Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rufus Goes to Town

Today my bodyguard, Rufus got published at Matador Life. This is a big deal for me, as well as, him. I'm in the photo, too. You just have to look real close in both of his eyes; that's me kneeling in the patch of light right in front of him.

This is the only photo I have of Rufus where he's looking straight at the camera. He's been entered more than a few times in photo contests, but hasn't won anything, yet. Now, his brother, Gizmo, that's a different story. He's cute, a people dog, loves attention, talks to you and demands attention from anyone he meets. But, today is Rufus' day so, lets talk about him.

He is half Siberian Husky and half Shiba, a Japanese breed. He has six toes on his back feet, just like a wolf. He is an escape artist. He will watch every move you make. If you build a fence, he's studying how to un-build it. When I used to drive a jeep, he watched where I put the keys, how I depressed the clutch and how I shifted and made it go. I just knew, someday, he'd steal my jeep. I got rid of the jeep but I kept Rufus. We walk alot.

From the day I brought him home from the animal shelter at six weeks old, Rufus has always slept either at my feet or nearby, where he can watch me. When he isn't asleep he's watching. He doesn't blink his eyes. He is always watching.

When he was a year old, someone stole him. His brother and I walked for miles in every possible direction, looking for him. After a week went by without a trace of him, I started thinking about getting another dog. Huskies are pack animals and his brother needed a companion. I knew, if Rufus was alive somewhere, he'd escape. He did.

Nine days after being kidnapped, Rufus escaped. My son saw him in a village about 5 miles north of home. It was Valentines Day, February 14th, 9 years ago. The wife and I had decided to order steak from the restaurant downstairs and have it delivered rather than get all dressed up to go out and eat.

The phone rang before we had a chance to order. The son, a construction worker, was at a party outside his boss's house. They were barbecuing chicken. Huskies love chicken, more than cats. Rufus showed up. He was hungry, dirty, malnourished; starving. Construction workers wear uniforms. And they drink. If they tossed a bone, Rufus would eat it. When they tried to approach him, he'd run away. The son knew it was Rufus and he'd been missing. He knew that anytime I shook my car keys, Rufus would run to me. He tried shaking his car keys; Rufus ignored him. He only comes to Papa's car keys, no one else's.

Without even knowing where in the village Rufus was spotted, we jumped in the car and drove north to the next town. I pulled over, in the dark, and stopped at a parking lot where I could be safely off the highway. I got out of the car, jingled the keys and whistled as I walked back to the highway. Within 30 seconds, out of the darkness, a stinking, scrawny, filthy, black, Rufus came from nowhere and jumped into my chest. Best Valentine's gift I ever had !

It wasn't until I got home and saw the dog where there were lights, that I realized what he'd been through. He had two inch incisions, cut on each side of his chest. Someone was using him as a fighting dog. That's the way it's done in this part of the world.

Would the dog ever be the same? Would the grandchildren be safe around him? Would he be vicious? Would he ever be normal again?

Rufus is ten years old, now. He's fine. Grandkids play with him, ride him like a horse, sleep with him. He protects them; they make him sit, give his paw, lay down and give him cookies and leftovers.

He doesn't like uniforms. He doesn't like drunks. He avoids them; he won't attack unless he or a family member is threatened. If that were to happen, remember, Huskies are pack animals.


lilypond said...

Ha, I'm the first to comment!! What a great story and a really really artful picture. Will now go to Matador.

RyukyuMike said...

Thanks and Rufus thanks you, too !

Sumitran said...

Mike, you have summarised the story rather beautifully. Very poignantly written too. Your writing reminded me a lot about how Jim Corbett wrote about the special bonding and relationship that he shared with his long-time companion ‘Robin'. What I am curious to know is why have you named him 'Rufus' ? Secondly, I would very much like to see a full Rufus to get a handle on his size.

RyukyuMike said...

Thanks; you have a way with words, too !
Rufus and Gizmo were named by the folks who had the Mama Husky so, I figured it'd save me alot of thinking by letting them keep their orogonal names.
Have to see what I can dig up for you of Rufus full body-wise. But, I'm up to my ears in an Apogee Photo Magazine Article right now; something like you've never seen before!
Stand by.....


neha said...

What a journey! Can't imagine how you managed in the time that he was taken. I'm glad he is doing well, and that picture is absolutely stunning!

RyukyuMike said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I owe ya a coupla ThumbsUps !


Anonymous said...

(From Sabina)

Mike, this is beautiful and touching! I have tears in my eyes. Your writing really shows that you very much love your dog. I think this is one of your best pieces ever. And the story itself is great. (publication time?) I'm so glad you got your poor dog back. Thank God your son spotted him.

Sophie said...

What a ruggedly beautiful dog. And story! Love huskies - the real, original dogs. Saw the piece on Matador. Good on 'ya!

Audrey Madrid said...

What a touching story! The doggie looks like my Holly Bear!! Thank you for sharing :)

Nick said...

What a beautifully written and touching story, Mike - nice one! And I too want to see a full body shot of Rufus!

RyukyuMike said...

Sabina, Sophie, Audrey and Nick,
Thank you all. Here I am tryna cut back on writin' and you make me feel like doin' more, dammit!
You're a fine buncha people. I'll see what I can dig up. I just have to figure how to make it travel or photography related. It can happen. Maybe a "How to Shoot Your Pet Series".
ThumbsUp to you all and have a Happy Valentine's Day. Go easy on the sweets; y'all sweet enuf !


Rose said...

Congrats on finally getting Rufus some attention! I know he's been wanting to hit the public for a long time now and it's nice to see him in the spotlight as opposed to the cute one! Excellent story, too! Rufus is a good dog. If only my pup wasn't so annoyed by the little barking fluff ball maybe she would give Rufus a chance and get along better!
A series on "How to Shoot Your Pets" may be a good one for average family shots with tips no one ever thinks about!

RyukyuMike said...

Thanks for droppin' in. I figured you'd be too busy churning out stories. If the weayher doesn't let-up soon, to where I feel like taking my cameras out, I'll soon be writinh more than you!


Tonya Keitt Kalule said...

I love this story, and was so happy that Rufus was ok. Just looking at this photo, Rufus reminds me of my German Sheppard that I had growing up name Rex. I loved that dog. It has been thirty years and I still talk about him, he was like a protective brother to me. I was an only child. I would take him with me trick or treating and I was safe. My dad use to take Rex to Burger King with him and order both of them, a whopper, fries, and strawberry milk shake and he loved it.

RyukyuMike said...

Thanks for viewing and commenting. Sounds like you have incredible memories of your Rex.