me up in the same manner.  Or, she’d just jump repeatedly at the side of the bed making a whining noise until I noticed her.  This mostly happened when I was lying too close to the edge for her to get up there.

Waking up to something licking your face is strange.  It is sloppy and startling, but not at all unpleasant.  The blare of an alarm clock is a cold and sterile method as compared to a companion showing you how much she loves you and wants you to be with her.  I have never been able to cajole anyone into waking me in the same manner in my adult life.

She would collect my socks if I left them on the floor.  I’d find them in a pile somewhere later, or under the couch where she’d hide them if they were exquisitely smelly.  I later trained her to put them into the clothes hamper when she found them.

And that was really what made Ruby so special.  She was smart and easy to train, but less so because of her intellect.  It was all mostly because she would do anything to please me.  I never gave her treats as a reward, but if I told her “good dog” and gave her a rub on her chest she would continue whatever it was she thought she’d done to deserve it, and would never forget it.

I loved Ruby.  My mom loved her too, but my mom is really sensitive in a way that I am not.  I insisted that we get rid of Ruby, because we had 2 dogs and a cat already.  Ruby would have to make some other family happy.  So we took an ad out in the paper.

Two ladies responded to the ad.  They came to take Ruby home to their apartment.  A middle-aged lesbian couple (or so I assumed), they seemed nice and answered all of our questions reassuringly.  So we adopted Ruby out and she exited our lives.

My mom took it hard.  I was sad too, but I knew that she would be happy and that we’d get over it.  But my mom never did.  Day after day, and into several weeks my mom was seriously depressed over this.  She’d cry and sulk.  It seemed like she’d never come out of it.  But Ruby’s story, and certainly our involvement in it, was definitely not over.—Ryan

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Ruby 1

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the seriesRuby

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When I was about 8 years old I spent all of the paper-route money that I’d saved up on a red wiener-dog puppy.  We named the dachshund Cassie, and she quickly became part of the family.  She was everything a wiener-dog is.  She was loyal and strong-willed, loud, and heat-seeking.  She would wake up every morning at about 7:30, just 5 minutes before the pool equipment came on, begging to be let outside.  She would then spend the next hour chasing the automatic sweeper around the pool barking.  The neighbors must have hated us and we’d tell her to shut up, but she didn’t care.  It was her game, but truly she did despise that thing.  But this little essay isn’t about Cassie.

As I entered high school it was one of the most difficult periods in my life, and we’d moved to a new house out in the country.  The nearest neighbors were a 5 minute walk from our door.  They had a small male half schnauzer-half poodle that occasionally got out of their yard.  He was wiry and skittish.  I never really knew him at all, but he clearly had an interest in Cassie.

In the country it is easier for mischief, probably because of a combination of boredom and isolation from prying eyes.  But regardless of the reason, something illicit happened in the cover of the olive grove, and several weeks later we noticed that Cassie was growing quite a belly.

She delivered her three puppies one evening before we’d returned from visiting my Great Aunt Ruby on her birthday.  Two of the puppies were larger than I thought would have even fit inside of Cassie, coal black, and stillborn.  The only one that survived was the runt of the litter, a truly odd looking animal.  She was pretty in a unique way, but developed 3 different types of fur in layers, a tail that never matched the rest of her color, and intense light-brown eyes.

Cassie didn’t appear that interested in the new pup, which we named Ruby as our own sort of tribute.  I picked Ruby up in my hands and marveled at the little helpless creature.  I’ll never forget her little ears which were just tiny tabs on the sides of her head, like small extended folds.  Most mother dogs will growl if their puppies are touched, but Cassie didn’t care. In my mind, she was stressed from the birth, so removed from most animal instinct, and really just sad that 2 of her babies had died.  So she just didn’t care that I was touching her puppy.  I know this is anthropomorphizing, but that is what I thought, and I’m still inclined to believe that was true…Ryan

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Dear Yuni Chen

The other day I got one of those junk mail pieces offering me “up to” $8,800 for my old Honda Accord.  It was in fake handwriting font, with FINAL NOTICE in Stencil font on the bottom, complete with slight Gaussian blur and acid wash to make it look like someone used a red ink rubber stamp to let me know that it was that serious.  Apparently, they are really in need of 9 year old Honda Accords.  They are at the hight of demand.  If you go in say, “I want a brand new Pilot Premium,” they will say, “Why would you want that, when you could drive a 2005 used Accord?”

