Friday, March 18, 2011

For The Love Of Ruby

I have to admit, I wasn't one to really appreciate the offbeat behaviors and attachments that otherwise seemingly normal people develop with a family pet. I mean, really, have you ever seen a pet owner kissing their dog, tongue-to-tongue? Or letting their kitty-kitty-kitty lick them all over their face? Or letting their pet gerbil nibble the lettuce off of their nose? I'm surprised at the lack of short-term memory some of these owners must have to not have remembered watching their pet lick themselves...everywhere...just a few minutes before their face bath. I'll repeat myself...everywhere. I still cringe to think that before licking their owner's face, a dog may have been going to town on his anus. And that's just the boy dog.

It wasn't just the licking, though, but also that foreign language that I couldn't quite grasp. "Here, Muffy," the cat owner might say in a baby-talk voice, "come give your mommy a big kissy-kissy here on my lips." At least with the baby talk with a human baby, you eventually come to the conclusion that it will cease when the kid turns one, maybe two. An end is in sight, yes? But with cats? I don't think so. I think one is looking at 10-20 years of baby talk, minimum, with a pet cat. God forbid the day I scratch a dog behind the ears and whisper "goochie-goochie-goo." No way, no how--not for me.

I grew up around pets, yes, but they were at my grandparent's farm and they were outdoor pets. Besides several pigs, lots of chickens, and a little house full of rabbits, several cats and dogs were also part of the lot. They remained outside, though, and were well taken care of with their own private houses and feeding stations. We talked normal English to them. We pet them and fed them regular pet food from the 50 lbs. bag. They didn't wear designer outfits but, instead, relied on their genetics to thicken or shed their hair, depending on the season. The names rush me now--Sweet Pea, Prince, Trixie--and they were all awesome dogs, my buddies actually, when I was visiting for an afternoon or overnight. I don't think the dogs minded their lack of indoor living, judging by their playful run through the gorgeous, rich, adventurous farmlands.

So, with this upbringing, it seemed a little off to me that so much energy would be spent by an owner on making their pet so extremely comfortable within an indoor setting. Wouldn't the pet hair all over the floor and clothes be a deterrent enough? I've seen my share of ER patients with their clothing covered in pet hair. Cringe-worthy, I tell you.

Enter Ruby. Our family pet. Our yellow lab. I have to chuckle when I call her "yellow," though, because, if anything, she is actually pure snowy-white.

Most important? She spends the majority of her time indoors. Yes, I know, I'm eating crow. But she has single-handedly changed my way of thinking when it comes to indoor pets.

Five years ago, in March, our Ruby was born. Around the same time that Ruby was born, my mother passed away. Like any other family who has suffered a loss, try as we might, a certain "funk" seemed to linger around our house. Smiling was, at times, a chore. Sad realizations of Mom's death would interrupt happy moments. We needed to change things up.

My wife and her sister had a suggestion. Maybe it was time for us to get a family dog, something we had considered in the past but rejected. Sandy's family had two beautiful labs, both from the same breeder. This particular breeder focused her attention on two of the dogs' attributes--their gentle, mild disposition and their beautiful white coat. And she would not sell a person a dog unless she approved of them and the home her dogs would be joining.

Yeah, I'll think about it, I thought to myself. The breeder didn't have any available pups from the upcoming litters, giving me some available thinking time. Or so I thought. Because a few days later, Sandy called to say that the breeder had an about-to-be-born litter with one more pup than was supposed, confirmed by ultrasound.

"June said the pup is yours if you want it," Sandy said, exciting our family at the prospect.

