Ruby – joy in adversity

I have been talking about all my pets on here this week and really there shouldn’t be an entry for today.

When my old dog Ralph, the Springer Spaniel, died in his extreme old age, I decided that that was it as far as me and pets went. Never again, I thought, after that last upsetting walk in the woods with my old dog on the afternoon of his final injection.

Dogs just don’t live long enough, I thought, and their deaths are much too upsetting.

Well this held good until I got to hear about a young abandoned Springer bitch that had been found in a pitiable condition and who was being cared for at the local animal refuge place.

I should not have gone there but I did.

I was warned that the little dog, Ruby, was extremely traumatised and that she had been the victim of never to be found out cruelties.

I was told that after a visit from one of their carers, I would be assessed as to whether I would be suitable as Ruby’s new owner but first I was to have a brief visit with this pathetic creature.

She was brought into a specially designed visiting room to see if it was something I would consider taking on. She was beautiful, of course, a liver and white Springer, delicately formed, small framed but cowed to such an extent that it was difficult to see how tall she was.

So began our love affair.

Over a period of weeks, I paid regular visits to this little room. At first one of the kennel maids stayed too but gradually, I was left on my own with Ruby.

She was terrified. She huddled in a corner as far away from me as possible but I persevered, talking to her gently and gradually attracting her curiosity.

Several sessions later, there was a miraculous moment when this little huddle of a dog, got up and walked over to me. She was much taller than I had realized. She sniffed my hand and sat down next to me.

I suppose that was that then.

On my next visit, she actually ran up to me wagging her tail.

I started to take her for walks around the animal refuge, this beautiful and gentle little dog, and I never had any doubt that I would have to keep her.

It was a wonderful experience living with Ruby. She went from nervous wreck to joyful extrovert in a matter of months and it looked like she was going to become a normally functioning dog.

It was just those strange unsettling moments that worried me.

She would hide and tremble if she saw anything like a chain or a stick and she was terrified if she heard male voices shouting. It was the first time I had smelt fear.

Gradually and heart-warmingly though she decided that people were good after all – all of them. People in the street, people at petrol stations, everyone, she thought was now her friend. I wished that she was right.

She was trusting the world again when we were walking through the woods one day five months or so since I had got her. By this time she would run and come back to me just like any other frolicking spaniel. She had got over her fear of rabbits but sheep and geese were still too much for her.

That day, she heard a bad tempered man calling his disobedient dogs. She recognised his aggression. We were half a mile away from home but she turned and bolted meeting her end suddenly under the wheels of a 4×4 driven by a woman taking her children to school.

It wasn’t the tearful driver of the car who killed her. The man who had abused her as a puppy finally succeeded. No one will ever know what he did to her but I have never seen fear in such a raw primeval state.

The cruelty was unimaginable because the concept of a grown man inflicting pain on such a small defenseless animal should be unimaginable to any one that can be defined as a human being.

Ruby was with me for only a short time – far shorter than any of my other cats or dogs – but she left a deep impression on me and, just maybe, she was the one I loved best.

So no more pets. I really mean it this time.


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