“As a kid and even as a young adult, I was terrified of dogs and cats but had no trouble picking up a garter snake or frog found in the backyard. My dad is severely allergic to anything hairy, so we had turtles growing up. While I still have a great fondness for turtles and hope to have turtles again, they aren’t the cuddliest of animals.
When I got married my (ex) husband really, really wanted a dog. We had just bought a house, and all we needed was a dog and some kids to make it complete. By that time, I thought I would be okay with a small, calm dog that didn’t shed and wouldn’t disturb the neighbors. Of course, this future pup would never ever sleep with us or get on the furniture.
So one day while I was at work, my ex went to the Milwaukee Humane Society and texted me he had found the perfect dog for us and asked if he could bring her home immediately. Of course, being at work, I said, ‘No, I have to meet her first.’ Then he brought out the big guns and played on my emotions. He told me she had been in the shelter for weeks (true) and she would be euthanized unless we adopted her that weekend (false –it was a no-kill wonderful shelter). Well, that was it. The next day we brought Peanut home. She was immediately named Peanut because she was so small, even at thirty pounds!
Peanut was a six-year-old chihuahua/rat terrier mix. She was the most docile, gentle dog ever. She was also scared to death and would hide — under the couch, the bed, computer, chairs — any great hiding spot. It took us weeks of carrying her down the street, just so she would walk back on her own. Eventually, she warmed up to us, and more so, us to her. She was walking us, sleeping in our bed, and snuggling on the couch with us.
Peanut loved and nursed me through two brain surgeries. She was amazing with our foster kids and helped our older one feel right at home. A few years later, Peanut also got me through my excruciatingly painful divorce. There have been several studies showing pets are incredibly beneficial to our health, especially mental health. Peanut always knew the right thing to do. Sometimes she helped with a paw on my knee, reminding me someone was there just for me. She helped by ‘making’ me take her on walks so I could get out into the world again and get some fresh air. Peanut loved anyone who would walk, pet, or give her treats. She loved walking the path in Austin, where she could chase the birds, squirrels, and even deer.
About six months after Peanut and I moved back to Milwaukee, she got sick. My mom stayed at my house to be with Peanut when I had to go into work. We didn’t want Peanut to be alone. Within about two weeks, she passed away in my arms. Even though I know my sweet Peanut girl got her wings that day, I was completely devastated, like yet another piece of my heart was ripped out. I didn’t sleep much that night and woke up very early. I had this feeling like Peanut was telling me I needed to go to the shelter and save another puppy. I ran in and woke my mom and told her my intense feeling we needed to go to the shelter that day.
We went to the shelter fully expecting to come home empty-handed. We visited two dogs. One dog seemed more interested in his ball than me. The other, named ‘Lady,’ let me pick her up and snuggle her right to my chest. But she was so tiny (about five pounds) and I was so worried about accidentally hurting her. We talked with a counselor about our concerns, he suggested we visit Lady again. She snuggled right up to me just like before. Well, that cinched the deal. Lady was coming home that day.
It took us a while to figure out why the shelter named her Lady, until every time I picked her up, she would cross her legs over her lady business! She would also lay with her paws out, crossed in front of her just like a little lady. The name was not meant to be. It took me about a week to name her, and she became Ruby Rose Kirchner.
Since I had a few days off work, I had the family and some friends over to meet Ruby and honor Peanut. Most people tell me they aren’t a fan or even outright hate chihuahuas, but Ruby is not your average chihuahua. She snuggles like a cat and behaves like a human. Ruby doesn’t bark (except with our doxie friend, Pippa), she walks near-perfectly off-leash, and she doesn’t nip at people’s ankles. She would rather be snuggling in her blankets — wouldn’t we all? If you come to pick her up, she’ll shake but love you anyway.
She gets along with most humans, the exception being loud, in-her-face children and some dogs. She has a super cute carrier and has traveled nearly everywhere with me: cross country in the car, restaurants, movies, hotels, the Las Vegas Strip, and even the hospital. We rode in an ambulance together after a terrible rollover car accident. The wonderful ER nurses held her while I got a CT scan — luckily for us, it was two a.m., not day the shift.
Ruby has been the best dog and friend for a travel nurse and chronic migraineur. She can hold it longer than I can on road trips, fits under the seat of the plane, and does not ever bark in or destroy hotel rooms. Since she is all of five pounds, she gets a good walk going up and down the stairs, and despite her wanting to, she doesn’t need to eat a lot. She loves unending petting and will move your hand to her chest just so you can pet her more.
Ruby has done more than be my best friend. She has also saved my life. A diagnosis of intractable daily migraines is awful and has been hanging on for three years. There are some pain days I want it to stop, not feel the pain, and kiss this little slice of earth behind. But I just can’t. Sometimes because of my family, my niece, and nephew, my besties and everyone I love, without a doubt, but Ruby is my baby. She depends on me. Even though I have a plan in place for her, I will be with her as long as she is on this earth.
At ninety-one years old, my grandmother became very sick and came to live with us, and oh how she loved Ruby. We would put a heated blanket on Granny’s lap and snuggle Ruby in with her. Gran would pet her and tell us, ‘What a great KITTY HE is!’ Gran was in and out of the hospital. One of the times she was in the hospital (and the only time I snuck Rubes in), I asked Granny if she would like to pet Ruby. I was about to put her in bed with Gran and the sweet nurse walked in. She knew what we all knew: Granny was ninety-one and didn’t have long for this world. The nurse was lovely enough to give Granny a break from hospital life for just a few minutes to pet Ruby. As soon as I got Rubes ready in the bed, I placed Gran’s hand on her. Immediately, her heart rate went down, her breathing improved, and her oxygen saturation increased.
Dogs have such wonderful benefits to their humans. I think the wonderful nurse knew Gran seeing Ruby was much needed that day. Pets have been proven to help prolong the lives of their loved ones and increase the quality of life in their people.
I believe dogs (and pets in general) are miracles from God. I think He/She saves the pet that is absolutely right for you. I mean, have you seen ‘Marley and Me?’ Who else could that dog have gone to except that brave couple!
I have been so blessed having Peanut and Ruby in my life. How have your pets made an impact in your life?”
This story was submitted to Love What Mattersby Marykathryn Kirchner. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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