A couple of days ago I promised a funny story about Ruby. So, I am taking the opportunity of a “photographer’s choice” assignment for the Photohunt Theme to show and tell.
First, a bit of background. Ruby is a retriever, through and through. She also has a finely developed sense of responsibility, and an amazing ability to focus. Sometimes she can get a little too focused.
I have taken her to the river on numerous occasions, where she likes nothing better than to have someone, anyone, hurl a stick into the water, which she, with joyous abandon, brings back.
One time a friend of ours, who had been throwing sticks into the water for the best part of an hour, thought to test her abilities. He threw a small tree in the river for her to retrieve. It was a good 20 feet long and about 4 inches in diameter at the base. It was a struggle, but she got it back to shore. She didn’t act real anxious to have that one thrown again, however.
Ruby is a very smart dog, but not smart enough to grasp the difference between a rock and a stick. I love to skip rocks, and when Ruby sees the splash of a flat pebble as it skips across the surface of the water, her retriever brain translates that into “Something that Needs to be Retrieved” and she will go kiting off to find it and bring it back. As you and I both know, a pebble will sink once it is done skipping, but apparently Ruby has not made this connection. She obsesses. She swims back and forth, emitting little eager barks which change to distressed whines when she cannot find the item that I have thrown in the water. It is bad, to the point that she cannot hear me recall her. I have learned that the only way to cure her obsessive search is to throw something that floats so she can achieve nirvana (or whatever) and proudly bring it back to me.
So. Our usual walk is 3.5 miles around the paths of the Coleman Memorial Conservation area in our fair city. If you clicked the link, you saw a map of the layout, and right in the middle is a pond. This pond:
Sometimes it is frozen. Of course.
Now, another bit of background. When we go for our walks, after maybe a half mile Ruby will find “The Stick of The Day.” This is a stick which she will carry for the entire walk, occasionally bringing it to me so I can hurl it off into the distance so she can bring it back. I am not sure what criterion she uses for her choice, because sometimes it is a limb over six feet long, sometimes it is a small chunk of bark, and sometimes a twig. Small things are harder to hurl, for some reason, and they break up, too, so usually she tends toward the large.
The Stick of The Day is prized, and if I throw it off into the field she will hunt for it until she finds it. No other stick will do, it must be The Stick. I have learned that if I “lose” The Stick, the game is over for the day, because that was The Stick and she doesn’t want another one. I admit to occasionally cruelly throwing The Stick up into the forest canopy where it will stay in a tree top once I have become tired of the game. She, apparently, is inexhaustible and I am not.
Earlier this year, it was cold enough that the pond developed a covering of ice. It wasn’t thick enough to walk on, but it made a lovely view. After it froze, we had a big wind storm and a couple of dead limbs were blown off a tree along the shore. They landed on the ice about twenty feet off the shore. During the course of our walks the past week after the wind storm, I have noticed her eyeing that stick that was out on the ice as we walked by. I would tell her that she couldn’t have that one, that we needed to walk on. Every day, her interest in the stick grew, until four days ago, when she suddenly became obsessed by it.
The weather had warmed, and the ice on the pond was only a centimeter and a half thick, not strong enough to support her weight. But that didn’t matter. She approached the pond edge, and began to step onto the ice. Of course, it broke, and so she was toe deep in water. Well, Ruby is a Labrador Retriever, a water dog, and water holds no terrors for her. She continue to step onto the ice, it continued to break, until she was chest deep in the water. The ice edge was in her way, and the deeper water was making it difficult for her to jump up on it and break it. She would bite at the ice edge. Go back on shore. Break another area. All the time she was whining, barking, yipping, obsessing about that stick that was out of reach. A couple of times she picked up a chunk of ice and took it to shore so it would be out of her way.
And she was deaf to me. By gum, she was going to get that stick. I finally had to leash her to continue the walk. When we looped back around to the pond, she went at it again. Eventually I prevailed (leash again) and we went on home.
The weather continued warm, and the next day we again went for our walk. As soon as we were within a tenth of a mile from that pond, she raced ahead. When I arrived, she was obsessing about that stick. Again.
Once more, I leashed her so we could walk on. But when we looped back at the end of our walk, the stick was still there and so was her fixation. This time, the ice was much thinner and I was not concerned about her getting trapped under it and drowning. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I bided my time, and eventually, after much fussing and fuming and agitating, she was able to break her way out to where the stick was and bring it back.
She was so proud of that stick, she carried it all the way back to the vehicle. Catering to her just a little, I put it in the truck bed and transported it home for her.
I don’t know if you can tell, but in that shot she is totally soaked. Apparently, the stick was too long and needed to be truncated for maximum play satisfaction.
The stick is in the place of honor by her dog house on my back porch.
Now, go visit the other photohunters. This week is sure to be interesting.