It’s so hard to believe that you’ve been with me for nearly ten years now. I can’t remember those five dogless years before I found you, other than I can honestly say that those five years had far less barking involved and virtually zero pet drama, which I now cope with on a daily basis!
On your really difficult behavior days, I can’t help but ask myself if I had it to do over again, would I still have chosen you, if I’d known what was in store for me. And I always go back and forth with the pros and cons of daily life with you. Without a doubt, you are the most difficult dog I’ve ever owned.
There are so many things about “normal” dog ownership that I miss. Wonderful things….simple things, like a neighborhood walk, or going to the park or the lake. I loved having guests in our home without fear or worry, and didn’t have to crate my previous dogs simply from a safety standpoint. I can’t give you special treats or even a simple bowl of food without having to carefully consider your aggressive response to that. With my previous dogs, I went through life easily, seamlessly, and our lives flowed back and forth together. It was a relaxed way of living with my dogs, and something about my life with them that I really cherished.
That’s not to say that I don’t cherish you, sweet boy. It’s just very different. You’re just not an easy dog. And truthfully, I can’t blame your issues on you. I have no idea what life was like for you before you came to my house. I grew up with security and consistent rules as a child, which framed a safe world and fostered trust with the humans who cared for me.
You simply didn’t get any of that, and because of it, I’m more sorry than you’ll ever know or understand. I have no way of making that up to you. What’s done is done. All I’ve been able to do is to take your life forward into good things….giving you a fair and consistent life so that you really can win at the game we know as life.
But would I bring you home again if I knew the life that we would share together? I have to answer with an absolute and resounding YES!!! Yes, sweet dogger, I would bring you home again, knowing full well that life with you would never be an easy one.
When I look back on the last ten years of my life, I see how much you’ve changed me in such a positive way. You’ve completely revolutionized how I train dogs, and so many dogs and owners have benefited from the things that you’ve taught me about dogs.
You’ve made me think in new ways, creating new ideas and games for training….letting you figure things out, rather than showing you what I wanted. I really respect that about you. I think it’s really amazing that you prefer to figure things out for yourself rather than being shown how to do something. It’s so much harder to do it that way, and I have to respect a dog who prefers to take the hard road. You’ve taught me that dogs in general love to learn in this manner, which was a huge paradigm shift for me! What a wonderful and patient teacher you have been!
You’ve given me a rare opportunity to have a front row seat in learning so so much about all of the dogs that I train!! Dogs are just not stupid, or stubborn, or willful, or rotten as a general rule. You’re smart, patient, amazing problem solvers, who just need the right approach and patient, systematic training to help you figure it all out.
And YOU, my sweet Rugby James, have been responsible for that HUGE paradigm shift in my thinking and resulting work with dogs! That’s ALL on you, little buddy! What a wonderful and patient teacher you have been and continue to be. Who knew one of the best teachers I could ever have had would come to me covered in speckled and spotted fur and sport “Bubba teeth?!”
The poet Robert Frost wrote about a road less traveled making all the difference for him in his life, and I understand what he means now. You are my road less traveled. And you have made all the difference in my life. You really have.
Nothing has been the same since I saw your little puppy face staring back at me on my computer screen…..so eager and hopeful about life. You’ve always had an “all in” approach to everything we’ve done together. Whether it’s training through a naughty behavior, or working puzzles or doing tricks together, you jump right in with all four paws, bright and shining eyes, and so much fun and hope in your attitude! You always bring lots of barking with you as well, but we won’t go there in this letter!
Because of you, my little best buddy, I’m much more patient. I’m much more compassionate. I listen better. I don’t judge, because I understand all too well how little of the whole story I really know….whether it’s about people or other dogs, it doesn’t matter. Judging others never results in anything good, but kindness always matters. Always.
Patient kindness is what all of us want and need, so I try to dispense that when I can….although usually not in heavy traffic with goofy drivers on every side! But you’ve been in the car with me during some of those situations, so I know you understand that failing about me! And blissfully, even though you’re generally a big barker, you keep secrets wonderfully!!
Rugby you have been responsible for bringing so many wonderful and amazing people and dogs into my life, and I could never, EVER thank you enough for that! While your world has been so small in many ways, you’ve opened up a huge world for me, and there’s no price tag I could put on that to help you know of its value to me!
You are my little road less traveled, and you really have made all the difference in my life. You truly have. I can’t say that I’m enjoying watching you near eleven years of age, but we really are growing older together, and that has a wonderful charm all on its own.
When I count my blessings, sweet Rugby, I have to count you a bunch of times! You’re my little Velcro pup, my constant shadow, my snuggle buddy, and my daily tripping hazard. You’re also my anxious friend, my worrier, my little Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh! And from the bottom of my heart, I hope I’ve done right by you these past ten years. I hope you’ve been happy living here, and not disappointed in my shortcomings and failings as a human and your caregiver.
Happy Thanksgiving, little Rugby! I’ll slip you an extra snack today….promise!!