Thus, the process began. First, we had to be interviewed by the breeder, June, a gruff woman with a heart of gold, whose profound love for her dogs was very evident. She, thankfully, felt that us receiving one of her puppies was meant to be. After a successful interview (brow-glistening included) and tour of her comfortable home, she led us to her enclosed back porch and the most beautiful litter of pups imaginable. And there, jumping on her hind paws and trying to get our attention, was our Ruby. Leaning into the enclosure, trying to climb out to us. The kids were sold. My wife was sold. And me? Standing there looking at the wrinkly, yelping little bundle of goochie-goochie-goo that so quickly took to our family, I knew I was hooked. Even if I hadn't been, I knew I was outnumbered.

Ruby, named for Mom's birthstone, came home with us in early May. Five years ago. Lifting that "funk" that had clouded our air for the whole spring.

Yeah, the carpets now get shampooed and vacuumed more frequently. Yeah, my socks have white fur stuck to them occasionally. Yeah, sometimes a leftover snack will disappear off the kitchen counter. Yeah, sometimes stepping in a pile of poop in the yard is annoying. Yeah, sometimes our house smells like wet dog after a walk in the rain. Worse, I've had to learn that dogs have gas just like humans.

And you know what? Who cares. Really, for all the love and smiles that she has brought to our lives, Ruby can certainly shed and traipse some dirt through the house occasionally. All it takes is one look at Ruby cuddling with the kids at bedtime to know that some things are worth the inconvenience. She is, quite simply, an important part of our family--our fourth kid, even.

So yeah, I've talked the (baby) talk. "Where's my Ruby, Ruby, Ruby?" you might hear me say when I get home from work. Without shame. That might be me on my knee, kneeling at her face level, tickling her ears while I whisper "We love you, Ruby." That would be my eyes, gleaming, as I throw the tennis ball and she chases it down, returning it at my feet.

My favorite thing about Ruby, though? Late at night, while we are all sleeping, she does her rounds, nudging open each of the kid's bedroom door and checking on them. Even my wife and I are included in her rounds. And if she suspects anything unusual, she can be found lying at the base of our stairs, ready to protect us as necessary. Otherwise, you'll find her randomly sleeping in one of the bedrooms, at the foot of the bed, every night. Snoring and farting. And fitting in beautifully.

Many of our family and friends now have indoor pets, most of them making adjustments similar to us, and we are happy to be included in this group. And, patients that come in with hair on their clothes no longer make me cringe. Well, except for the frail, elderly woman who has the hair of ten cats clinging to her wool sweater. Excuse me while I go sneeze...okay, I'm back. But I can easily picture these patients, in their home, cuddling up to their pets, their smiles bigger and better than any medicine I might possibly prescribe.

If you ever wondered about or considered an indoor pet, but opted out, reconsider. I am living proof of the convert that exists in all of us.

Happy 5th Birthday, Ruby! We hope you like your raw-hide presents and doggy-cake!

Now...get over here and give me a big kissy-kissy...

As always, big thanks for reading. This post is dedicated to my sister Rosie's little Havanese, Maggie, who will only drink bottled water and snack on mini-marshmallows! And my sister Susie's dog, Knuckles, who was the king of all self-lickers! LOL Have a good weekend...

32 comments:

ER's Mom said...

Can't imagine life without the love of our dogs.

rlbates said...

What ER's Mom said.

rnraquel said...

Me too :)

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

awww, that's such a beautiful story! i love how she checks on you at night!

i live in a "no pet" building and sarge has so many allergies i couldn't have a pet anyhow. but i have two "flat cats". (cardboard) they travel with us too! sometimes they get into a bit of trouble but mostly they are pretty good.

smiles, bee
xoxoxoxoxo

Rachel said...

That's the thing about pets, they have the ability to soften the hearts of even the most anti-pet people.

After losing a dog of 16+ years, my Dad became a cat convert. Despite his previous notions about small feline creatures, having one willingly choose to snuggle with you and make you laugh with their silly antics (and yes, lick you with their rough little tongues) changes everything.

Unconditional love...yeah, sometimes it's better than any medicine.

Happy Birthday, Ruby!

Maha said...

