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Ru the Chihuahua

Back in the summer of 2010, I was planning to get a second dog. It was going to be another heeler or heeler mix, blue this time, and maybe a little smaller than Brisbane. It was also going to be a girl.
Photo by Erin Koski

Then I went with my then-husband to his family reunion on the almond farm up in northern California. The family calls this almond farm a "ranch" for reasons I'm not totally clear on, since I've always thought of ranching as turning a bunch of things loose to do whatever is it they do and then rounding them up again later. The family also consistently refers to almonds as "a-monds", presumably so they can always be ready to make the "you harvest 'em by shaking the 'L' out of 'em" joke...or something. You'd think the gag would have gotten old by now...

Anyway, whilst trying to make friends with the barn cats, I found an itty bitty little dog. The first thing he did was bark at me, so I crouched down and held me arms out and called "Come here puppy!" and he came flying to me. He still had all his baby teeth, so he couldn't have been more than three or four months old. After asking the relatives who owned the place, we discovered that this 4-pound dog belonged to the children of the farmhands. Those same farmhands had just packed up and left for a long weekend, leaving this bite-sized dog to fend for himself with no food or water. It was 105 degrees most days. My husband's aunt informed us that this was an "outside dog". I pointed out the coyote poop on the porch and brought him inside for the night.

Photo by Erin Koski
Ru followed me around nonstop for the entire three days we were at the a-mond ranch, patiently waiting outside for me whenever I went indoors. The morning we were scheduled to leave, the farmhand family returned. It seemed pretty clear that the parents had been hoping the little dog had been dispatched by coyotes, and when I asked their kids if I could take the dog home with me they consented.

We brought Ru home with the resolve that he was going to be a Real Dog and not a foo-foo Winnie the Pooh dog. I put him in a crate for the night, he shivered so badly that I relented and let him sleep in bed with us. He was so cold in anything less than 75 degree weather, so I made and then bought clothes for him.
Photo by Erin Koski

Originally I planned to do obedience and agility with Ru. Unfortunately, indoor dog training facilities don't exist here on the coast of sunny California, and most classes are in the morning or evening. Ru can't stand cold grass and shivers uncontrollably even with a sweater when forced to stand still between exercises. He would quit after fifteen minutes of class and could not be convinced that tunnels and jumps were more fun than being inside my jacket.

So Ru is a spoiled baby. I dye him pink paint his toenails and dress him in something different every day. I like to think that every dog I work with will teach me something new, but with Ru I mostly seem to be learning how to knit really tiny sweaters. I also make him wear dresses because dammit, I wanted a girl dog! Ru doesn't mind. He likes being pretty.

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