Ruby’s Tale: From Starvation to Stardom

July 25, 2013  

Ruby achieved celebrity status with the publication of her book Ruby’s Tale; her new book, Ruby’s Road, has just been released.

Ruby’s life as a celebrity

By Patrick Bettendorf

Nowadays, life is good to Ruby. There are limousines, four star hotels, acting in stage plays, co-hosting radio shows, flying from city to city inside the cabin of airplanes, and even making an appearance on the Bonnie Hunt show in Hollywood. She’s been inducted into the Minnesota MVMA Animal Hall of Fame, visited senior citizens as a TDI therapy dog, gone back to school to become a service dog, made personal appearances as a celebrity, and a lot more. But life wasn’t always so pleasant for the fun loving little diva.

The story begins with my wife Lynn and me being talked into fostering a jolly little dog named Ruby. Like most rescue dogs, nothing was known about her early life. She’d been found along with her brother by animal control in an abandoned house. Ruby and her brother were about 6 months old, and victims of neglect and starvation. Their fur was falling out in patches and they’d had no access to food or even water. The next few weeks were spent in the care of a veterinarian who helped them recover their health, gain weight and get a new “leash” on life. It was August 2003.

My wife, Lynn, and I were volunteers for St. Francis Animal Rescue. Because the animal rescue didn’t have its own facility, it farmed out the dogs to various boarding kennels, paying discount rates for their keep. This kennel was close to home, making it easy for us to visit twice a week.

We were known as the Rottweiler and pit bull couple. We had fostered our share and adopted many over the years. So Rotties and pitties were always assigned to us. We had worked with plenty of both breeds, but this 6-month-old dark brindle pit bull puppy they called Ruby caught our eye. There was just something extra special about her infectious, boundless, cheerful demeanor.

Rescues are very special cases. Many times, like foster children, rescued dogs may have issues. A pet foster parent often may not know anything about the history of the animal unless the abuse is obvious. Some rescue dogs may be totally resilient and optimistic. Others, no matter how much care, kindness, love, and structure they receive, have difficulty coming out of that emotional black hole. Some never do.

Ruby was an optimist, but Lynn and I had no intention of fostering or adopting the little tyke. Yes, she was lovable, but we had enough “foster failures” at home. We had to tell Ruby, “Walk’s over, good bye, see you next time.” But then came the Thanksgiving that would alter the path of our lives.

The calls from the rescue group started coming in a couple of days before the holiday. “Can you foster Ruby just over Thanksgiving weekend? The kennel is slammed with regular paying costumers, so we need to get the dogs out to temporary fosters.” Our reply was that we, too, were slammed with a houseful of expected company plus the five dogs who shared the house with us.

By the third call we had weakened. The clincher came when the voice at the other end of the line, cried out, “But there’s just no room at the Inn!”

“Okay, okay,” we replied, “but Monday she goes back.”

Thanksgiving Day arrived. The wonderful aroma of turkey, freshly baked rolls and pies wafted through the air. This was not lost on our dogs Katie, Carla, Hilde, Venus, and Tiger as we banished them, disgruntled, to the upstairs bedrooms. Ruby had her own crate on the enclosed front porch with a view of the entire dining area. After dinner, when most of the guests were feeling lethargic, Lynn suggested I let Ruby out of her cage. “Let’s see how she does,” we said.

Slipping out of the crate, Ruby did a little skip-run that seemed to be uniquely her style. Instead of blasting to where the action was, she skipped from room to room, giving everyone a quick once over. “Hi, I’m Ruby! Oh you smell good. I’ll be back. Hey, you look like fun!”

After the initial greeting, she went back to each person to get better acquainted. She was showing manners – impeccable manners, in fact. She did not leap on and off the furniture like a gazelle. She did not try to snatch food off the table. Ruby hopped up between two surprised people on the couch, carefully turned to face the room and sat quietly. She seemed to be carefully studying the room and the guests. It was as if she were formulating some kind of plan.

”If I play my paws right, I’ll be running this place in six months. When I meet the pack, my being submissive and happy will win them over. Then, it’s rise through the ranks, but not by fierce fang and claw: I’ll outsmart, outwit, and outplay them. Hmmm, this behaving well seems to be working on the humans around here. Oops! The hosts are watching me. If I curl up on this guy’s lap and pretend to sleep, it’ll be really cute.”

Photo by Sara Beth Photography

Even with all the company, Lynn and I observed Ruby’s wheels turning. We thought it was a hoot. My mother-in-law piped up. “You can’t send her back! She’s the perfect dog. Awww, look at the poor thing sleeping on your father’s lap. How sweet!”

Holy cow! Help from an unexpected source. Outgunned, her resistance once again flagging, poor Lynn couldn’t hold out much longer. She clearly was not happy at the prospect of another mouth to feed, more veterinarian expenses, and increased care in general. Lynn was always the more practical one about such things.

”She is awfully nice.” A long pause. “Oh sure, what’s one more? Five, six, not much difference.”

It was a done deal! Ruby had found her forever home. She grew up to achieve the impossible and took our family on a wild, wonderful, sometimes painful odyssey…and the journey is not over yet!!!

This article was originally published on March 1, 2011.

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