There's a quality many of us long-time rescue workers have that allows us to walk away from a dog. It's what allows us to say, "we have no room," "we're not equipped to help this dog," or "there are too many others who have more solid temperaments." It allows us to say, "I'm sorry, I cannot help," without leaving too much of our soul behind in animal control. It's not that we don't care about the dogs, or that their faces and hearts don't touch us, but it is what allows us to face literally thousands of unwanted animals day after day, month after month, year after year, without going completely insane and becoming hoarders. You just can't save them all. We know this. And when judgement cometh, we will be able to look God (or whomever happens to be there) in the eye, and say that while we could not save each of them, we saved as many as we could.
When I met Rubi for the first time, I walked away with no regrets. She was just another wild, exuberant, reactive pit bull, just like every other wild, exuberant, reactive pit bull I'd ever met. At five years old, she'd already beaten the odds - most pit bulls never live to see their second birthday. For heaven's sake, she even had a home! I gave her owner all the help I could, but when she stopped replying to my emails, I hoped that no news was good news, and I put B out of my mind.
Of course, it helped that there was so much else to think about: Gracie J, Camilla, Ro, Gremlin Jo, Doppleganger, Piper Ann, Riley, Allister, Tank, and then there was non-dog stuff, too. So when B was surrendered back to ARLP in April of '10, it wasn't hard for me to say, "absolutely not" to fostering her. I was more than a little burnt out. And to add another reactive pit bull to the herd? I've got one, thanks. My denial wasn't a big deal until Rubi's situation became desperate: her foster sibling needed surgery, and Rubi needed a new place to crash ASAP.
This is where my husband put his foot down. I often consider him the Voice of Reason in my life; I can always count on my husabnd to warn me when I'm about to go off the deep end. Normally he tells me important things, like "we have enough dogs" and "you cannot make Maus wear that outfit - neither of us will respect you in the morning." This time, the Voice of Reason insisted that we take B in. I'm still not entirely sure what possessed him, but when the Voice of Reason tells you to do something, by golly, you do it.
Of course, just because you live with a dog doesn't mean you want them. I wanted as little to do with B as possible when she first came. I did the bare minimum necessary to live with her, and then I tried to pretend she wasn't here. The husband wanted her, she was the husband's foster. The flaw with that thinking is that the Voice of Reason, for all that I love him, is not a dog trainer, and Rubi is a lot of dog - too much for my poor husband to handle alone. So that left me to pull the loose ends together, a responsibility I definitely resented. Didn't I do enough? What had I done to deserve Rubi?
The situation came to a head on my birthday in July. I was already having a bad day. I don't remember now what set me off, but Rubi did - or didn't - do something, and I howled, "You are such a horrible beast! Who is ever going to want you?!?"
Now, I'm not a terribly religious person. I tend to view God the same way I see my boss at work: I keep my head down, I try to do well the jobs I've been given, and I hope that in the end, there's a nice retirement for me. But at that moment, God spoke to me.
He said, "What do you mean, who's going to want her?"
I stared at Rubi.
Rubi stared at me.
But really, who am I to argue with God?
It's amazing, the possibilities that appear when you open your mind even a little (or, in this case, get struck stupid by the voice of God). I came up with a list of reasons to keep B that was as long as my arm. The more I thought about it, the sillier it seemed to put all this work into her and then ship her off to someone else. But at the heart of the matter, I decided to keep B for the same reason I decided to adopt all of my other animals: it just felt right.
I won't say that from that moment on, we lived happily ever after. "Happily ever after" seems to imply that we always see eye to eye, Rubi's reactivity magically disappeared, and I never have to clean up dog poop. There are still some days I wonder what I was thinking. I mean, if we hadn't've adopted her, Rubi would be someone else's problem. I would have saved myself an awful lot of trouble.
Here's what else I would have saved myself from: Rubi snores. She thinks that she is entitled to anything that resembles food, is possibly edible, or that she can fit in her mouth. The red Cuz is her favorite toy (not the green one, not the orange one - the red one). She's comatose from 8:00 pm until 10:00 am. If you should bodily pick her up and force her to go outside between those hours, she will stand where ever you put her and give you sad eyes until she's allowed to go back to bed. She likes sleeping under the covers. She hates having her nails trimmed, but doesn't mind having them painted. Rubi believes each child in the world is her best friend. She looks stunning in leather. She loves to swim. She's always ready to go for a car ride. Rubi is afraid of cats. Grilled pork chop is her favorite treat. Rubi lives each moment with gusto - she got let off that chain four years ago and hasn't let anything slow her down since. She doesn't mind wearing silly hats.
And the longer we're together, the more we both smile.