Today is Ruby’s birthday! Well, technically we don’t know when her birthday is because we adopted her. Today is her adoption day, and marks our first full year with this furry little nugget! It’s a pretty special day and certainly gives cause for celebration.
Ruby is a beagle, approximately 7 years old. I think we can all agree that beagles are generally pretty cute, but she’s extra special for a few reasons: she’s bi-colored (brown and white only, no black!), and she’s got little brown speckles on her nose and legs. My dog has freckles you guys. She’s so cute I could die.
Ruby is my best pal. She’s my snuggle buddy, my exercise companion, and my favorite goofball. She’s smart, funny, and sweet. She teaches me patience, kindness, joy, and love. But this year hasn’t always been easy.
For those who don’t know, our journey to Ruby started with another dog: Alexander the Great.
When we moved into our house, I immediately started looking at rescue websites. It was important to me that we rescue a dog. It’s a cause that I believe in, and felt strongly I should support. More importantly, (as my mother would say) it’s just the right thing to do. Please remember that when and if you consider becoming a fur-parent.
We found Alex at Life4Paws Rescue through Petfinder and made an appointment to go meet him. A clumsy little shepherd mix waddled into the room, tripping over his massive paws, looking curiously at us with soft, kind eyes. He was only a few months old, but already more than 30 pounds. This fella was going to be huge. We sat on the floor with him. He cautiously climbed into my lap and fell asleep in a terribly awkward but ridiculously adorable position. We fell in love instantly and a few days later he came home with us.
Alex had lived the first few months of his life in someone’s backyard, completely neglected. The conditions were so poor that he developed parvovirus, a highly contagious and life-threatening disease. In untreated puppies, the fatality rate can exceed 90%. It was a literal miracle that he had been rescued, treated, and survived.
The tricky thing about a puppy that has been treated for parvo is that their immune system is sensitive. They need to be closely monitored to insure is isn’t compromised. Their contact with other dogs, humans, and the outside world should be extremely limited so they aren’t accidentally exposed to disease. Alex was at the beginning of this process when we adopted him. It turned out to be a little more than we could handle.
Because he was young, he had a lot of energy. Because he was big (and getting bigger every day), he needed space to expend that energy. Because he couldn’t go for walks or hikes or even be in our backyard for prolonged periods of time, he became restless. And because our house is small, it became a safety issue for both him and us. I don’t blame Alex, he was doing the best he could under the conditions. But frankly, we were not equipped to handle him under those circumstances. We brought him back to Life4Paws with the intention of re-adopting him once he had fully recovered, but someone else scooped him up not long after. He was a sweet, adorable puppy after all, and I’m glad he found a home that was better suited to his needs. We saw a picture of him a few months later and he was literally the largest dog I have ever seen.
After that, the other M and I continued to visit Life4Paws a few times a week as volunteers. We still wanted to adopt, but were in no rush. We didn’t want to put ourselves or another dog through the emotional turmoil of being returned. Then…
Ruby showed up.
(Above photo by Faith Michele Photography, August 2014.)
I had gone on my own that afternoon. As soon as I walked in they said “We got a new dog! A beagle!” My jaw dropped. The other M loves beagles. He had been begging me to get one since we started our search. I texted him a photo of the (then unnamed) beagle and he responded “OH. MY. GOD.”
Ruby came to Life4Paws through the vet they work with (the details are a little unclear). After she was given a clean bill of health, they dropped her off with the rescue. There was a pink, bone-shaped tag dangling from her collar that read “Princess Coco” (a name she has never responded to, despite us still occasionally calling her that). The phone number listed had been disconnected. She was microchipped, but the address associated with that chip was in New Jersey.
Over the next few weeks, we continued to stop by and walk the dogs, Ruby included, while they attempted to locate her owner. No one ever came forward. She was dreadfully overweight and moved incredibly slow. She had a large bald spot near her tail where she scratched herself so much the fur had fallen out and the skin was irritated. She couldn’t take more than a few steps without reverse-sneezing. Her eyes were wide and often bloodshot. But she was so sweet, and so affectionate…that is my favorite thing about dogs. They can go through something terrible; abandonment, being lost or mistreated, but at their core they still just want to love someone be loved in return. We offered to foster her.
Two weeks later, we adopted her officially. (Cue butt snuggling montage!)
After only a short time in our home, her skin healed, her fur grew back, she was losing weight steadily, and had so much more energy. Her eyes were bright, clear, and relaxed, and her snorting had almost stopped entirely. She had become a totally different dog, in the best way possible. I don’t know if dogs are capable of feeling an emotion as complex as gratitude, but that’s certainly what it felt like to me. She seemed so grateful to be with us. This is why rescuing is so important. Don’t judge the scared, weird-looking shelter dog right away. Underneath that bald, patchy coat is a warm, devoted companion waiting to go home with you.
Here she is on our first Halloween together, in 2014. Please note how much healthier she looks after only 2 months with us. (Photo by Mary Costa Photography.)
She’s a loud mouth (most beagles are), but we love her anyway. She has lots of funny little quirks like burying her nose when she sleeps, wiggling her whole butt when she’s excited, and curling up in the space behind our legs while we lie on the couch. She’s so, so smart and has figured out a (very complex) route to the top of the kitchen table and countertops. Though once she gets up there she can’t get down, and just waits patiently for someone to come get her.
Ruby is the third lovable little member of our family, and the first dog both of us have owned as independent adults. She is such a special girl, and I can honestly say that her presence has enriched every other part of my life. It melts my heart to know that she loves and trusts us, and because of that love and trust, she was able to blossom into a happy, healthy dog living a full life, despite whatever happened in her past. We did that for her. And she returns the favor every day.
Happy Adoption Day/Birthday Ruby. We love ya, snugglebug. There’s a nice big bone with your name on it waiting for you on the kitchen counter. You’re probably already up there eating it.