Awww happy birthday to ruby! She's such a cutie pie :) I felt the same way about pets before I got my first cat and now the house feels lonely when she's at the vet's office.

Sonia said...

Awww...this was sweet. :-)

Sara said...

I had the exact same thing happen to me. I was staunchly anti, and then little tabby cat worked his way in.

jimbo26 said...

Happy birthday to the both of us Ruby , Jim ( in the UK ) 63 .

Rhamantus said...

Awww. I love this post! I can relate. I've always been a dog person, but my dad never really warmed up to them -- until he and my mom got a sweet little pitbull mix named Daisy. The two of them are practically inseparable, and yes, he does the baby talk with her, too.

WarmSocks said...

I'm told that running a fabric softener dryer-sheet over the dog when it comes indoors will help significantly with the odor, and will pick up a lot of loose hair, too.

Glad you're enjoying your dog :)

Anonymous said...

Our guinea pig has controlled us for 5 years now - my husband is the last to be converted and it is quite hilarious to watch. Thanks for a great post!

murgatr

PharmTech. RDC '06

Cal said...

The same thing happened to my mother: After decades of no indoor pets allowed, she softened when a little puppy was brought home and started to rule the house.

Mick and Ju said...

This sounds like my story with Luca. I have spent the last 2 weeks reflecting on my life with Luca, we have just been told that he only has a few weeks to live as he has bone cancer in his skull. Luca is an 11 year old Golden Retriever (he is almost white like Ruby) He is our first dog and we love him. Luca has helped us to foster 14 rescued Border Collies in the past 2 years so it is not only our lives that he has touched. All I can say to people is, if you get the chance to be owned by a dog, do it! The past 11 years have been a joy. I am going to miss you Luca. :-(

Marcy Hall said...

Happy birthday, ruby!!!! Love from the lilypad!!

Mr Mobius said...

Three weeks ago I lost a lovely 13 year old Golden Lab to lung mets. Every week when I'm coming home from university, I still call up to my grandparent's house to visit the grave and say hello/goodbye.

It's amazing how much dogs are able to touch your life. I still miss my dog but she has given so many wonderful memories and so much love. She was there through happy and sad, through all seasons. She got Christmas presents, ice cream on holiday, and at every age was a loving dog.

Your post on dogs came at a great time and I'm glad you found out the joy of baby talk to a dog.

Holly said...

*smile*

Pets are as essential to my wellbeing as food and water. It has been so from the earliest time I can remember. My pets have pulled me through some times that were incredibly difficult, just because they were there with unconditional friendship. My anti-cat feeling was recently overcome by a small less-than-8-ounce white and black, 3 week old, abandonded kitten at the barn. Mistress Puzzle, our newest addition.

Anonymous said...

A nifty biological fact..."white" labs and "white" goldens are just very very pale yellow dogs. Which genetically speaking are actually red. Ruby's nose looks pale. If her eyelids are black, then her nose is a "snow nose". There is an enzyme that produces pigment and as the dog ages it doesn't work as well. It's also temperature dependent, so her nose should be a bit darker in summer than in winter.

Nanci, RN said...

Having lived in a "dogless" home growing up, I was quite reluctant to take in a homeless, 8 month old Boston Terrier when my husband offered the opportunity. Four children, a three year old (cranky) cat, a lack of experience and a real fear of dogs, gave me pause. "Fritz," abandoned, fully house and obedience trained and a truly "grateful" dog came to live with us for 14 years...Wouldn't trade that experience for all the tea in China!

Henry said...

I think this sums it up.

"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
--Anatole France

donna said...

Just a BTW: both sexes of dogs do not discriminate when it comes any anus..theirs or others. It would curl the milk in your coffee to see the list of what they will eat, clean or sniff.

hahaha

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Ruby!
My four year old Lab could be her brother - they look exactly alike. He does shed a lot, but he has been my best buddy since I found him in a shelter two years ago, and I can't imagine life without him.

