This date marks a special anniversary for us every year. It’s the date that one of our heroes left Earth for the Rainbow Bridge. That hero was named Denby Dog, and he’s the reason that you’re reading this blog. I know that some of our readers are thinking, “What? Who is Denby Dog? He’s not the reason I’m reading this blog! I’ve never heard of him!”
When I first got acquainted with the online dog community, Corgi Nation in particular, I came across a Blog called “The Daily Corgi.” I was new to the blog world, but hey, there were photos and stories of really cute Corgis, so I was all in! And one day, I read about an amazing little dog named Denby Dog! He couldn’t eat or drink or blink on his own, and he lived in this little red racer wheelchair cart. Every. Single. Day!! I had to know more!
He had a FaceBook page, so I started to follow him and his adventures. Every day, I was infused with hope, with love, with a warm fuzzy, and sometimes even a laugh, as his owner, Denise Baker shared his life with her readers. Every day for me, Denby Dog was a must read.
Even though Rugby James wasn’t a dog with the physical challenges that Denby faced every day, I related to life with a special needs dog. The needs were just different. Rugby is a special needs dog as well, but his needs are all emotional ones. Rugby is a dog who is emotionally fractured, and like Humpty Dumpty, I can’t put the pieces back together.
Oh I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried. Over and over and over until I’m blue in the face, I’ve tried. But like Denise discovered with Denby Dog, Rugby just can’t be fixed. His emotions are too broken. The pieces that are needed to fix him are missing, or don’t fit, and I can’t find the puzzle pieces that do fit and work.
For a long time, I just didn’t know what to do with Rugby. I had never owned a dog like him. He was such a cute little guy! He was so smart! His heart was all in on anything and everything that we did together! And he really did try so very hard! But, at the end of the day, he was still a very broken little dog.
The colleagues that I knew and trusted were at a loss for help. They were also devoid of hope. They scratched their heads about how to fix Rugby. Their solutions all included giving up and getting a new dog. Believe me, on bad days, there was already a little voice inside of me whispering….”He’s a no hoper. Move on.”
But I just couldn’t bring myself to give up on him. I couldn’t. I couldn’t look at my physically healthy puppy….who was all of eight or nine months old when I got him…and tell him that I was giving up like his four previous owners had done. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t fail him. He was so young. He was so smart. He deserved a life with a human who believed in him and who wouldn’t give up on him. No matter what. I knew that I’d never live with myself for giving up on him. I had to try.
I decided that I was going to be that owner who was all in, but hope was something that was elusive and hard to find. Enter Denby Dog. So many times when I hit the wall in working through yet another behavioral issue with Rugby, I found hope flying out the window. I felt all alone, because no one seemed to understand why I loved my nutty little dog. There was no one to encourage me or who would whisper, “Don’t give up. You got this!”
And there was Denise and Denby Dog.
Time and again, I saw Denise hit one awful DM (degenerative myelopathy) milestone after another, as Denby continued to lose one function after another. But instead of sadly marking those moments, Denise always found a way to approach them with courage and with hope and love! She never focused on what Denby had lost, but she chose to focus on what Denby could still do in life. And she was focused on giving Denby the best quality of life that she could, for as long as she could.
Denise and Denby Dog were an amazing team. The trust that they had for one another was incredible. The fun that they had together always produced a warm fuzzy and a smile for my heart. When I was lacking in hope on a given day, it never seemed to fail that Denby Dog provided that boost that I needed to be able to take a deep breath and try again.
That’s the reason I started Rugby’s Facebook page and ultimately this blog. I’m a professional dog trainer. That’s what I do. Six days a week, I’m out in the trenches, training wonderful, but naughty dogs day in and day out.
I see all kinds of dogs with all kinds of behavior. Believe me, I know that there are LOTS of nutty dogs just like Rugby James out there, and there are just as many wonderful owners who don’t want to give up on those dogs. They feel just as lost as I once did, and they’ve often lost hope that anything can change or that anyone will understand their deep and crazy love for a broken dog.
Because of Rugby James, I get it. I understand. I can be that shoulder to cry on. I can be the professional help that knows how to train through difficult behavior systematically, baby step by baby step. There just are some dogs who can’t be fixed for whatever reason. But most of the time, even for the really broken dogs, I can make things better for the dog and owner, just like I have with Rugby James. I can teach clients how to “Corgi On….Corgi Strong” when things are hard. I can and do dispense copious amounts of encouragement and HOPE!
Denby Dog and Denise will always and forever be my heroes. Without even knowing me at the time, they provided the much needed hope, love, encouragement, and the smiles my heart needed to continue on every day with Rugby James.
The world today needs heroes. It does. Life is hard. It’s not fair. It leaves plenty of broken lives and shattered hearts in its wake. Being a dog lover in general, and a Corgi lover in particular, it’s no surprise that this hero came to Rugby and I wearing dog fur. We just needed to know where to look to find him.
This little dog in a red racer cart may always and forever be Denise Baker’s Denby Dog, but believe me….to Rugby James and me, Denise and Denby will always and forever be our heroes.