Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The end of an Era

Rugby loved it when his people were in the kitchen, there was always the chance that food might fall.
By Heather
The year was 1998, and I was living alone in a one room house on the Lewis River in Yacolt, WA. I shared three acres with two other houses, and it was beautiful. I decided, with my landlord's okay, to get a dog. I wanted a dog that would be big enough to be imposing, have short dark hair, be a mixed breed, be full grown but not old. I looked several places and ended up in the Portland OR Humane Society.

Enter Rugby. He was so dirty, muddy and skinny. He was about 10 months old, and only weighed about 55 pounds, and had been given up because his owners could not afford to feed him. His personality shown from the very beginning, even though he was very scared and confused. I instantly became his person. So much so that on the 45 minute ride home from the HS, he actually sat on my lap, crossways, between me and my steering wheel. It wouldn't have been so bad except, I got pulled over for a burnt out headlight that just happened. I couldn't move him off my lap so that I could reach my purse! I told the policeman that I had just gotten him, and he said "He sure looks like he's bonded to you!' and that started us off on our life together.

Rugby has been just about the perfect dog. He doesn't get on furniture. He didn't, until Lobelia taught him how, get into garbage. He was relatively quiet, until Lobelia got him barking. He was funny, had a great sense of humor, and thought every conversation in any room that he was in, was about him. He would wag his tail whenever anyone in the room talked. He always had to be in the room with people, making sure they were okay. Unfortunately Rugby, well... he had legendary flatulence. Yes, he could clear a room with his silent but deadly emissions. When we had people over, we would simply hand our friends scented candles to light as needed. Today I laughed at the memory of Rugby's being able to fumigate the entire top third of the house. I thought Mum had had extremely bad tummy, but no, he managed to get three bedrooms and the bathroom from the hallway. It was literally like walking into a solid wall of smell as I went up the stairs. Poor Mum, she was sick and stuck in the recliner, and I didn't know she needed windows opened to rescue her, and then I blamed her on top of it!

He was part Rottie and they are herding dogs, so he was happiest when his people were all clustered together He once herded Bill and myself until we were nose to nose in the hallway, then he was satisfied. Once on a hike, Rugby wore himself out by trying to herd the group, plus going slightly ahead to check the path, and going slightly behind to make sure that was safe too. We think he traveled 3-4 times the distance the rest of us did. Unfortunately, this herding technique meant he'd shoulder check people in the knees, causing pain, knee buckling and standing still, not the moving into a clump that he hoped for.

Rugby was the dreamingest dog I've ever seen, running and making funny dream barking noises, not just every night, but during naps and several times a night. Once he woke Lobelia up, and she looked over her should at him, and then at me as if to say, 'What's up with him?'

Rugby was the least dominant dog, he once ran into a tree as he tried to run away from another dog. He was not cowed by people, just other dogs. When we got Lobelia, she instantly ruled the roost. He was lonely without another dog in the house, and he liked her, but she stole all his toys and bones and he wasn't allowed to have fun with them anymore (according to her). Good thing Rugby was still allowed to have his people!

Rugby didn't like the water too much, but would brave it to be with me. Once he found a solo dock piling in the middle of a shallow lake. Rugby climbed a top it, and was happier, but then pawed the water around it in a circle as he unsuccessfully tried to find another piling to move onto so he could follow me through the water. Another time, he braced himself for dear life as a friend and I canoe from one island in Lake Huron to another, I couldn't paddle very well, he was backed right up into me, but there was no way he would have let himself be left behind.

One of Rugby's few bad habits was what we called 'armpitting'. My bed is just about the same height as the middle of Rugby's chest, so he could stretch out and reach almost to the middle the bed. If he woke up, and saw you sleeping with an arm above your head, he'd come over and start liking your armpit. Dern wierd way to wake up, I will tell you, sort of gickfull too. Poor Bill, he seemed to get more of it than I did.

Rugby loved car rides, He traveled from Portland to Boston with me, Wisconsin to New Mexico. We had to curtail his rides over the last few years, because he would simply step his 85 pound body all over the kids to get to the windows. I never expected Rugby to live so long. As a big dog, I expected 8-10 years out of him, not the 13 that we got, I never expected him to live to see Acer, much less Calliandra.

Rugby's been having leg problems, one back, one front, on opposite sides of his body. He actually fell over twice, when something or someone ran into him. He hasn't been able to go up and down stairs easily, and most importantly, he hasn't been able to move fast enough to dodge the kids. It not that they want to step on him, it's just that he's so big that his feet take up a lot of space, and the kids do their best, but he still gets stomped on several times a day. This past fall, Rugby noticeably got happier when school started and the kids weren't there passing through the room all the time. I just couldn't see putting an increasingly slowed and in pain Rugby through another summer. I owed him a good send off, not a tortured time when he kept getting grumpier.

and so today, I fed him ham leftovers we'd saved, and the kids stuffed him with all the dog bones he could hold. and off we went, and I cried, and I cry as I type this. Rugby, herd clouds 'til I get there, time'll go by fast and then I'll see you again.


Heather said...

Rugby was a good dog. We will miss him.

Jodi said...

I'm sooo sorry Heather!!

Catching Butterflies 3 said...

You are brave and wise and you loved him enough to protect him. We had to put my dog to sleep when I was 14 years old. She had a brain tumor. It was harder for me then the loss of my grandmother. It's so good you have such good stories to tell about him!

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather and family,
I ran across your blog and cried as
I read of your precious Rugby. I put
my precious shepard down less than a
year ago, and my sweet cherry head
conure a month ago. You lived in
my area of Wa. when you got Rugby.
Bless you for caring so much for
him. mary m, vancouver, wa.

Deb said...

I'm so sorry, Heather. What a wonderful tribute to a girl's best friend. My yellow lab, Baxter, and I have been together for over 14 years--he too is the best dog in the whole wide world. He was my first baby, and I will be heartbroken when I have to say goodbye to him.

RamblingMother said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Clementine is 10 1/2 now and I can't imagine we have many more years with her either. Rugby sounds like a great dog and I am sure she will be greatly missed.