“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach and far from being burdened by an inability to speak they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear, to look into more than past.”
― Nick Trout, Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles
I’ve learned over the past few months how much I didn’t know about dogs–it is yet another example of not knowing what I didn’t know.
I’ve also been blessed by meeting several people who’ve helped me through the illness of my Ruby. Their kindness, knowledge, guidance, and support as I waited for the genetic confirmation of her illness is something I will always remember.
As a tribute to my precious Tibetan Terrier, I want to spend time sharing Ruby’s story and the lessons she taught me. By doing this I hope I can help anyone who’s thinking about adding a dog to their household.
It didn’t take me long to figure out even after having dogs most of my adult life, I’d shortened some preparatory steps or side stepped some entirely.
Ruby taught me that it is very important to do breed research.
We’d had Lhasa Apso dogs for many years and I anticipated Ruby to be just a big Lhasa. I quickly skimmed the breed description and saw that the Tibetan Terrier (TT) and the Lhasa do have similar characteristics. For me at that time, I felt that was all I needed to know. I was ready to forge ahead.
I did not investigate any health issues this breed may have or may be prone to develop. I did not know the hereditary diseases breeders are supposed to screen their dogs for before they breed them nor did not know the screening breeders are supposed to do on the puppies before selling them.
Ruby taught me to dig deep when doing breeder research.
Breeders have become very sophisticated in how they present themselves. I did not know breeders can make themselves look very reputable when they are not. The biggest mistake we made was becoming obsessed with finding a puppy. There were no puppies available in our area so we broadened our search area. Finding a puppy became the focus. We had no idea how critical a good breeder is to the whole process. We ignored many read flags because we wanted a puppy.
Ruby taught me to visit the kennel and see that environment before making any decision.
We found Ruby on the internet. The pictures of her and her litter mates showed beautiful, healthy looking puppies. The breeder’s website told us about her kennel and the history of her champion dogs. She had published reviews praising her business, the beauty of her dogs, and how happy each owner was with their entire experience. We could not find a negative review.
Ruby taught me to listen to my gut.
For a very long time Ruby tried to tell me something was not right–my gut agreed but my heart told me to let it pass.
- Be patient. Learn before so you aren’t surprised later.
- Don’t rush. Make that life long commitment slowly and seriously. I’ve had people tell me the dog will find you. In a very clumsy way, I do believe things happened exactly as they were supposed to–Ruby really did find us. I would not change having her in my life–my only wish would be for a much different outcome.
- If you have not seen the puppy in person and seen where the puppy was raised, pass on the deal. I have heard breeders are showing their puppies in rented places so the buyer does not see their actual kennels. Be wary.
- Go to The American Kennel Club, http://akc.org, for general breed information, general trading education, reputable breeders listed by state, and links to other websites for more specific information.
- Go to The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, http://ofa.org, for breed specific health information. This foundation also has genetic registry that has history for each reported genetic disorder in individual dogs in an effort to stop breeders from using these affected dogs in their breeding stock.
- Check out social media for owner’s groups. You will find out a lot of information shared by other dog owners. This type is unfiltered information is incredibly valuable. Thanks to this network of loving people, I have some great things to share in upcoming stories.
- If your gut tells you something is wrong, believe it. The genetic disorder Ruby had, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis or NCL, is not very well known. I learned about it only after I reached out for help from other TT owners.
“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
― Irving Townsend