Ruby

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

I have been a person who has had pets, mostly cats and dogs, for the better part of my life. Today I want to talk specifically about dogs. 

Dogs have cohabitated with man for thousands of years as companions, laborers and sometimes even babysitters for children. There is nothing more loyal to a human being than a dog.

Our dog Ruby (aka Ruby Chewbacca because of her thick brownish fur), whose tales have graced this page in the past, is a large (90 lb.) golden retriever, and by far the best dog I have ever had. Sorry Daphne, Sadie, Daisy, Amanda, Bowser and Lily, but Ruby is the most obedient and smartest dog I have ever known. In the five years we have had her, we have had to come up with new and unique way to convey the words “walk” and “ball” because she has learned all the variations of our spelling, abbreviating and making up fake words to mean ball and walk.

She is not brave by any stretch and hides behind me when we pass a person or another dog on a trail, but I have no doubt that she loves Matt and I, and even the cats, though she would never admit.

All these amazing qualities made it all the more difficult when our new vet told us that the lump on her side was not just a cyst, but a cancerous tumor. I had seen the bump previously. It was small, and I had removed a tick near the spot, so I thought it was just irritated. A few weeks later, I noticed a matted spot on her side, which turned out to be a tumor that had obviously grown quite rapidly and was oozing. We called the vet and made an appointment. I thought she would say it was an abscess or something of the like, but much to our surprise and dismay, she told us that the biopsy revealed that it was made up of cancerous cells. We set an appointment for surgery. 

The tumor, located on Ruby’s right shoulder, was expelled from her body and sent to be analyzed. We would have to wait nearly a week for the results. When we picked her up, she seemed pretty normal–happy to see us and none the worse for wear. She was sporting a five to six-inch incision that looked like it had been sutured by Dr. Frankenstein, himself. I could not help but think of a mad scientist that resembled Gene Wilder stitching her up with a Jacob’s ladder flickering in the background. 

Once we got home and the anesthesia wore off, it was clear Ruby was in pain, as she urinated all over herself. We got her when she was four, and she had never gone to the bathroom in the house before, ever.

Those first few days were rough as she had a couple of more accidents, and the healing wound began to itch. Matt dug out an old t-shirt festooned with wind towers and solar panels and advertising I-RENEW (Iowa Renewable Energy Association), we put it on her, and I tied a knot in the side, “Flashdance” style. With a look of disgust and maybe a little embarassment, she made her way outside to do her business. I swear she was looking around to see if any of the neighbor dogs spotted her in the new Irene Cara look. 

A few more days passed, and the t-shirt trick was no longer effective. Every chance she got, typically when we weren’t watching, she would scratch. My second line of defense, a long, purple, fair isle sock that I placed on her scratching foot. She lay in front of me and gave me a piercing stare for having the audacity to dress her in this manner. She looked so disgusted, in fact, that I took a picture and spread it all over social media, in true, 21st century fashion.

The biopsy came back, and Dr. Verbrugge said it was a non-aggressive form of cancer, and she felt the surgeon was able to remove it all. We were so relieved. 

A few days later when we went to get the stitches removed, the wound looked great and was almost fully healed. That is until she took the opportunity to scratch it while Matt was gone, and I was in the shower. I came out of the bathroom, and she had opened the wound. 

“Back to the shirt and sock,” I said, as I scolded her for, well, being a dog. 

She let out a groan, as she often does to express her dismay. Being the intelligent creature she is, she seemed to finally make the correlation between scratching and t-shirt, and that was the last time she needed it. 

She is completely back to her old self, now, incessantly fetching the tennis ball, begging for treats and giving the squirrels in the front yard a little chase. I feel like we dodged a bullet and we feel lucky to have more years with Ruby, the best dog I have ever known.

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