Have Myelin? said...

Yeah I know... I sleep with my daschie under the covers and don't mind that the bed smells like her in no time flat. LOL.

911RN said...

Great post:) From an animal lover through and through. Originally, wanted to become a vet- decided to become a nurse and just have my own pets!Our Golden retriever also does the nightly rounds checking on the family-ALL of us!

He, too, can be found in any one of the 4 bedrooms- at the foot of a bed- in the mornings.Great dog-fits into the family like peas and carrots.Protective over his "boys" (my children) like an old mother hen.

My Mama always told me- don't trust anyone that doesn't like animals. That peril of wisdom has always served me well.Have found it to be mostly true- more often, than not. Glad to see that, although, you were a reluctant pet owner- you were absolutely converted and trust worthy. Never expected anything different from following your posts, Dr Jim.

Happy Birthday, Ruby...goochy, goochy goo:)

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Ruby is the name my mom has picked out for the JRT puppy she wants. I'm considering finally getting her one this summer...even though I know I'll be the one taking care of it.

Karen said...

When I was in my teens, I had a *huge* tabby cat (Tiger, of course). He was my baby, but my dad always referred to him as "the fat cat" and never professed any love for him. One day I walked in the house and there was my dad sitting in the living room, cradling Tiger like a baby. Tiger was on his back in my dad's arms sprawled out like he'd never been more comfortable in his life! I took a picture and have it somewhere. If I run across it, I'm going to send it to you. Happy BDay Ruby, baby! Oh, my daughter and her family have a Yellow Lab (Wrigley - named after the Field) and he's very white, too, and just a lovable dog.... oops, I mean, person :)

Wren said...

The world would be a much grimmer place without the wee beasties who become our friends. I've been adopted by many dogs and cats during my lifetime; I can't imagine living without them.

Happy birthday, Ruby. And a hug for you, Dr. Jim, for opening your heart.

Katie said...

Yeah, not a fan of licking (from dogs, cats, or roommates). A lot of my friends get offended when I don't let their dogs (smaller than my cats) sit on my lap or lick me in the face. I'm much more of a cat person but our dog is fighting the jaws of death and I will admit I have cried for her.

"Snoring and farting. And fitting in beautifully." LOL!

<>< Katie

Sarah said...

Dogs are the best! And shelter or rescue ones are even better! We've been privileged to share life with 3 doggie rescues so far. And I wouldn't trade them for anything!

Happy Birthday beautiful Ruby!

Rosalita said...

Love this tribute to the furry family members; we also have a Havanese, and he is the joy of our life. Such personality! So glad you converted too!

jen mccafferty warren said...

I love love love my puppies...today is Penny and Rosie's 1st birthday 3/28. The same as my grandmother who would have been 96 today ! After our outdoor black lab Roxie "came back to life" with these short legged beagle puppies, we must have "more" I thought. She quickly became a pseudo mom. I ended up sneaking two more males in, Buster and Ranger. WE love these puppies....the boys and Mark hunted with them all deer season and they helped bag 3 nine pointers !! I must say good breeding. So now we have a new abandoned addition a friend dropped off 2 weeks ago (they know I am a sucker) ...who abandons puppies? All I can see is that Sarah McLachlan commercial for the abandoned pets QUICK TURN THE CHANNEL **tears*** gets me everytime....So I can't say I tried real hard to find a "new owner" b/c this new puppy who is a golden retriever looking kind of fella...is so cute. We named him Coupon...so Coupon joins our family, all outdoors on 14 acres ! They love this playground. We can't wait until next spring when we breed them...puppy farm adventures continue. They bring such unconditional love ! I love how they wait for us at the bottom on the drive and run all the way with the van up to the house....so happy to see us every day !! Savor each moment with excitement, just as dogs do...."oh boy, oh boy..."

Jive Talkin Tool said...

I enjoy reading all your posts--but this one especially clicks with me.

Great Entry!