Ruthie has been a member of our family since before we were officially a family.
She was a rescue dog. Maria, her kids and I picked her out at the animal shelter in Crawfordsville, Ind., when she was about six months old. She had apparently run away from home and was in danger of being euthanized if nobody was willing to giver her a new home..
We walked up and down the aisle between the kennels, looking at the pathetic little faces. Then we came to Ruthie, who seemed to be grinning at us, as if to say, “Here I am. I’ve been waiting for you.”
I brought my laser pointer with me as a means of testing the various dogs for curiosity and playfulness. Most of them didn’t seem to notice the red dot, but Ruthie went completely nuts for it.
We put her on a leash and took her out for a walk and she bonded instantly with Austin and Morgan.
That was 12 years ago.
When Pete the Australian Shepherd puppy showed up four years ago, Ruthie grudgingly yielded the spotlight and took on the role of being his surrogate mother. He showed his apparent gratitude by never seriously challenging her for alpha dog status, but thanks to his herding instinct, Ruthie hasn’t been able to walk anywhere in a straight line since Pete showed up.
Now she can barely walk.
I’d noticed her favoring her right back leg on a couple of occasions over the last few days.
But this morning, when I opened the back door to let the dogs out to do their morning business, she struggled mightily but couldn’t stand up. I finally carried her out to the back yard and lifted her into a standing position, but she only took a few limping steps before she sat down again with a helpless look on her face.
I left both dogs in the back yard while I ran errands this morning and was relieved to see her and Pete standing at the gate when I drove up. But she was still hobbling badly.
I took her to the vet this afternoon and he determined she had snapped a ligament in her right rear knee. He said we have two choices:
- Have surgery to repair the torn ligament, which would restore her mobility completely and relieve the discomfort.
- Let it go and give her pain killers and vitamin supplements for the joint. He said she would probably seem to get better, but still limp. That is until the bones rubbing together created inflammation and an arthritic condition that would cripple her in about six months. At that point, surgery would be much more difficult, if not impossible.
Maria and I decided tonight that there really isn’t any choice. We have to give her the surgery. After all, she’s done a lot for us as a family. She humped my leg and my reaction convinced the kids that I was a dog person and could be trusted. She kept Austin company during a dark period in his life when he was struggling with the aftermath of his parents’ divorce. (Maria came home from work once when Austin was a grade school latchkey kid and found he had drawn a big black circle with a Magic Marker around one of Ruthie’s eyes, making her look like the dog in the Our Gang comedies. Ruthie thought it was great fun.)