A few months after I adopted Ruby, I went to a concert on Halloween night. Denver is lucky to be the hometown of the wonderful gypsy-rock ensemble, Devotchka, probably best known for the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. They put on a fantastic show as always, with the band members decked out like skeleton Cossacks. Their final number was a Beatles cover...of "Ruby Tuesday!" I was delighted; feeling like it was a special little nod to my new girl. I grinned and sang along, swaying in my scarecrow-rabbit hybrid costume, thinking to myself "of all the songs!" I decided to devote Tuesdays here to the State of the Ruby, general updates about what we've been up to and what we've got in the wings.
Yesterday marked six months since Ruby and I drove home in a tremendous summer thunderstorm from her foster family's house. We've settled in to a fairly comfortable routine, one I'll be outlining for my father later in the week when my boyfriend and I leave for a long weekend in southern California. We are meeting my two best college friends and one of their husbands, staying right on the beach, and I'm looking forward to a fun and relaxing time. It helps to know that Ruby will be in her own home with a family member she knows well. My dad would never admit to being much of a dog person, but he was devastated by the loss of our family dog, Scout, last year, and he loves Ruby. The last time he visited he proclaimed that Ruby was the smartest dog he's ever known, "the complete package." He's aware of her reactivity issues and I trust him to practice avoidance strategies while walking her. I don't expect anyone else to pick up my training routine, which is one reason I decided to cease Ruby's walks with the dog walker - she just visits for a potty break and play session now. I think every dog does better when it knows what to expect, and this is even more important for a reactive dog. It took some time to iron out our schedule, since doggy daycare did not work out (and in fact I suspect it contributed to our problems) and walks are more challenging than I anticipated, but Ruby and I have both adjusted well. Here's what our regular days look like:
I have every other Friday off, so I alternate between a four- and five- day work week. We wake up around 6 a.m., and Ruby is a very reliable alarm clock. She goes out for a potty break and eats breakfast. In the mornings she eats high-quality canned food, and gets a cookie for cleaning her plate. The kitty eats breakfast, laced with her thyroid medication, and any leftovers are placed on the floor in the living room so she has access to it when I close the dog gate between it and the kitchen, where Ruby spends the day. I sometimes leave Ruby's Through A Dog's Ear CD playing on repeat, and she has two comfy beds and a Kong Genius toy filled with treats. The dog visitor comes twice a week, and I have given her a list of all of Ruby's commands that they can work on. I go home at lunch on the other days, and take Ruby for short walk around my townhome complex.
In the evenings Ruby and I go for another walk - they are shorter now because it's already dark by the time I get home. Sometimes we go to the nearby light-rail station to watch the people go by and practice Calming Ovals* in the parking lot, or just a more leisurely sniffabout on rabbit trails. It's so cold that I'm doing less formal on-leash training - it's just too hard to juggle treats, clicker, gloves, and a leash. Ruby's getting to be a real pro at her auto-sits when I stop, but I don't expect her to plonk her bottom down on the freezing cold concrete or snowy ground, so we are keeping things pretty casual until it starts to warm up.
After our evening walk, Ruby has "interactive dinner." This can be anything from kibble in a Nina Ottosson Treat Maze, working on tricks, or doing a Relaxation Protocol session. Dinner is followed by a game of fetch or tug, sometimes both! The rest of the night Ruby will play with toys, beg for my dinner, and maybe have a bully stick or sweet potato chew. She knows when it is time to go to call it a night, and readily accepts her boost on to my bed (although she can jump plenty high, the bedroom floor is slippery and offers her no traction).
Our weekend routine is not terribly different than the work days, except there are longer walks, more training, more playing, and sometimes I get to sleep in until 7:30! Ruby likes to follow me around while I do chores (except for vacuuming, during which I put her on the patio), play fetch down the stairs, and steal socks if the opportunity arises. She likes to recline on the back of the sofa and watch the rabbits and squirrels out the living room window. She has gotten better about people walking by, and I try to have treats on hand to reward non-reactive people-watching. She will still get worked into a frenzy when dogs go by, and when this happens I will divert her into the kitchen and close the curtains. I try to keep my outings relatively short, and some weekends we travel to my aunt's or friend's houses and have bigger adventures. We both really enjoy the extra time together, and I'm always wistful when the weekend draws to a close.
I know I'm going to miss Ruby tremendously while on vacation, but I'm confident that she's in safe hands and am really looking forward to some sun and sand - the forecast high for Denver tomorrow is only four degrees! I think extended tug-o-war sessions are going to have to make up for abbreviated walks these next few days...
* This is a technique that I learned from a private training session after we dropped out of group obedience class. I wasn't able to track down a very good explanation online, but essentially you walk in fast ovals with the dog at your side (on the outside). I'm finding that it helps with heeling and shifting focus.