Rugby’s Big Adventure….Part 2

Rugby is everyone’s dream dog in the car.  He’s calm, he’s quiet, and he just lays down in his crate and naps.  He does better over the road than with stop and start traffic, because he’s more anxious if we stop and start all the time.  Once we hit the open road, he’s not going to make a peep until we stop!007

We left on our big adventure about mid-afternoon, and wanted to get as far down the road as we could that first night….hopefully at least halfway there.  We had no idea how much time we had to get to Dad’s bedside at the hospital, so we knew we needed to hurry!

Time was something that we thought we’d always have, but time was now running quickly through the hourglass like grains of sand….disappearing at the other end…

We stopped to stretch once along the way, and Rugby did just fine.  We always park in remote areas at a restaurant or gas station, and we carefully watch the landscape for other dogs or humans to make sure no one gets too close to Rugby.  I’m also very careful to watch the ground to be sure Rugby doesn’t quickly eat something dangerous that’s been discarded on the ground.

I always offer him a drink before we start back up, but he rarely ever accepts it.  Usually, he’s too keyed up about new surroundings to be interested in water.

After driving in rain for about six hours we decided to call it quits for the night.  We found a pet friendly motel, and unloaded the car in sprinkles, and tried to walk Rugby away from mud and puddles.  By now it was dark, and Rugby is typically more reactive once the sun sets. Michael and I try to team up so we can make the best of the situation.  Over the years, we’ve perfected our performances.  Michael plays the plucky lookout, and I play the sneaky dog handler!

Rugby has visited in motels before, so this wasn’t his first time staying somewhere new.  The motel was quiet, and we had a comfortable room, so we got Rugby into our room, and hoped to get him settled down for the night, so that we could all relax.

The problem was, Rugby was close to terrified.  He wasn’t just asking to snuggle with me…he was in an absolute panic!  He frantically clawed my legs to be picked up, and that’s not something Rugby ever does, unless he’s really wigged out.  So for the first twenty minutes or so, I stood and held him close while he shook in my arms.  Anytime I tried to put him down, he scrambled right back up my legs to be picked up again.  So I stood up and held him until he calmed enough that he was ready to let me put him down.


The look in his eyes just broke my heart that first night.  Rugby’s eyes had a look that said, “PLEASE don’t leave me!”  He was so panicked that I was taking him somewhere and leaving him…..or handing him over to someone new and walking away forever.  It was heartbreaking to see!  I’m always aware that Rugby still has a fear of being abandoned, no matter how much trust he has with me.   So many times in his past life, this sort of thing really did happen to him, so when that scenery starts to look familiar to him, he panics and wigs out!  Just a few short hours ago, I had taken him from his home and all that he knew, and he had no idea if he was ever going to see anything familiar again.  It was heartbreaking for me to see him so frantic and so scared.  None of us slept well that first night.  Rugby barked a few times at strange noises, but he was glued to me, no doubt wondering why we had taken him away from everything that he knew, and wondering if he would ever see his familiar home and life again.

His small predictable world.  The familiar sights, sounds and routine that created security in his little life.  There was no way that I could explain to him that our current situation was temporary, and soon enough he would be back in that familiar world and routine.  I had to hope that he trusted me enough to know that as long as I was nearby, he would be safe….even if I was the only thing that was familiar.

That’s a whole lot to ask of a little dog with a small brain and no opposable thumbs!  And when you add Rugby’s history of being in so many previous homes before I was lucky enough to get to be his last one….and it’s a recipe for one worried little pooch!  I have rarely seen him as absolutely terrified as he was that night, and it reminded me once again, just how fragile my little dog really is.  He seemed so much smaller, and so much more vulnerable that first night on the road.  All I could do was hug him close and promise him that he was safe with me and that I loved him and would never leave him or give him away to someone else.  And we drifted off to sleep together, and I hoped he would dream some sweet dreams….and understand what I promised from my heart.




  1. Michelle says

    I'm really enjoying this story even though it's hard to read about Rugby's fears away from home. I so appreciate the way you put this in the context of his prior life experiences. It also serves as a reminder to me to remain observant and compassionate if my own dog is behaving in a 'riled up' manner. My teenagers tell me how Spencer waits for me each workday, looking out the sunroom windows to see when my car turns the corner onto our street; then he moves to the couch by the front window to see that I've made it into the driveway. When the garage door goes up he is barking like crazy and we all want him to chill out. But I'm beginning to understand that, in addition to waiting most of the day, he has really been watching carefully for 1-2 hours so it really IS a big deal when I walk in the door.

    • Sally says

      Michelle, I'm SO GLAD that you shared this wonderful Spencer story! I smiled from start to finish, just picturing Spencer at each step of his day. Our dogs do spend so much of their lives waiting for us, and we often do forget just how exciting it is for them when we get home! I always try to frame Rugby's behavior through the lens of his previous life experiences, because I'm pretty firmly convinced that they have created the dog I live with today. When folks surrender a dog to a shelter or rescue, they automatically believe that there's no cost to the dog....that the dog will find a great home and live happily ever after. Re-homing a dog DOES take a toll on them, and the younger they are, and the more time it happens, can really create trust and abandonment issues that will plague that dog for the rest of his life. My hope in writing as I do, is to help people think twice and then three times about surrendering their dog. So MANY issues are simple to train through, and will keep a dog in their home, which is what I'm all about!! 😀


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