Ruby teaches her old girl new trick

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 21, 2005

[1/2/05] It’s already the second day of the new year but I’m still sifting through the remains of 2004, which according to the Chinese Calendar was the Year of the Monkey.

For me, though, it was the Year of the Dog.

I’ve written about Rubypearl quite a lot since I adopted her right before Christmas 2003, but 2004 was our first full year together.

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People think I’m joking when I say having a dog has changed my life. But, I’d never lived with a dog. So.

She’s changed my life.

The first lesson I learned that way was that dogs don’t land on their feet the way cats do. When she was still about 10 pounds, I was carrying her from the car to the back door. As I stepped down into the yard, I leaned over to put her down. I let go when I had her about six inches off the ground. I think we were both surprised.

I knew then I was headed into a different world, and I knew I had a lot to learn.

I’ve learned so much by trial and error. Such as:

All puppies look like beagles. It’s the big ears. But just because all puppies look like beagles doesn’t make them beagles. And, while, Ruby may indeed have a great-great-great grandma beagle, and she likes to dig, at 15 months, she weighs in at 65 pounds, twice the size of the average fattest beagle. Which leads me to my next lesson.

You can’t trust what the vet or shelter workers say when you adopt a mixed-breed. Indeed they make the best dogs. But size is a dice toss. Twenty pounds, they said, 30 max.

Dogs love shoes. There was a point in the summer where I had one pair of shoes left. To date, she’s destroyed two pairs of Birkenstocks, one pair of black combat boots, one pair of black sandals, one pair of Nike sneakers and countless flipflops. So, I learned to shut the closet door and to keep my shoes out of reach. That is why, for you inquisitive, judgmental people, sometimes my shoes are on top of the refrigerator. It’s the highest point in the house.

I’ve learned to mop the kitchen floor in less than five minutes. Practice, practice, practice. I’ve learned floors and counters are my baseline in cleaning. If they are clean, I can handle everything else.

For the first six months with Ruby, I tried hanging on to my old way of life. I tried working her into my life. It was a disaster. My house was a wreck, she was destructive, and I felt perpetually on edge.

Then I surrendered to Ruby and to the life I had chosen, perhaps unwittingly, but chosen nonetheless. I never intended to become a savior of homeless animals, but one dog and three cats later, I’ve found that they’ve been my salvation.

Living life on Ruby’s terms made it easier.

She got less destructive and more affectionate. I got less stressed and more sleep.

Can’t really explain it, but my house got cleaner, and not only was the dog happier, the cats were nicer, too.

I had paid lip service to the idea for years, but I finally learned to go with the flow.

On Christmas morning, I woke up with a dog sharing my pillow. Her arm was stretched out across the bed. She rolled over and had a look on her face that said, “Would you move? You’re hogging the covers.”

I’ve spent years, hours and countless dollars for books, classes and workshops to help me find a way to live in the moment.

In the end, all it took was $75 and a dog named Rubypearl.

Sonya Kimbrell is features editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail her at