I reported that we had lost our farm working dog, Cotton, earlier this year to cancer. Cotton was almost eight years old, and for her breed, eight is about the life expectancy. And bone cancer is apparently the first thing that comes up when you Google illnesses with her breed. And of course bone cancer is what she had.
I won’t lie, your big tough farmer had, and continues to have, a hard time with losing Cotton. She was 1000% loyal and worked every single day of her life. I never once thought, “Maybe we shouldn’t have bought that dog.” Even when she did something wrong, like biting Miguel on the butt, she was only trying to tell Miguel that he was supposed to be at the barn because that was where she was used to him. Being at the house, he was out of place. It was just a nip to get his attention. She also didn’t like meter readers, exterminators, or anyone else around her kids and her house that she didn’t deem worthy to be here. She was a great guard dog and a great dog overall.
Then there was Ruby. Ruby was purchased “for the girls.” I thought we already had a dog, so I didn’t really understand having a dog “for the girls.” There was quite a bit of discussion over getting her, with it being four against one and your intrepid author being the one. She was purchased “over my dead body” as I distinctly remember it. I didn’t understand the pushed in face, the tiny dog, the lack of a job. I didn’t get it at all.
But the wife was not to be swayed. And the girls were ecstatic. They, for whatever reason, loved that dog like no other. Oh they’d pet Cotton, sometimes. But that wasn’t the same thing.
Apparently girls have some innate need to dress things up and play pretend? I don’t know. I’ve been married going on 20 years, have three girls in my house, and I have no idea how any of them work. I told my wife this quote I read online, “The only ones who understand women are other women, and they hate each other.” She slowly nodded and said, “Yep, that’s about right.” That’s probably not true because they all go to the bathroom together. It’s just another ruse to keep us men confused. But I digress.
So apparently women need a useless dog who is dress-up-able and doesn’t bite you when you try.
I’d love to say that this is a story where the mean ol’ dad softens to the cute puppy over time and it ends up being dad’s dog. I’ve certainly seen this happen, even in my own house. If you think I’m the mean dad, you never met my father. And I saw him take to a fluffy poodle like nobody’s business.
Alas, Ruby didn’t ever quite make that transition with me. She was easily the most annoying thing I’ve ever dealt with. She had this terrible scream that sounded like a goose being strangled to death by a synthesizer while gargling. And she deployed it when she wanted out. Or in. Or up. Or down. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard combined with the sound of a jet engine. I could easily hear it from across the farm. That’s about 1/2 mile away. The wife, bless her, couldn’t hear it. The girls thought it was funny. The boy would open the door to let her in and/or out if he heard it but that was about 30% of the time.
Ruby was one of those dogs that went bonkers for spinning tires. Bicycle tires. Car tires. Gator tires. Whatever. She’d run right up to them and then under them if she could. We’ve had to pull her from in front of countless customer cars so they can arrive or leave. If she wasn’t in your arms she was chasing a car. Since I’d resigned myself to being tortured by this dog for years, I assumed she’d never get run over. And I was right.
Cotton, ever wise, didn’t think too much of Ruby either. Not long after they met, Cotton took Ruby down to Old Stage Road. A road that at one time was the deadliest road in Wake County. Cotton NEVER went to the road. She stayed on the farm. But with this new puppy jumping and yapping all around her, she decided that this day was the day she’d go “play by the road. The wife found Cotton, safely sitting just off the road, while the puppy was in and out of the road. The puppy had to be locked up after that. I gave cotton some steak for the effort.
The weekend before we had to put Ruby down, I was home alone with her while everyone else was at the beach. She had calmed down considerably from the snorting, farting, bouncing thing I’d never quite gotten used to. As far as we knew, she was perfectly fine so this was just another weekend. I’d made a career over the past seven years as the grumpy dad, always complaining about “the rat dog.”. With nobody around, and Ruby actually acting almost like a normal dog, I scratched her a bit. Maybe rubbed her belly. And of course we shared some steak one night, and some pork chop another night. I mean, it was gonna go to waste. I wasn’t being nice to her, you know. Just getting rid of some garbage.
And I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the porch while she sat out on the sun and snoozed in the grass. I didn’t mind. The weather was nice and I enjoyed sitting out there anyway. I certainly wasn’t being nice to that dog. I was just enjoying a bit of a sit myself, maybe near the dog. And certainly not scratching behind her ears as she snoozed. If you say different, I’ll deny it.
We found that Ruby had cancer. Bad cancer. She’d just had a full workup in June and by all indications she was perfectly fine. I assumed, with my luck, that I’d die before the dog did. But Sunday night the wife was at the emergency vet and the prognosis was she needed to be put down, pretty much immediately. With a big dose of morphine, she was able to come home one last time and everyone was able to say goodbye. We went from having 7 more years with a dog to she was gone in a matter of hours. We went from two dogs at the beginning of the year to none by August. It was quite a shock and there were a good number of tears.
We fully expected Ruby to last another 7-8 years based on her breed. Now we have zero dogs in the house. You can guess what the conversation has been around the house. I’m fine being dogless as I’m not going to get another working dog. And despite all evidence to the contrary, I don’t understand needing this.
However the noise has already started. It sounds something like a freight train running over a car. And I’m driving the car. Ugh.