The Ruckas Pup
(This was never intended as a post. This was something I originally wrote as a thank you to the wonderful folks at the St. Augustine Humane Society where I adopted the Ruckas pup some 15 years ago. I didn’t actually think it would ever go public. However, it did go public and since then several people asked me to share it here on the site, so after much internal struggle, it is presented here below.)
On the Friday evening before my 20th birthday, just before closing time, I walked into the St. Augustine Humane Society and within seconds was drawn to this tiny little scruffy black and white puppy who was just barely old enough to adopt. As soon as his eyes found mine, he told me, ” you are my human.” I picked him up and gently rolled him to his back in my arms. He put up a little fight, but mostly just looked into my eyes and seemed to say, “I’m not sure what all this is about, but if this is what we are doing, this is what we are doing. I trust you.” It was too late to adopt him that night, and I knew I needed to get things for him and get my house ready for him, so the next morning, Saturday morning, bright and early I was there with brand new collar. As soon as I got him out of the kennel, I got him to sit down then he stood up on his hind legs, rested his front paws on my knee and I put the collar on him. I have never seen a prouder puppy. He wore that collar for 14 years before the material finally gave up and I had to find him a new one. He never would take it off, and when he had to, for baths and haircuts, he would not let it leave his sight. In fact, he would usually end up telling me when he was dry enough after a bath to put it back on. The standing on his hind legs wanting to be carried and held would become his trademark, even earning him the nickname Little Bear.
However, he settled on the name Ruckas. As a little puppy, he was extremely chill so there was some element of irony when he decided he liked the name. Eventually as a 40-pound lap dog, who assumed himself to be roughly 150lbs, he grew into it. The Ruckas pup never met an animal that he didn’t like and wouldn’t befriend, with people he was a little more discerning. After many years, I realized he was a better judge of people and their intentions than any human I have ever met. He lead a charmed life, my little furball and adjusted quite well when I left St. Augustine and moved back to the hills of North Georgia. Although he missed the sand and saltwater, he seemed more than content with all the big woods and trails he got to explore and this weird white stuff that would occasionally fall from the sky that kind of looked like sand but felt way colder and turned to water. We traded picking sand spurs out of the fur between his paws after adventures for checking for ticks and briars.
All he wanted was to be near people that he loved, which he always was. At heart, he was always an Auggie Doggie, not real big on cold weather but absolutely loved to be able to lie on his back and bathe in the sun.
On the Friday before my 35th birthday, I spent the entire day with my pup. For the past two months, he had been fighting. Over the last couple of years, he slowed down a little, mainly due to some arthritis in his spine. Several years ago, he had gotten a steroid shot for it when it started giving him a fit out of the blue but that was the extent of any health problems. He had bounced right back after the shot. The past two months had been different. The years of going 90 miles an hour and probably more so, standing on his hind paws to be picked up, had started to catch up with him. We tried changing foods, and adding collagen, fish oil and NSAID’s, and then a course of steroids and then after that more NSAID’s. His spine was just deteriorating. He would have spells where he couldn’t get his legs underneath him. In the last few days, he lost the ability to stand. Nothing breaks your heart more than coming through the door into the house and seeing your 15-year-old pup trying desperately to stand so he can meet you at the door as he did every single time. No matter whether you were gone all day, or just for 30 seconds to grab something out of the truck.
We had taken him to vet earlier in the week to see if it were possible we were missing something but we weren’t. His vet, Dr. Travis was more than amazing, in fact, he himself was choking back tears when during the exam he realized the point we had reached. Travis gave me some meds to help the Pup handle any pain if and when it came. My furball never lost his personality though and that Friday morning, when he woke up, he looked up and saw me and his tail started wagging to beat the band. He hadn’t been able to move anything below his chest for a few days by this point. It took me back. We spent the entire day together, going for rides in the truck and mainly just hanging out carrying him around, letting him check out everything. He loved to travel, if I had to guess I’d venture to say he spent well over 150,000 miles riding shotgun, sometimes watching the world go by but mostly just staring up at me until he got lulled to sleep.
On our last truck ride, as he lay stretched out across the bench seat, head resting on my thigh, I said to him, “Pup, we’ve been through so much together, if ever there was a time to just open your mouth and tell me what to do now would be it.”
A minute or two later his breathing changed and became labored and he started breathing through his mouth, I pointed us back towards the house.
As we spent the hours of Friday morning together, just me and him, I had started to notice some subtle signs that he might be hiding pain from me. When his breathing changed, I knew. I had known that he wouldn’t walk again, but he was happy and still being himself in all ways. Still eating and still wanting to be with his people. His breathing now told me he was in pain even through the meds, then when I listened I could hear something in his chest that told me that it was more than just the spine. He had been diagnosed with a fairly serious heart murmur a few years ago, just one of those things that is, always figured that would be how he would leave me. However in hearing his chest I realized it was time, my boy had just opened his mouth and told me. After that, he seemed to settle in and just relax but his breathing never calmed down. This was about noon. He stayed in my arms all afternoon as we wandered from room to room, inside to out. We shared an EPIC lamb bar, which he had been quite annoyed not to have found out about until the last couple of years. About 6 Travis got to the house. Lying in my arms, with his head on my chest, basking in the perfect orange light of the setting sun, Ruckas left us. It was only later that it dawned on me it was exactly 15 years to the day and hour from the first moment we met there in the St. Augustine Humane Society.
I say all this as a very long winded way of saying thank you. Thank you because the St. Augustine Humane Society made all this possible. I know Ruckas would have wanted me to make sure to say thank you for him as well, although he was probably too young to remember his time with you, the St. Augustine Humane Society altered the course of both of our lives in the best way imaginable. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Thank you.