The other night, as Tucker and Ruby sat before me in the kitchen, anxiously awaiting a new trick to learn and thus earn the scrumptious piece of chicken in my hand, I realized how much our childhood imaginings shape our adulthood. I don’t think I could handle eight dogs in reality, and although I was teaching more practical canine skills like Sit and Down now instead my childhood curriculum where the dogs learned reading comprehension, I was still living my childhood fantasy.
Imagine living in a place where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. The people you live with are constantly yelling at you for you doing what you think is perfectly normal behavior. But they ever teach you what they want. And other than the obvious signs of discontent that you’ve learned to decipher, you don’t know a single word of their language.
That’s how a dog begins life with us.
Every time Ruby dug into my yard, ate my shoes, pulled the eyes and nose off a stuffed animal, I got angry. (Thanks to Ruby, I now have a special needs stuffed animal.)
Saturday morning I awoke and said, “Today, Ruby is going home.”
I had no knowledge of any applications on her; I just knew she needed to go home. Aside from being primed and ready for her home, I was beginning to think that although Tucker enjoyed her company, it was a bit like leaving my boy with the stalker chick who was so in love with him she came across as a little crazy. That’s fun for a guy—for a little while. Then he needs to stop being sexted eighty-seven times a day.
He seemed to understand. He looked surprised. The rest of the morning I was a bit sad for Tucker. Stalker-chick attention is still attention, and although he needed a break from it, I think he would miss it.
At 2 p.m., Shelly called me to ask if I could do a homecheck for Ruby. A couple with a two-year old little girl had seen Ruby a couple weeks earlier, but went home and thought it over, read about pit bull mixes, and wanted to make an informed decision. I said I would go, but needed Shelly with me. I never want to be the ultimate decision maker when it comes to deciding a dog’s life.
I met up with them at 4 p.m., and headed over to the family’s house. I hadn’t seen Ruby with children, so I was a little hesitant. I know Tucker is okay with everyone, but I also witnessed him with my friend’s three-year olds and have concluded that he thinks anyone under four feet high is another dog. He would never hurt them purposely, but he’s twice their gravitational pull, and has the balance advantage of four feet on the ground. In a bodily collision, he’s the only one left standing—and not crying.
Ruby seemed at ease in the house and yard. She didn’t stick by me but explored confidently. The child was calm and polite, offering Ruby water in bowls that were already in the kitchen. They had even bought her a bed. The mom said that they had seen other dogs like Ruby in the shelter but they immediately got so excited that they knocked her little one down. I explained that Ruby could do the same. Ruby had the advantage of being properly exercised and therefore could be a civilized canine in the presence of young ones. Shelter dogs don’t always get the walks they need and certainly are cooped up and overjoyed when someone finally shows them attention. Their over-exuberance isn’t necessarily an inherent trait as much as a circumstantial state of being.
Saying good-bye to a foster is tough. Most of my fosters know they’re fosters. They somehow understand that I’m their temporary person and when they see their new home, they give me a big dog hug, thank me for the laughs, and are ready to start their new life.
But Ruby didn’t know. She was blind-sided.
I could see she was comfortable here. She didn’t even spend much time with me while I talked to her new mom. She was outside with her new dad and little human sister. But when Shelly told them to hold her leash and I kissed Ruby good-bye, wishing her well and made for the door, she balked at the leash and puppy-screamed for me. That high-pitched, “Mom! Don’t leave me behind!” was abundantly clear in that one syllable screech. Shelley and I walked out to the car and my eyes welled up with tears.
I know she’ll be fine. She’s got a human sister her exact age, and they’ll grow up together. I envied the little girl. I wondered if she had her own imaginary dogs and now she got to have a real one, as I did when I was four. She seemed like a gracious, kind soul, wanting to care for Ruby. I hoped she would take over the classroom for me. Her parents knew the importance of teaching their human child, and I had no doubt they would do the same for their new canine family member.
Ruby, Tucker and I loved sharing our home with you and loved getting a chance to love you. You have a beautiful new family who will love you beyond comprehension and you'll know it by all they teach you. We wish you the best in your new life, and will miss your sweet snuggle-butt.