I got Ruby to be a friend to Timmy. I had always wanted to
get him a small, flat black dog and name it Lassie. When I
saw her, she was this sort of feral thing that was at the
Santa Cruz Animal Shelter. I was thinking chihuahua? jack
russell? I asked my friend Charlie, is it a bad thing to get
a jack russell that's feral? She thought it sounded like a
great idea and I brought her home. She was probably something
like 6-8 months old.
Things were odd from the start. Clearly she didn't know about
houses. She was able to get her 13" high dog body to
the top of the refrigerator for food. Leap to the counter
and steal a piece of pizza as it was removed from the box
to a plate. She was agressive towards other dogs and faster
than blazes. At home, she had a weird habit of gathering up
all the dog toys, putting them in a laundry basket and sleeping
Right away, I put her in a training class. It was traditional
yanky yank obedience with a choke collar, which didn't seem
right for her. I stuck it out, got her heeling in little figure
8's and kept her away from the brutal claws of the teacher.
She didn't want to lay down in the class. The teacher wanted
to yankety yank her down. I taught her to down using positive
reinforcement training, which I didn't know what it was but
was how I had always taught my dogs. You go down, I give you
a treat. They did have a tunnel there, and someone told me
I went to Just for Fun Agility in a tiny agility yard and
this changed our lives. We learned about clicker training,
and Ruby had something to do that kept her occupied and was
able to learn to be near other dogs, and get tired enough
to not be insane at the house.
Her weird streak is still there. She is a worrier, and concerned
about everything. She allows not a single error from her agility
handler. It took her years to be able to sit comfortably at
the starting gate at a dog show. Loud noises like fireworks
and trains make her lose her mind. Flies in the house are
the worst-it is like the witches seep into her brain and make
her go crazy until she can hide under a bed in a corner and
shake it off. She's an aloof dog, sometimes she wants to be
with people, sometimes not. She is a great ranch dog to have
around the horses, and never leaves my side when we hike in
Had I been a better trainer, and if Ruby didn't have so many
ailments, she would have been a world class agility dog-I'm
sure of it. But she was my first dog and I made a lot of mistakes.
She was few legs short of her ADCh in 16" when I moved
her down to Performance because of a lot of soundness issues
that, for a while, were erased at a lower jump height. Ruby then retired a few legs short of her PDCh when her eyesight really started to fail and she couldn't keep the bars up.
Ruby is almost 17 years old and is definitely the best dog. We call her Sister
Mary Ruby. The fact that Ruby turns into this, blows my mind
on a daily basis. I gotta say. Every dog is special. Especially
mine. But this is one REALLY SPECIAL dog. Long may you run, Ruby.