We walked down the corridor in the shelter for the second time.
“Look at this one,” my friend curiously remarked.
She was the only dog not barking.
We stopped to look, which is all I had planned on doing that day.
“Oh,” my friend added. “Her name is Ruthie. How sweet.”
What an odd name for a dog, I thought to myself.
Most dogs have exotic or quirky and whimsical names these days, it seems, but Ruthie is such a simple name, you know?
She put her paw up against the cage. I touched it and so did my friend.
“She has puppy paws!” my friend exclaimed excitedly.
My friend, Tiffany, was a dog whisperer in her own way. Actually, she was more like a dog’s angel. I was never sure whose side she was on when it came to her helping people and their beloved pets, a career which she had temporarily chosen.
“What do you mean puppy paws?” I asked.
“They’re soft! Touch them,” Tiffany answered.
I’m pretty sure Ruthie became my dog the second I touched her paw and it was unusually soft!
“You should change her name,” the little boy who lived across the street from us told me the first day I took Ruthie out for a walk.
“Yeah!” agreed his young playmates.
“To what?” I asked, but none had an answer.
The children walked closer to us. They tried petting Ruthie, but she became frightened by the youngest one.
She had been adopted for two weeks and returned to the shelter before I met her. The shelter staff said the family had a toddler who was allergic to her. That’s all they could tell me about her past.
Ruthie was indeed shedding a lot, but my gut told me it was from stress. I was right too.
After several days of living with me, she started to shine and I discovered, I had the softest dog in the world! Everyone said so too.
I didn’t yet know she is also the sweetest, but I tell you, there isn’t one any sweeter than Ruthie is.
For the first few days of our lives together, her name came up for consideration. Mostly because people remarked on how it wasn’t snazzy enough.
I forgot who it was, but somebody suggested that I read from the Book of Ruth in the Christian Bible.
“In Ruth 1:16 and 17 Ruth tells Naomi, her Israelite mother in law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (SOURCE: Wikipedia).
I read the story and I knew my girl had the perfect name.
Ruth was loyal to Naomi, even after her husband, Naomi’s son, died. Naomi had lost her husband and later lost her other son, leaving her widowed and without children.
According to the law of the land, Ruth could have left for a better life, but instead she chose to stay with Naomi. She married again and gave Naomi a grandson.
How could I think of changing little Ruthie’s name after reading that! I had been given a gift, I believed.
In the spirit of dogs and the love they give, my gift was a new dog.
I needed rescuing and I fully embraced the love from my new four-legged friend who had come to save my life.
After taking Ruthie to the dog store to show her off and buy a pretty new collar, we went home and I looked over her papers from the shelter.
I was surprised to see that Ruthie’s overall grade was an A-.
How could such a sweet loving dog not get an A, I wondered, so I read on.
“Ruthie pulls back when people lean in toward her,” the report read.
To get an A, a dog must also lean in when strange humans try to pet them, which I found curious. I mean, if I had been abused, and I could tell that Ruthie had, then I wouldn’t lean in when strangers come toward me either.
I knew I had a smart dog!
Without Ruthie Mae, I may not be alive today.
Ruthie didn’t save me from a burning building. I’m not blind. I have both legs, which I’m grateful for, and both arms too. I am not in a wheelchair.
I am disabled by illnesses most people can’t see with their eyes.
These illnesses have changed my life, and me. I spend more time alone than I did before I got sick.
I’ve also experienced significant loss of connection and sense of belonging, both in community and family, as a direct result of disability. I lost my career and many people have judged me for what they can’t see or understand.
Ruthie is my medical companion animal. She’s officially an emotional support dog.
Ruthie gets me outside.
She helps me want to keep going when chronic illness takes away my hope.
Ruthie is a teacher, like all dogs, I believe. She shows me what love looks like.
She teaches me compassion, tenderness and acceptance.
It’s hard to put into words what all Ruthie means to me and how she helps me live.
Ruthie Mae’s love and companionship is always there for me. No matter how sick I get, she loves me. I don’t have to put on a well face for Ruthie.
Just yesterday, I was sad. Ruthie jumped up on the bed and put her little paws across my ankles. She gently laid her head on my leg.
“You really are the sweetest dog in the world,” I told her. The tears stopped and I couldn’t help but take joy from the love I felt.
I thought about the kind of life she could have had if she had been adopted by a healthier person and one who has more money than I do. I imagined her running in an open field of grass with her pack. Then, I remembered the story of Ruth.
Perhaps if Ruthie could choose, I imagined, she might choose me over anyone else, no matter what they had to offer her.
One thing I know. I am loved.
Ruthie Mae’s Human Mom,
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This post is a follow up from the most recent one, “Help the Sweetest Dog in the World.”
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