Ruby came into the K’s Path shelter about a month ago, and I instantly fell in love with her. Don’t tell them, but I would sneak into her kennel on the intake wing on my way past to the kitchen, and give her a pet and a hug. Truth be told, she reminded me very much of a Lab/Collie cross I had when I was in college, who was devoted, and obedient, and gentle and kind. It broke my heart that I couldn’t bring Ruby home to be mine, but I was very grown up about it, and told myself that it would be ridiculous to get another dog now… after all, we’re sailing out of here at the end of the year (Insh’allah), and the two dogs we already have is enough on a boat. So I took a photo to publish on FB, in the hope that one of my friends would take her. But I never published it, and I don’t know why.
Then Ruby was let out of the medical wing (where she’d been spayed) and put on the main wing, where I was then privileged to be able to walk her. Oh those eyes. They were piercing me right through my heart. I so wished I could help her with more than a feeble walk.
And then, one afternoon, as I was watching our 9 year old St Bernard Cross try to walk in peace along the beach, as Kaliya was haring along behind her, side swiping her and nipping her, all in a vain effort to get her to run some more, I realised with a nasty jolt that Da’afsha won’t be sailing out with us. This year, she had a burst of energy when Kaliya arrived at four months of age, and she did an amazing job of raising him and teaching him manners; but she has started to wear out much more easily again now. She is slowing down. I have shed a few tears every day since, but dogs come and go. They always have done. And most that landed with me for their time were pretty lucky (if I do say so myself… but I usually remember to feed and walk them, which is a bonus).
So, a new plan was needed. Da’afsha clearly needed a break from this adolescent dog – since she is Great Great Grandmother age, she shouldn’t be having to entertain him any more. It was like a light went on, so I told the husband I wanted to temporarily foster a dog to take the pressure off Da’afsha. His response? “Stop bull****ing me. You know as well as I do that if you bring a dog into this house, then that dog will be staying forever. So get used to the idea that you’ll be stuck shovelling shit non-stop off the deck.” I love my husband.
I spent some time the next day at the shelter with Ruby. She clearly had issues with doors and cats. Her tail was down and her ears were back a lot. She refused to stay on command. She jumped on furniture in a frenzy. She jumped on people in a frenzy. But then, as I sat down in the office with a calculator, she sat loyally at my feet. And if I moved she followed me. And she seemed to be learning commands (sit, lie down) really fast. I figured she had potential.
So, I arranged to foster her for two days as a trial, and went home to tell the other members of the household (our lodger and Dive Boat Captain!)… And I voiced my concerns honestly, but they seemed to think that any dog who came to our house would slot in just fine, and couldn’t understand my worries.
So, back I tootled to the shelter, walked ten kennels worth of dogs, and set off for home with sweet, submissive Ruby, who climbed from the boot to the front seat, decided she didn’t like the A/C then sat in the passenger well behind my seat.
And then, when we got to the garden, she turned into the bitch from hell. Seriously. She went straight for the top dog position, and spent the entire first afternoon snarling ferociously and air snapping at my dogs. My heart was in my throat, I was truly worried I had made a mistake. But we gave them space to sort their issues, and the next day when I came down for breakfast, she was romping with Kaliya. They were still fighting occasionally, but it felt safe to take her for an off lead walk now, so I took her to the ‘swamp’, where she mostly followed the other dogs at a safe distance. Bloomin ‘eck, I thought… if she wasn’t gonna play, it was pointless bringing her home!!
But by Day 3 it was sorted. She quit trying to fight for everything, and just chilled out and accepted her place at the bottom of the pack. We went to the beach and had a great romp. Day 4 and we went on a neighbourhood walk followed by a sailing trip overnight to Kubbar, and she handled it fantastically for a first-time sailor. And today, Day 5, I dragged my husband out to the stream, and I truly do believe we have found an amazing new dog with a lot of potential. She sits, lies down and stays on command. She has stopped jumping on people (touchwood). She has nearly stopped biting at our heels. She can sit and wait without being held back before being given the command to eat her food. She doesn’t need a lead for most walking we do, since she stays to heel whenever asked.
And most importantly, Da’afsha is enjoying her walks now, without being worn out at the end of it all. She can enjoy the occasional prance, and then spend the rest of her time foraging for any scrap of food which might have been left behind, and rolling in the muckiest muck she can find!
So, fingers crossed x