Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Beginning of Ruby

Lesson Number One: There Is Such A Thing As Love At First Sight

We drove to the farm in Chesapeake, about fifteen minutes away from home, and promptly got lost on the country roads in the area. My impatience was annoying to both of us, and we finally stopped at a gas station so I could call the farmer for directions. He sounded as edgy as I, and after a quick turnaround, we finally made it to our destination.

The farmer welcomed us into his home and led us to a family room. I don’t remember much about the farmer himself other than his general gruffness, but he was friendly. We sat down, Jim on a chair and I on the floor, and waited with intense anticipation for him to bring this little girl to us. Suddenly there was a little scurry of activity, and we saw her. She was small, full of energy, and had floppy ears that were cuter than description. Her clumsily large paws seemed to indicate at first glance that she would grow to be a good-sized dog. She ran to us immediately, and I felt her softness for the first time. As I looked her over, I noticed first that although she was a tri-color beagle, she had unusual tiny black spots of fur mixed in with the white parts of her, similar to a Dalmatian. I said, “You said she’s all Beagle, right?” The farmer explained that she was indeed a pure bred Beagle, and that her distinctive markings were called “blue-ticking”, which was a sign of good ancestry. I didn’t know anything about it, but was satisfied with his answer. Then I noticed one of her most distinctive marks: just above her eyes on the top of her head was an oval-shaped spot of black fur. It looked positively regal…like a jewel? I felt a surge in my heart that told me we would not be leaving empty-handed.

I spent a few minutes playing with her on the floor as I asked the farmer several questions. There was one question I needed to ask which had deal-breaker potential written all over it, but I couldn’t leave without knowing. “Why is she the only puppy left from the litter? It’s unusual to see an ad in the paper for the last puppy left.” We were surprised to learn that she had been purchased by another family, but then returned. I began to worry, but continued my probe. “Why?” The answer resonated in my head for years after that night, and makes me smile every time I think about it. The farmer sat back in his chair and said, “Stupid city folks. They thought she came housebroken already.” We laughed at the silliness but after all these years we are so grateful to those “stupid city folks” for making it possible for us to take over.

The final test was yet to come: I had to convince Jim that this dog was for us. I looked over at him as he watched this funny little puppy play on the floor in front of him. He was trying to be the calm one, the reasonable one. He slowly leaned down and snapped his fingers to get the puppy’s attention. She bounded over to him immediately and he scooped her up in his arms. She nuzzled in his neck and licked his face, and as I sat there with my fingers crossed behind my back, willing some kind of chemistry to happen, the puppy did the “work” herself. Jim’s mouth widened into a smile, and as he looked down at me I knew I wouldn’t need to say any more. I raised my eyebrows, and he nodded. It was a done deal.

Click here for part 2!