Looking Back at This Year with Rugby James

Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve and I have no idea where the time went this year!  It seems like yesterday I was just having to remember to change the year from 2014 to 2015, and good grief!  It’s happening again.  Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to make a “5” into a “6” because it takes me half a month to get into the new habit of writing a new year!

So today, I thought I would look back on this past year with Rugby James.  Three hundred and sixty five days to change….to grow….to be amazing.  An entire year to impact my dog’s life….and to be impacted by my little dog.  Did I change his life this year….or did he change mine?

Well….my goodness….that’s a tough question to answer!  I’d love to say that I changed his life more….but I have to be honest and admit that I know I’ve been plenty changed by the love of this little speckled and spotted hot mess in fur called Rugby James.

8.16.2014 010At the start of 2015, I only had my microblog “RugbyJames” on Facebook.  A dog page.  A wonderful place of fun and love and adventure.  I had just finished telling Rugby’s adoption story at the end of 2014.  I unpacked his suitcase on Facebook and aired his dirty laundry in public.  Laundry that included how small his world was, his bouts with reactive aggression, his nutty reactivity to anything and everything that changed in his environment….and his wonderful love affair with the Greater American Polka Dottie Spotted Piggie.

Ah….his piggies!!  Thanks to Rugby James, I now have a small Christmas tree to hold the piggie ornaments people have started collecting for me.  I have piggie knick knacks in my office….piggie cards that have been sent to me….all tokens of love shown to me and my polka dottie dogger!  They make me smile so so much, and they simply ooze love.

Rugby hosted a big online party for all of his friends this year…. his second one….to celebrate his Gotcha Day, and to give back some fun and freebies to those dear friends who have shown us so much love and acceptance in our second year on Facebook.  So. Much. Love.

I mean really!  We all know that our own dogs are amazing and wonderful, but when other people see that same magic in our dogs?   Rugby just doesn’t have much beyond Michael and I.  To think that other people see something redeemable in him and love him so much is just unbelievable to me.  Before he came to live with me, all he knew was rejection and abandonment from humans that he trusted.

A couple of things stick in my mind in terms of progress forward with Rugby this year.  Ever since he was rolled by a much larger dog in the dark of our front yard as a puppy, he’s always gone nuts barking in the front yard anytime I had him out the front door.  I carry him to the car or he lunges and barks at the air in fear and reactivity….just in case a phantom dog rolls him!  He has never taken any treats from me when he’s left the house…unless it was in the back yard.

I’m happy to report that this fall, I’ve been able to do some successful training with him in the front yard….including reinforcement with treats!!  I’ve been able to chip away at that for 8 years, and he’s finally figuring it out!!  I was able to get him to walk in the driveway….calmly….with pretty decent focus on me, looking up at me here and there, taking treats.  I’ve never had success with that.  Never.  Not ever.  That’s an exciting baby step in my book!

And I think that for the first time since I brought him home, he’s not as worried when I’m gone as he used to be.  He honestly hates anyone giphy (9)to leave home.  He truthfully loves having his pack all together.  He really does.  I think he was just abandoned so many times as a very young puppy that he’s been afraid of history repeating itself with me.  But this year, I’ve noticed a general sense of deeper confidence that he has even when someone is gone from home.  It’s so nice to see him relax and not worry.  A little dog should never have to worry.

And when I look at both of those things, the singular issue that is at the heart of both of them is trust.  Rugby has really begun to trust me at a much deeper level than he has previously.  To have gained deeper trust from him this year just makes my heart sing!  I have had to create such a predictable world for him for so many years to get to this point, and it sure feels sweet!

So as I look back this year, the baby steps of forward progress that Rugby has made, leave me with a renewed sense of hope for next year and the progress I’ll see from him in the upcoming months.  Any progress forward is good progress forward…even if it’s in baby steps!  Enough small steps add up to big steps when you’re looking back on how far you’ve come. The glass is always half full at my house.

Never give up.  Never surrender.  Way to go, Rugby James.  You had a great 2015 and I’m so very proud of you!

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  1. Jil says

    And I am proud of you, Sally, for not giving up on Rugby. Very few of us would have had the patience to have taken this journey, as shown by his many previous homes. I am so glad YOU found him, and have shared him with us.

    • Sally says

      Thanks so much, Jil, for your kind words of encouragement. Making the decision to keep Rugby was such a hard one given the behavior we were dealing with, but I honestly just could not be the next human in line to give up on him. I just couldn't. It wasn't his fault that he was a hot mess. He deserved a family who would love him and keep trying to give him a better quality of life. I remain fully convinced that God may not have given me the dog that I wanted, but He sure gave me the dog that I needed. Thanks so much for loving my little fur covered buddy!!

  2. Mike says


    You are doing great work with Rugby and it truly shows. This was a great post that really drives home what an impact animals can have on us and we can have on them.

    I loved reading this and wish you and Rugby nothing but massive success in the New Year.

    Happy New Years!


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