My parents had to put Ruby down today. In June, she would have been fourteen.
She most likely was a Collie – German Shepard – Golden Retriever mix. We didn’t get her from a breeder or an animal shelter, so it’s impossible to know. We didn’t find her. She found us.
While my dad was out working on his antique pickup truck at my grandparents house in Eagle River, Wisconsin in September 1997, a small puppy wandered up to him and immediately lended herself to my dad. She had no tags, seemed in good health and there wasn’t any way to tell who she belonged to. He took care of her for a couple days before he came home. When he went back, he took the dog to a family friend’s in hopes that someone would claim her. They didn’t. So, on October 15, 1997, we took her home. She slept on a pillow between Drew and I on that first car ride.
At first, she didn’t lend herself to our Cairn Terrier, Ozzie, as he proved temperamental around every other animal that came in his presence. He tried to attack her at first, but Ruby, big, dumb and completely incapable of hurting anything other than herself, recoiled. After Ozzie realized she wasn’t going anywhere, they bonded by barking at the neighbors coming and going, or chasing squirrels up trees in the backyard. Then, there was the last few weeks of Ozzie’s life where he was so sick that he didn’t feel like doing anything but sleeping, mustered up the strength to go into Ruby’s bed and curl up with her.
For as much as I will miss her, I think it’ll be hardest for my Dad. They found each other. Until a few years ago, she’d always be eager to go for rides in his pickup truck. I’d often hear stories from my friend’s parents that would see them around in town. There was something special with them. They’d walk out to my Dad’s shed for the day every weekend when the weather was nice enough. He’s going to take her ashes out to the shed and spread them so she’ll always be there, somehow.
The last memory I had is the most bittersweet. That was last Tuesday, when I was leaving Illinois to return to New York after visiting my family. She’d been having trouble with her legs, sleeping most days, and it was apparent this may be the last time I’d see her. As I moved toward the door, I took the above picture, put a treat down for her and kissed her on the head three times. As I exited, I said “Bye, puppy,” and she looked back, just as sweet and unassuming as she always was.