Rugby is my first rescue dog, and he came to me when he was 8-9 months old. I never realized how much I treasured my early puppy pictures of my Corgis….until there were no early puppy pictures of Rugby to see. When I bred my Corgi litters, I was ridiculous with snapping photos left and right! I wanted to be able to provide their new owners with an early photo history of their puppies, as well as documenting things about them that I knew their owners would find endearing.
Anyone who has an adult rescue dog knows exactly how I feel. Our dogs were never really “young” in our minds. Of course we know that they were puppies once, and did all of the things that puppies do. However, when we adopt our rescues….whatever their age when they came to live with us….that’s the age at which they are locked into our minds and hearts. We often never got to see their littermates…. we never got to meet their parents….and sometimes, we don’t even really know anything at all about how they came into the world, or why someone else didn’t want them.
When we adopt our rescue dogs, we have eternal questions about them that will never be answered, and all we have is our wonderful dog, and their history which has been locked away inside of them, and they’re not talking!
I first saw Rugby’s face in an email that was sent to me by a friend who also trains dogs. She had been fostering him for quite a while, and needed a very specific type of dog to work in the performance capacity in which she was competing. After working with him for several weeks, she decided that he wasn’t going to be the right fit for her, so she was advertising him as adoptable. She posted a photo of him with a short description, and that’s when my life started to change. That puppy’s face is the one that I couldn’t forget. Those were the eyes that bored into my soul, the playful ears that framed his little puppy face, and the sweet little smile that looked so friendly and inviting!
For days, every time I booted up my computer, I had to go look at that email again. I dreamed about that puppy. I thought about him as I drove to training appointments, and I just couldn’t get him out of my mind! I printed off that photo, and I looked at it over and over for days….falling deeper and deeper in love with this little puppy who needed a home with someone who would love him for the treasure that he was. There was an innocence about him….something fragile….and I saw hope in those eyes. I saw a little puppy whose life was just beginning….who had so many chapters of his life left to be written. Was I the one who was going to write those chapters with him? Those were the things that I mulled over and over for several days.
We moved two years ago, and since that time, I have not been able to locate any of my dog photos aside from a small handful that I had in an album. Rugby’s only young puppy photo was one of those that I had misplaced, and I’ve been just sick about it. It’s the only “younger” puppy photo that I’ve had of him, and the thought of losing that young puppy connection through that photo was beyond awful for me.
Over those two years, I have looked everywhere! I’ve been high and low, and up and down and around the town, and that one single photo has eluded me…..all this time. The thought of never again seeing that young puppy face made me tear up if I thought about it very long, and I was so upset with myself for being careless with it.
Imagine my joy when I opened a binder I found hidden in a closet, and low and behold….there was that sweet little six month old Rugby James staring off the page at me. All of the original feelings I had looking at him in November of 2007 came flooding back as tears filled my eyes. I touched the photocopy, gently, staring intently at that little face that launched so many wonderful things in my life. This is the dog who absolutely has changed my life, and I never want to lose this image of him again.
The photo quality is just awful. Really awful. It’s fuzzy, and the colors are muddy, and as photos go…it’s as imperfect as it can be. But it’s all I’ve got, and in my eyes, it’s simply wonderful. I cherish it as much as I cherish any of the other wonderful photos that I’ve taken of him over the years.
And it’s interesting to compare and contrast this puppy photo with the real deal. I look from this fuzzy, muddied imperfect photo, to the sleeping image of Rugby James on my Big Bed….all grown up into who he is, peacefully sleeping, safe and sound….dreaming doggie dreams that I’ll never be able to see. Looking at the real Rugby James, I see a dog who is physically….sharply in focus….unlike this puppy photo.
But while the real Rugby looks sharp and clearly in focus….and I think of the “imperfect” puppy photo I so recently found, I can’t help but think of all of his previous owners who could only focus on what was fuzzy and muddy and imperfect about him. They didn’t have eyes to see beyond what was imperfect to the terrific dog that he really is….goofy quirks and all! Sometimes I feel a little sad for them to be missing all that I’ve found in their throw-away dog.
I guess perfection is also in the eye of the beholder! Rugby James is my perfectly imperfect, wonderfully cherished dog!