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.

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