Ruby didn’t care about 2 a.m.
Ruby didn’t care about 2 p.m.
Ruby just didn’t care.
She is a dog, in spite of her eyes that sometimes appeared human, ready and able to intuit Karen’s emotions. She liked to look right through her. Ruby knew Karen believed there was something special about her.
“Ruby our rescue dog from Tennessee. The best worst decision I ever made,” Karen said when asked about the black sheep of the family. Ruby knew someone else used to live here. When she first arrived she picked up a third scent. Now she only smells it after Bridget’s been gone a few days.
Ruby understood her vocation better than most. She arrived to fill a void. This mother and daughter were sad when they adopted her. Something about heart’s being broken, she heard Karen say when she paced around the house talking on the phone. Ruby was the healer of the broken heart, because of which she dutifully carried a playfully stubborn spirit that nudged Karen every day, reminding her:
- “Don’t forget to play today”
- “Be sure to laugh”
- “Don’t take yourself too seriously”
- “This too shall pass”
- “A walk with the dogs makes everything better”
and she knew that Karen listened and heard her. Karen’s voice would change and become high and sweet. Karen would walk through the house and round up the pack, responding directly to Cocoa’s yelps and cries.
- “Oh, you want to go for a walk, do you?”
- “Are you ready Cocoa?”
- “Should we go to the forest preserve?”
- “All right gals, what do you say? Panfish today or Glen Crest”
Cocoa would yelp, Chloe would sit still and position herself for the harness, and Ruby would dive in and out between the two, playing can’t catch me with Karen, whose voice would shift to stern after the fourth or fifth dive.
Ruby knew Karen was off today. Her voice was flat. Her movements slow. She quickly agreed with Bridget earlier in the day, when her daughter asked to cut the walk short. She was dressed and ready to go out somewhere, and instead of playing with Ruby for the five minutes typically required to coax her inside, she just hopped in the Forester and drove away.
Ruby was scared. What had she done? Karen never left her outside when she wasn’t home. Had Karen finally had enough of Ruby’s stubborn playfulness? Oh no, Ruby feared Karen would ship her back to Tennessee. Ruby knew when Karen made a decision, it was well thought out, and often final.
Unbeknownst to the mutt, Karen decided to forgo seeing Red Sparrow. She opted to finish Collateral on Netflix. She ran to Trader Joe’s and the cashier filled her brown paper bag with the basic food groups, milk, an olive baguette, a French white wine, brie, fresh mozzarella, a Tuscan red, and a pear.
Ruby saw the Subaru’s lights first. She backed away as Karen pulled the gate back and pulled the car into the garage. Karen didn’t appear upset, but she didn’t look happy to see Ruby either. She said hello to Ruby, asked her to come inside, and when Ruby motioned to play, Karen closed the basement walkout door and went inside.
This went on and on through the night. Karen said, “Ruby this is your last chance. I’m going to bed.” Ruby just stood there. Looking down at Karen from atop the concrete basement stairs. “Ok, goodnight” and she shut the door behind her. Karen went to bed. And Ruby sat outside the basement window. Envying Chloe and Cocoa who were asleep, comfortably curled up on the Pottery Barn couches that made the basement family room so cozy. Hours passed. It started to rain. The door opened. A futile attempt to whistle was made. Ruby ran. Ruby paused. Ruby apologetically walked down the stairs.
Karen grabbed an old beach towel and rubbed Ruby down. Mumbling sweet nothings and whispering sleep disturbed disappointments, Ruby heard Karen mention that its 4-30 in the morning, Ruby discerned that 4-30 was not a good number. Karen dried Ruby off and led the pup into her crate, then wished her goodnight.
What seemed like a lifetime later, Karen returned and let her out. And as Chloe and Cocoa ran out the basement door to relieve themselves, Ruby spread herself across the laundry room floor quietly begging for a tummy rub. Karen said “Good morning Ruby” and ran her hand up and down the pup’s white belly. She patted her belly and with two big final thumps and said, “No more 4-30s Ruby.”
And with that, Ruby ran outside. Moments later Ruby returned when Karen opened the door and called the pack inside for their breakfast. Ruby complied and went inside. Karen smiled, rubbed Cocoa and Ruby’s heads, and then walked upstairs to get her coffee.
Ruby’s frantic thoughts of being shipped to Tennessee dissipated. In spite of her own stubbornness, Ruby knew that Karen still loved her.