Our son, Ian, was in his senior year of High School. One the requirements for him to graduate, was 40 hours of community service. He came home from school with a list of things he could do. All of which, were things that I would have to be involved in too. So I looked down the list, and saw that he could volunteer with the animal rescue organization. And we are animal lovers, so this seemed to be something we would enjoy doing.
I called Ruffhouse Rescue, and we drove to their facility – which is actually the woman’s home up in the hills. It was a dark and foggy night, that Kessa and I drove up the winding road to pick up Ian’s foster kitten. Both my girls just loved cats, and I feared bringing a dog into our home at that time, because we already had two dogs and I didn’t want there to be any territorial issues…
So this funny little longhaired grey kitten came to stay with us for a week. We called him Max, after the ferocious little boy from “Where the Wild Things are”. Max would stand on his hind legs and growl at us, and swat the air with his large paws and pretend to be so bold. And then the kids would say “boo” and he would run off and hide, peeking out at us! We had a great week with Max.
On Saturday, we took him up to PetSmart, where the adoptions were taking place. As we put Max into the cage with the other kittens, I noticed this scruffy little white dog… He was being led to a cage on his leash, and the girl with him removed his leash and placed him into the cage, and then laid the leash on top of his cage. This little dog looked around at all the people, and then put his paw through the wires on top and started trying to get that leash. He spent quite awhile reaching for it, finagling it until it was finally pulled through the wire. Then he stood up on his hind legs, and pulled that leash through with his teeth. And for the rest of the day, he sat there quietly with that leash in his mouth, as if he was trying to say, “Hey, I have my leash and I’m ready to go!”
Max got adopted, and found his forever home that day. But Ian still needed more community service hours. And there were no more kittens available for us to take home. I looked back over at that little white dog, and he was still sitting there with his leash in his mouth. I knew in that instant I was going to bring him home, and that it would be a big mistake. Because that little dog was smart! He was just the kind of dog that my family was going to fall in love with, and I knew if I took him home he would be staying forever. And I was right!
We brought him home, and everyone was surprised to see us with a dog. I told my husband “you are really going to hate me, because you are really going to love this dog!” He looked up from his computer at me, and then looked at this little dog and said “What, him? He’s just an ugly scruffy mutt.” Then Archie jumped up onto Paul’s lap, and snuggled his head under Paul’s chin, and sat there with his head pressed against Paul’s chest. “I think he’s actually snuggling me,” Paul said, as he started to pet Archie. Then Archie looked up at Paul with his big soft brown eyes ( you know, just like puss-in-boots, from Shrek? ), and gave him a kiss on his cheek. And Paul fell instantly for this wonderful, scruffy mutt!
And, this little dog immediately won the hearts of all my children! His personality was so big – his intelligence almost human. Archie learned the first time he was shown, how to ring the bells that hang on the back door to let us know he needed to go outside. He knew how to play fetch. He knew the difference between his toys, and the children’s, and never once did he chew anything that belonged to them! He accepted all the children who were always here, as part of his family. He didn’t seem to understand that they didn’t ‘live’ here, and became very sad when they would leave. From that first day, he slipped right in to being a member of our family! Enjoying the chaos of so many children playing rock band in the living room, and the noisy happy chatter of so many eating dinner together.
Archie officially came home with us that Saturday, two weeks before Christmas. Three days later, the kids all sat in the living room trying to figure out how to come up with the money to keep him, all of them afraid that if they couldn’t raise the money by Saturday and he had to go to the adoption event they would loose him – and at the same time, trying to figure out how to get dad to say “yes”…
Getting dad to say yes was actually the easy part. Dad had already fallen for this smart, sweet mutt. My three kids started dragging out things they could do without, and asked me if I would do a garage sale on Friday. Ian’s friend Brandon (who practically lived with us) produced $30.00, calling it “his share”. He also hit up some of his friends at school for donations, and by Saturday produced another $35.00. I made almost $100.00 on Friday selling the kids stuff. But we were still short. So I called the Ruffhouse woman, and explained our situation. We loved Archie. We really, really wanted to keep him. But we were short on the adoption fee. And bless her heart, she was just so glad we wanted to keep him she accepted what we had, and signed off on Ian’s community service hours.
Archie had wiggled his way into everyone’s heart. But Saskia – who had ALWAYS only had an affinity for cats, fell head over heals for him! He had come into our home with the name Archie, but Saskia right from the start thought he looked more like a “Reggie”. And this crazy smart dog, answered to both names!
Every day, he sat by the door waiting for me to come home with the children. He would run to each one, and greet them. But to Saskia? She would say “Reggie, I’m home” and he would jump into her arms, and snuggle his muzzle under her chin.
We decided for Christmas, to make it official (and so dad couldn’t come back if Archie did something that made dad mad and say, “why did we keep him again?”) to adopt Archie in ‘dad’s name’, and wrap up his adoption papers for dad to open. Our Christmas joke for dad. Often times, we would wrap boxes inside boxes for our smallest of presents. Sometimes we would wrap large rocks with the present, so someone could not guess at what was inside. We enjoyed the practical jokes as much as we enjoyed opening the presents.