The best part was the fake check and stub it was all printed on.  It had a realistic-looking customer ID # and Account number section below a pretend perforation line, and a check at the top.  Where you would write the amount tendered on the check was written “up to $8,800.”†  It was all signed by someone named Yuni Chen.

Realizing it has been several years since my infamous “lost pet” incident, I thought it was time to have some fun.  So I wrote Yuni a letter in response.  I have included it below.

DearYuni






















































It is stamped and ready to mail. -Ryan

† I have decided to write all of my checks like this from now on.  My electric bill this month is written for “up to $63,20.”
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Mistake on Drudge

I’ve been saving this little goodie for a month and had forgotten about it, when I just saw it in my inbox.

I was on the Drudge Report a few months ago when I saw this obvious typo below.  Drudge doesn’t make these very often, so it was fun.

Car Urine picture

 

I’m not entirely sure what “car urine” is, but it must be that small puddle of water that appears under your car in the summer after you’ve been running your air conditioner.  I never tried to smell it, though.

Apple Juice

Back when I used to watch Saturday Night Live (before the Jamie Foxx episode that permanently changed my mind), there was a skit that for some reason I still can’t stop laughing about. The episode was being hosted by Bryan Cranston, and near the end of the episode where they put the skits that just aren’t very good, he is joined by Fred Armisen in a skit called the Bjelland Brothers.  The skit centers around a song with the lyrics, “I sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house.  Did you get it?”  But, rather than describing it to you in detail, I’ll just embed it below.  Give it a chance…it’ll grow on ya.

So after watching this and having the song in my head, I realized that the chords were really easy, and the next week in youth group, I started by playing this song and getting the kids to sing along.  I doubt that any of the had any idea what this was, but they thought it was funny.   Just like a good shampoo (lather, rinse, repeat) I’ve done it occasionally since, and the teens always think it’s fun.  I doubt that hardly any of them still have any idea what it is from.

As anyone who ever reads this already knows, I recently left youth ministry.  My teens showered me with love in ways that I still can’t put words to.  The most powerful for me are never little trinkets or gift cards (although I do like those), but the teens that tell me how something I did affected their lives, or when they go the extra mile to make me something, or do something creative to honor me.  All of the ways in which they’ve touched my life through the years I’ve known them, and even more as I’ve left will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Tonight I cleaned the last vestiges of clutter from my old office at church.  It was bitter-sweet.  Now there is nothing tangible that ties me back to that building.  As I left, I looked back into my office with a touch of sadness.  After a large part of a decade, it is no longer my place.

When I got home, I carried boxes of books and other office stuff from my car into my home office.  As I carried the last box in, I looked down and saw this on my doorstep.

Bottle of Sparking Apple Juice 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle of Sparkling Apple Juice 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest, I got it.  Thank you

Dining Room

I have been slowly remodeling my home to bring it up to a more modern look.  This is a long process, both because of time and money constraints.  Less involved than the famous Great Wall of Ryan project, I just completed the Informal Dining Room.  Here is a list of things we did, with before and after pictures below.

  • Took all the wallpaper off.  It was floor to ceiling before, with a dark blue on the bottom and an ivory with small blue flowers on top.
  • Removed popcorn from the ceiling.
  • Removed styrofoam medallion from the ceiling relief and styrofoam crown modeling from that same area.
  • Re-stained the chair-rails, doorways, and baseboards to match what we did last year in the living room.  It was a honey-oak color, and now is a Red Mahogany.
  • Painted the walls to match the living room paint scheme.
  •  Painted the ceiling relief top a deep red color for contrast and depth.

Click on an image to enlarge