Ruby is a very obedient dog, always has been. Lately, I’ve been working with her to control her desire to race ahead when she is off-leash on trails with me. I clamp her cheeks between my thumbs and lift her head so that she has no choice but to look directly into my penetrating eyes. “Stay close,” I tell her.
We’ve worked a lot on that command, stay close. It means stay in front of me and ignore your natural urge to run wild and recklessly ahead. More importantly it means, I love you.
I let her go and make up to her by stroking the top of her head, telling her she’s a good girl. We continue walking on the grass trail surrounded by thick goldenrod on a bright October morning. I stop and wait until she looks at me, then I give the command she’s been waiting for: Let’s go.
As soon as she gets about twenty yards ahead of me, and before she builds up enough steam to lose her head in her own sense of adventure, I call out a quick “Ruby stop,” meaning no, cease, return to me. She turns back, passing in front of me. She looks at me: Is everything okay? “Good girl” I tell her, I jog on. She trots in comfortable range, checking out everything surrounding her that she would have missed if she was racing down the trail.
Ruby and I head north. We run through an area of open woods, the ground scattered with acorns from white oaks. I spot a few patches of wild onion and thinning blackberries, Ruby sniffs her way through the tangles. White and purple asters grow in abundance along the edges of the trail, thriving under the autumn sun.
Out in front of us, a few whitetail deer stand alert, watching our arrival. But before Ruby spots them, I call her to my side. I have seen many deer this autumn and this group pauses long enough for me to snap a picture.
Ruby is a Viszla and Golden Retriever mix. There are three terms I’m aware of that describe her breed: Labralas, Viszlador, and Retrizsla. She is colored red with a white blaze on her chest. She has silky ears and the most expressive eyes. I can easily spot the white on her chest when she is in the brush, similarly to the white underside of a deer’s tail when in flight. Her rusty coat is striking against a snowy ground, however, she is quite sensitive to cold weather, so I run on an indoor treadmill when wintertime arrives.
The trail ends on the edge of a field bursting with thistles and nesting boxes for birds. Ruby scouts around the border, sunlight streaming on her back. I am walking now, cooling down, when I see Ruby do a complete about-face up ahead of me. Bounding with joy, she comes racing back to my side, her expression pure happiness. She knows it’s time to go, until tomorrow.
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