So it is with dogs.
Two years ago, Tucker was a mildly unruly canine who hadn’t been taught much in his life. He destroyed two soft-sided crates, shit in the house once, pissed in the house twice, ate my hat, and did things generally annoying to others. As much as I was angry at the time, I forgave him quickly because I loved him. That’s how love works. I wasn’t getting rid of him because of a few minor indiscretions.
Perhaps that’s why so many people surrender their animals to shelters. They don’t love them enough to forgive and to work through the awkward age and teach them to be civilized adults.
Tuesday marks two years since I met Tucker, then named Bruno, at the NKLA Super Adoption. I’ve spent countless hours and unknown amounts of dollars on training and learning with him and developing our relationship. It’s all been worth it and continues to be worth it. He is my soul dog. He’s stuck with me—whether he likes it or not—for the rest of his life.
Ruby, on the other hand, is not my soul dog.
When Tucker and I returned from our last film production venture, it took almost two months before TAPS had a potential foster for us. Her name was Canelle (Elle for short.) She was a delight. I didn’t even have a chance to write about her because she was so easy, polite, and a pleasure to be with that she was adopted quickly. She was house-trained, walked on a leash fabulously, was quiet, and just the right amount of affectionate. She and Tucker got along famously.
Tucker and Ruby are well-matched when it comes to playing.
She doesn’t pull much, but she’s constantly ahead of me and hasn’t gotten our walking rhythm down yet. A lot of people walk their dog in front of them and her walk wouldn’t bother them in the least. I, however, have extremely high standards and expect a dog to walk beside me in loose leash walking style.
But that takes training. Training I can’t do with Tucker with me.
When I used to foster, before Tucker became my partner, I did some foundation training with each dog. It was easy and fun, and I enjoyed watching the dogs learn. But now I’m lucky to get anything in. Training is learning and learning is a life-long activity. Tucker and I still go to classes. I need to reinforce obedience often as when we get out of habit, he gets lazy and starts doing inappropriate things like jumping on people when he gets excited. It’s like anything in life: if you don’t use it, you lose it. I still want to teach Tucker more skills, but I always need to reinforce the old skills to keep them solid.
Ruby makes me realize just how far Tucker and I have come. And that not fostering for the first year with Tucker was the absolute right decision. He and I needed to build our foundation. Today he doesn’t need be crated as he’s no longer destructive. He only needs leash-walking reinforcement when we’re in new or over-exciting situations like adoption and fundraising events. He’s even starting to Come when he’s told on a more consistent basis. All of this comes with age and practice and the strength of our relationship.
Ruby is ready for her forever family. She is brash and undisciplined. She is destructive, but not out of spite—just out of not knowing any better. Channeling a dog’s energy for good instead of evil is every dog guardian’s responsibility. Tucker and I know how to channel his energy. Someone out there knows how to channel Ruby’s.
Fostering is a chance for Tucker to have company when I’m gone. But it appears this might not be working out. Left to her own devices and a plethora of toys to choose from, Ruby still ate the strap off one of my crocs (when I bought them I did think, “These totally look like a dog toy” but bought them anyway because Tucker knows better), and now today, she ate the brim off my hat.
Ruby is a great dog, just as Tucker was a great dog when I met him. Ruby has just as much potential as Tucker did then to become a well-trained, polite but still fun, dog who knows her boundaries and what is acceptable and what isn’t. It sounds like a tremendous task to get her to that point, but it isn’t because all of that comes in one package: her person. Ruby’s person is kind and generous, intelligent and patient, and will forgive her for eating his or her favorite hat, going through the trash, and whatever else she does while they build their relationship. Her person will do that because he or she recognizes Ruby as his or her soul dog and will love her no matter what.
If you think you’re Ruby’s person, or know someone who might be, please send them her way. You can find her ad here: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/33716558