When you live on acreage, you eventually find yourself with a number of animals. Some of them, like the goats, are eminently useful, providing milk for the tea and cheesemaking. Others, like the cats, are potentially useful, achieving great heights by leaving headless mouse bodies scattered about the property, and faltering when they stare at you, balefully, from the porch chair, where they rest, hour after hour after hour after hour.
There is one animal in our lives, however, that appears to have no use, function, purpose, or potential at all, and this is Ruby the Chihuahua/Dachshund blend, a three-pound composite of quivering sinew that barks at all of our friends, terrorizes the chickens, and dominates the food dish from the larger, real dog (That Damn Dog) who stands to the side, bewildered as to how something so tiny can wield so much power.
Neither the Norwegian Artist nor I are particularly fond of small, small dogs, reasoning that the micro-hybridization process that it takes to create them resulted in a number of less-than-desireable qualities being dumped into their gene pool: they are nervous, shaky, snappy, insecure, demanding, noisy, and destructive. This roster of qualities is not necessarily what a rational person looks for in the family dog.
Teenagers, however, are not rational persons, and when the College Girl was the High School Girl, she somehow — either through her winsome smile or blithe persistence — managed to convince the Norwegian Artist and me that a small dog would be a positive addition to the farmette.
(Yes, there is a theme here: the High School Girl was also responsible for Roxy, That Damn Dog; Mia the Too-Intelligent-Siamese who knows how to open, but not close, the front door; Cappuccino, the Slash and Dash Alley Bat Cat; and Georgianna, the White Rat of Eternal Life — if she hadn’t transitioned from High School Girl to College Girl, the Norwegian Artist would have had to build an addition to the house, simply so we would have someplace to live.)
But we were talking about Ruby.
Pretty much anything, in its infancy stage, is cute — the Son and Heir posted a photo of a baby tapir (it looks like an oversized rat with a long nose, something that College Girl would bring into the household) to my computer screen saver and, admittedly, the thing is cute in a homely fashion — and Ruby, as a pup the size of a teacup, was cute.
But as she grew and burgeoned in size to a package of English muffins, her cuteness was dimished by her personality, which is small, very small, indeed.
She burrows. She secretes food scraps in odd places. She has scratched both entry doors with her sharp, curved talons. She is greasy and angular. She snuggles, aggressively; from the standpoint of the human being, this feels like sitting with the picked-over carcass of a roasted chicken. She smells like a little dog. She yips, snarls, whines, and moans. I will forgo mentioning the 3-year-long process of housebreaking her and the surprise piles, which were not Tootsie Rolls but certainly resembled them, that she desposited in every room, in every corner, and behind every piece of furniture.
High School girl promised that, when she became College Girl, she would take Ruby away, but we, knowing the peculiar rules of university dormitories, looked at one another an sighed.
This academic year, College Girl secured an apartment, the rules of which are chillingly similar to dorm rooms.
“I’ll get a house next year,” College Girl promises. Uh huh.
Somewhere in the back of my mind is the vague notion that small dogs live longer — much, much longer — than large dogs. Our Lab, Brandy, gave us 14 happy, obedient years before she curled up to sleep forever one night. Does this mean that, when the Norwegian Artist and I are sipping strong Greek coffee outside our whitewashed Mediterranean rental — 20 years from now — a small, cranky, decrepit, white-muzzled Ruby will be trembling between us, fixing us with those liquidy brown, cataract-encrusted, doleful eyes? (And where will College Girl — by then Personal Trainer Girl — be then? And what kind of stipulations will her housing situation have against pets?)
Despite our collective animus toward Ruby, however, a most alarming thing is happening: we are all, if not actively falling in love and fawning over her (there is a dignity issue here, after all), beginning to tolerate, and, dare I push it, in the initial stages of somewhat, remotely, expressing initial feelings of moderate, preliminary like toward her.
This has got to stop.
They truly have a way of weaseling their teeny tiny way into our hearts…no matter just how much we reject it, sooner or later it happens and you wonder “HOW?!” I have to tell you, just by her portrait, I have fallen head over heels. This tells me that the artist behind the brush has also fallen, or he would not have been able to portray that adorable little bundle in the frame with the oozey cuteness captured. Love is a many splendored thing!
I will make sure to tell the Norwegian Artist that there is another female in his life.
I am glad that you enjoy the portrait and the story. Someday, you will have to meet the indescribable Ruby.
I had the same comment about the painting being revelatory. Seems that to be able to paint a beautiful yet honest painting of even a creature that you so vividly described, you have to force yourself to see something lovely even in that animal.
Perhaps for you as a family, this very gradual waming-up process is a coping mechanism 🙂
Coping mechanism — not so off the mark.
Although we will never dote and drool over a small, shaky dog, we very much recognize that she is an animal who simply wants to be safe, fed, and loved. We look at one another and say, “Look how we are learning to adjust and be flexible, thanks to Ruby.”
All the same, I do so look forward to the day when I pick out the dog that I want — a Cairn or Scottish Terrier — who has been named Timothy Elliot since I first conceived the concept of owning a pet of my choice, and who will someday be brought into the fold. I only hope that he turns out to be as wonderful of a dog as I am dreaming that he will be!
Funny how the kids grow up and move away – and ‘can’t’ take their pets with them! When our four children had all vacated the nest, we were left with 2 cats, a dog, and a Jersey steer. The cats and dog managed to live out their lives, but we finally shipped the 14yr-old steer to Ohio to live on a farm close to Daughter #1.
A Jersey STEER? I will tell the Norwegian Artist immediately, and perhaps he won’t feel so irritated about Georgianna, the Rat of Eternal Life. I am glad that you were able to find it a good home, far from yours!