This is the story of how a dog saved my life.
Okay, maybe not literally. I wasn’t, you know, drowning, or lost in the woods or anything as dramatic as that.
But I was drowning in a sea of depression and hopelessness. I was lost in the woods of frustration and despair.
And then along came Ruby.
For some reason, my husband loves having three dogs. I’ve never really understood it since now that the kids are grown it’s just him and me – two people, two dogs, seems about perfect to me. But he likes having three. When his old beagle Pasha went over Rainbow Bridge it wasn’t long before he was bugging me for another dog. I adamantly said no.
For one thing, dogs are expensive. After taking just two to the vet I thought I was going to have to start selling plasma. The thought of paying for three made me shudder. Plus I was working a lot and just didn’t have time to devote to a puppy. I was happy with two. Not that I was really all that happy. I was going through a lot at the time, struggling with some depression (which runs in my family) and dealing with general feelings of frustration and unhappiness that I really couldn’t sort out or understand. On the outside my life was great, but in my head things weren’t so pretty.
Then Mark learned of a male beagle that needed a home. Against my wishes, he took the dog in. It was an unmitigated disaster. I was furious and the dog was a demon. He destroyed my home and nearly destroyed my marriage. Like I said, I was not in a good place mentally or emotionally. Mark taking that dog when I was so adamantly against it felt like a betrayal, and every time it jumped up on the counters and ate food, or howled every time we tried to have a conversation, my anger compounded.
That dog is no longer in our lives, and that’s all I’ll say about that. The dog may have been gone, but the damage had been done and it took a lot of time and a lot of effort to bring healing to my mind and heart. Eventually, though, things did get better. I gave up my job as a preschool teacher to be able to focus my energy on writing. I spent a lot of time sitting in the sun reading, learning once again how to relax. And, as time progressed, I started thinking about a puppy.
I love my husband beyond comprehension. Although he had given up asking for another dog, I knew it would make him happy if I agreed to a new puppy. My one stipulation was that it was to be a puppy. No more taking in someone else’s problem dog. I wanted one I could train properly from the beginning. I started searching on the internet and found a woman down in south-central Ohio with a couple of female beagle puppies left. It was late June, just before Mark’s birthday, and we made the three hour trip down there for him to pick out his birthday gift. It was one of the oddest experiences of my life. The entire transaction took less than ten minutes. In the blink of an eye we were back in the FJ, with me cradling a six-week old puppy in my arms.
Intelligent, responsible dog owners that we are, we hadn’t taken anything with us for this puppy. No crate or water dish or even a blanket to wrap her in. So, I held her against my chest for the entire three hour ride home. And that is when she stole my heart.
We spent most of the ride discussing names. We started out with flowers, since we already have a Daisy, but nothing seemed to fit. Eventually, I brought up Irish names, since we are of Irish heritage. That led to me suggesting Emerald, which of course was ridiculous, but Emerald led to Ruby, and Ruby is what stuck.
It wasn’t long before I was head over heels in love. Soon Mark was complaining that I “stole his birthday present”. My reply to that was that the dog wasn’t necessarily his present, it was my allowing another dog in the house that was my gift to him. I spoiled Ruby rotten, allowing her to sleep in the bed while the other two dogs had to make do with their pallet on the floor. She made me laugh, she brought me joy. I soon found with Ruby around, there was no time to be depressed. Sure, she’s chewed a few things up, but I can’t find it in my heart to be mad at her for it. She’s made a mess of our back yard with her digging, but she looks so adorable when she raises her head up, her face covered in dirt. All I can do is laugh. When I am sitting at my laptop, writing, and she brings me her toy, I can never deny her. I stop what I’m doing and spend a few minutes playing throw and chase. My heart always feels lighter for the effort.
Just as one dog couldn’t singlehandedly ruin my life – there were plenty of other contributing factors – so, too, one dog probably didn’t singlehandedly save my life. But I believe the Lord smiled on me that day, the day we brought Ruby home. He gave me a “double blessing for my former troubles”. Maybe I just needed something to pour my love into. I don’t know. All I know is that from the day we got her, my life seemed a whole lot brighter. I didn’t even mind getting up with her in the middle of the night!
Today Ruby turns a year old. I think back to where I was mentally a year or so ago; grumpy, depressed, discouraged. A five-pound bundle of fur changed all that, bringing laughter and joy back into our home, and putting the final healing touch on my marriage. Ruby is now a 25 pound bundle of fur and energy, quickly moving away from puppyhood. Like a mother of a human baby, I sort of wish she could stay little, stay a fun puppy forever. I know that can’t happen, so I’m determined to enjoy every day that she wants to run and play. I know that all too soon she’ll be like Daisy and Milo, who mostly just lay around the house passing gas.
So, happy birthday to my little Babykins. Happy birthday to the pup that saved my life.