Saskia went with me to look for a collar, and officially named him: General Archibald Reginald Rufus! We had a nametag made up for his collar, with this name on one side, and dad’s name and address and phone number on the other. Another ‘detail’ for fun with our Christmas joke.
Saskia had recently gotten into paintball with Paul and Ian, who had been involved with it for years. So the ‘General’ was his paintball name. ‘Archibald’ he came with, so we just had to keep it. ‘Reginald’ was what he looked like, to Saskia. “And isn’t every smart, funny, loving mutt a ‘Rufus’ “, she said?
For Archie’s first Christmas he got a Santa suit, and squeaky toys, a new home, and a forever family. And so much love – he became the richest dog in all the world!
I don’t think Archie ever really became our family “pet”… He was an integral ‘member’ of our family! After all, he was the one every person HAD to say goodbye to as they left each morning. And Archie was the one they all ran to greet as they returned home each day. Even all the other children greeted Archie first, when they came over. And he was always so happy, they had finally come home!
He wasn’t much of a barker, but upon occasion when the neighborhood dogs would strike up a tune, Archie would ring the bells and ask to join them outside. And, when the dogs moved in next door, he of course had to bark at them, to let them know HE lived here.
He enjoyed going for a ride in the car. Everyday, as I was preparing to leave to collect the children from school, he would sit in front of the cabinet where his leash is kept. He knew, he had to have his leash on to go out the front door, and so each day he would paw at the drawer that held his leash. Too many times I had to say, “Not today Arch.”, because I didn’t have enough room in my VW for all the children I would be picking up from school. Every time I said this to him, he would pout and lay on the bottom step of the stairs...
But, there were many days he did get to accompany me. I would pull open the drawer as I was gathering my keys and purse, and he would pull out his leash and sit with it in his mouth until I attached it to his collar… And he was always so well behaved, sitting in his seat in the car and looking out the window.
Archie enjoyed his time with his family. He quickly developed his own routine with each and every one of us. He spent his days with me, and whether I was ‘cleaning’ or ‘painting’ he was always right there with me, keeping careful watch. He would sit on the couch with Ian, chewing his stuffy, watching Ian play video games. He would knock on Saskia’s bedroom door, and lay on the floor with her as she was doing homework, most times napping with her when she was done. And Archie was always a willing participant in whatever activity Kessa was interested in. Whether they played fetch, or chased bubbles together in the back yard, even when Kessa would dress Archie in doll clothes and put pretty clips in his hair! And when Paul came home, Archie always demanded those first few moments of snuggle time together.
He also enjoyed his adventures with us! On the weekends, we often climbed into the jeep and set off to discover new trails. Archie didn’t mind the hours of bumpy ride. And he thoroughly loved camping! The hours spent, walking the trails and through the woods! Taking a walk with Kes around the campground, so he could greet all the other campers. And he was smart enough to know not to bark, the night we were all snuggled in the tent and the bears came. As they beat on the trashcans outside, he climbed next to me, and growled softly into my pillow. And the next morning, he chased their scent all over our campsite! He accompanied us when we would make our excursions into town, to check out the various shops. Not only would he wait patiently outside with one of us, as the rest went inside – but he loved the attention and the ‘pets’ he would get from the passersby outside.
Archie has such an expressionate face, that most times he seemed too human. His lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper, and so with his mouth closed, he appears to be smiling. This how he greeted us every day, with this smile. “So happy you’re finally home! What took you so long!”, I would often say to the children as they petted the excited Archie when they got home from school. And at the dinner table, Archie NEVER begged… He would sit quietly next to someone, and lay his chin on the table. His big brown eyes, would look longingly at that lovely food. “Are you gonna finish that?” I would say for Archie, when there was food left after dinner. This would always make the children laugh, and they would begin feeding Archie their scraps.
I quite often put words in Archie’s mouth in this way, to match his expressions. It was my little ‘stories’ that I made up for him all the time, which gave Saskia the idea that someday we should sit down and write a children’s book about “Reggie the rescued pup”! It was Saskia’s lifelong affinity for stories, that made her express to me how wonderful the thought was, that children everywhere would snuggle up and read the adventures of Reggie. She had the brilliant notion that if children fell in love with Reggie too, it would save more rescued dogs.
“After all”, Saskia said, “with his puss-in-boot eyes, and his happy little smile, his wonderful personality and intelligence, and especially the way he loves us all? How could ANYONE resist falling head over heals for Reggie!” I remember looking into Saskia’s incredibly beautiful face in that moment, with the look of such profound love for Reggie upon it! Her eyes welled up with tears. Saskia had such a passionate heart. And Archie, who was staring back at her, with almost this same human look upon his face – went to her and licked her cheek as her tears spilled over. As she wrapped her arms around him, she whispered, “You are one of the best things that’s ever happened to me!”
Yes, my dear. Archie – ‘Reggie the rescued pup’ - is one of the best things we found along our journey in life. I really don’t know who is more fortunate for our meeting along this detour – him, or US! I do know, though, I am forever thankful to him for bringing you so much happiness and love!
Your last silly comment about him, still holds true:
“Reggie, you are a Diamond in the Ruff!”