|Let's start with those ears...|
Ruby has a new dog walker that we're both very happy with. They've been going on mini-walks around my complex and running through her tricks. The notes that I've received on her wipe-board or in email updates include "wonder dog," "smart cookie" and "very impressive." She is all of those things and sometimes I feel Ruby is too cool for me. Even my father, who would not call himself a dog person, says that Ruby is the smartest dog he's ever met, and we have had some truly bright family dogs.
Does her brilliance have anything to do with her reactivity and vice versa? I believe that it does. Herding dogs, well-known to be among some of the most intelligent, are also fairly prone to reactivity. She notices and remembers everything, and while this can mean she spots every dog in the distance and makes our walks challenging, it also means she learns very quickly and understands things with a depth that is astonishing to me sometimes. As someone who considers herself somewhat of an intellectual, I admire and appreciate Ruby's intelligence. I could see it in her eyes when I was looking for potential dogs to adopt - I was riveted. I still am.
I also adore how playful she is. When I get home the first thing she does is scamper off to get one of her toys - usually her Kong Genius or her yellow Kyjen squirrel. We never skip at least one daily tug session. One of her greatest joys is stealing a sock from the laundry and leading me on a merry chase through the house with it. I suppose this could be considered misbehavior, and I'll admit if I'm in a rush or I've already rescued four or five socks from her jaws, I'm not always an enthusiastic playmate, but her undeniable glee prevents me from denying her thieving romp.
Her attentiveness adds a richness to our relationship that I haven't experienced before with a dog. She nearly always follows me from room to room, appears to listen intently to everything I say, and wants to be involved in whatever is happening. Even when there are other dogs or people around, it's clear that she doesn't want to be far away from me for long. When she chooses to snuggle up against my leg while I'm reading or curl up at my feet while I'm writing, even when she wants to chew her stinky catfish skin on my lap, I feel lucky and loved.
Because she is so sensitive, I have to be aware and accountable for every interaction with her. I can't be lazy, I can't be impatient. I have to look beyond momentary frustration and reach for the enduring good - the grace - as described by My Imperfect Dog. She requires me to think harder, try again, and question motivations. I've been inspired to learn more about dogs and their behavior in these eight months with Ruby than in my previous lifetime with them. Ruby helps me strive to be my best self, and that may be what I love about her most of all.