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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