LIFE LESSONS CONTINUED • Life With Ruby: Episode One

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I originally thought about titling this month's column "Oops, I Did It Again," but thought it might be a little misleading. My husband, Randy, would probably say it should be "Oh, No, Not Again!" I made a big decision on June 4, one that has been costing us in time and money and aggravation: I brought home another dog.

Ruby is a mainly white female greyhound who just turned a year old June 22. She has a partial brindle head and a few light brown freckles in random areas of her fur. I spotted her on one of my many trips through the Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet websites. Her thumbnail picture wasn't the best but I had been hoping to adopt a greyhound for many years. It's not as easy as you would assume.

Although the number may increase with the newer laws prohibiting dog racing, greyhound rescues are few and far between in the Midwest. Retired racers can make great pets but many are not housetrained, not good with small animals and don't understand the concept of stairs. Understandable, considering the lives they led prior to being available for adoption but not what my carpets and two cats needed. We also have steps coming into our home no matter which entrance you use. Ruby was an owner release from a family with kids, so she definitely was a better fit.

Most rescues also require a solid six-foot high fenced yard, which we also don't have. We have used invisible fencing for 15 years at this home and at our previous location. Our dogs have all done well with this method of containment, other than a few times squirrels chewed through the wire and once when lightning ruined it.  I'm not an idiot; I realize a dog that can go from 0 to 40 mph in three or four leaps is not going to feel much of a shock going through this type of fencing. But I also didn't want to spend a few thousand dollars in advance for a fence we don't need for any other reason.

When I saw Ruby listed at an animal control in Decatur, I was surprised and interested. Our granddaughter, Paige, was visiting us that week, so the two of us decided to go meet Miss Ruby on my Tuesday afternoon off. She was so sweet and pretty when she trotted into the meet-and-greet room that Paige and I were both smitten. I agreed to fill out an adoption application not realizing that meant she would be coming back home with us that day. Once the staff verified our current pets' shots and I paid the $75 fee, Ruby was mine (which Randy likes to remind me when she misbehaves). No expensive fencing required, and yes, I did ask.

I had tried learning more about greyhounds prior to finding Ruby. According to many sources, these dogs are couch potatoes other than about an hour a day and are quiet, making them good choices for apartment dwellers. I knew they would need daily exercise, but so do I so that wasn't an issue. The breed sounded like a great choice. Yeah. This experience should teach me not to trust info from the web. 

What am I learning firsthand about greyhounds, or at least about my greyhound? Well, she is still sweet and loves people. She would prefer to jump on everyone she meets in greeting, which is unsettling considering how tall she is when she is on her hind feet. I'm working on that.

She also likes to bark, loudly, at our other dog, a beagle mix, when they are playing. He barks at her a lot during that time but mainly because he can't keep up with her or she has his entire head in her mouth. Ruby also howls and/or whines when I'm attempting work outside, mow the yard, pull weeds or water flowers, because she can't be right next to me. I'm working on that, too.

Although she only weighed 45 pounds at her vet check mid-June, she is all muscle. She side-checks Angelo (the beagle mix) like a seasoned hockey player, nearly knocks me off my feet if she runs into me during one of their wrestling-running-chasing sessions and God forbid she sees a rabbit or cat during our morning walks. I'm thankful I haven't had my arm pulled out of its socket yet. Yeah, add that to my list of training items, especially since she should be putting on about another 10 or 15 pounds and getting a little taller before she's done growing.

We had a pretty, red tall concrete planter next to our garage door. The flowers in it were blooming and growing just fine until last week when she got her tie-out cable around it. I spent my lunch hour that day scooping up potting soil, plants and large, broken pieces of concrete. I also have a pair of flats I need to pitch now since one has teeth marks and a piece of sole missing. And if you come to our home and notice the kitchen chair pushed up against the trash can, chalk it up to Ruby. She's tall enough to easily get her pointy head into the cover and pull out whatever delicacies she finds. We no longer leave anything edible or important on our kitchen counters either.

This past month has certainly been a learning experience complete with lots of shedding and stinky greyhound gas, two items the websites didn't cover. With a food change one issue is–thankfully–much better, and with Ruby's love of jumping into and laying down in her kiddie pool, there seems to be a bit less fur in the air. I enjoy watching many of her antics but look forward to her couch potato years; the past several weeks have been way too similar to having three teenage boys in the household, albeit without the dirty socks, stinky football pads and half-full cans of soda. Fur and doggie toots are much easier to handle.

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