This week I interviewed Ruffio Smith, an English Boxer who lives with his Grandma and Grandpa, Mary and Jack, in Sebastian. And guess what? He ackshully knows how to READ! No woof! I saw it for myself!
He’s a friendly, good-looking chap, two-tone coat, kinda laid back. We hit it off right away. Because he has that Boxer Bobtail, the Wag-and-Sniff was more like a Caboose Wiggle-and-Sniff.
“Come’on in, Bonz. (OK if I call you Bonz?)”
“Sure thing!” I said. “Can’t wait to hear your story.” I got out my notebook. “I’m ready when you are!”
“I came from a kennel in New Jersey. My Dad, Richard, was great. He got me when I was a goofy little furball, all long legs, really big feet, kinda drooly. Nothing like the suave poocheroo I am now. Trouble was, Dad’s a professional diver, travels all over the place doing important underwater stuff, and he was gone a lot.”
“Soggy Dog Biscuits,” I sympathized.
“Fer sure. So, when he was workin’, I got puppy-sat by his Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa Smith. They’re pawsome! So I sorta grew up with ‘em, and finally, I just became their dog. About four years ago we stopped being Snowbirds and moved here permanently. But I still visit my Dad, and now I have a nice Mom, Desiree, and tons of human relatives: Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Terry. (She didn’t like dogs, but I won her over. Now she buys me bologna and sends me Christmas cards.) And Aunt Nikki and Uncle Jack. (He’s cool! He lets me jump on his bed). And Aunt Michelle and Uncle Nathan. And a whole herd of cousins all over the place.
Then there’s my pooch pals: Zoey, another Boxer; Dilly, a terrier, I think. Up in Jersey, there’s, umm, Player and Brandi, little mop dogs; Amber, a Chocolate Lab, Gracie, a Mastiff (big girl), Zeus, a Dachshund, cousin Bailey in Georgia, also a Mastiff. I love ‘em all, pooches and people! Hey, Bonz, wanna see me do my homework? It’s Cool Kibbles.”
“I sure would!” I exclaimed. His Grandma was shuffling some Important Papers. Ruffio sat up, straight and serious, staring at the papers. She showed him the first one. It said SIT! Ruffio sat. Next one was SHAKE HANDS. Up went Ruffio’s right paw. Then – DOWN! Ruffio plopped onto his tummy. UP! Back he sprang. And for the grand finale – HIGH FIVE! Up went the paw.
“Cool Dog Biscuits, right?” he said.
“I’m totally impressed!”
“I also wanna show you a project I did back in Jersey. The newspaper had a calendar contest for Newspapers in Education, to help kids learn about stuff called Current Events. Humans send in pet pictures, everybody votes, and the pets with the most votes get to be in the calendar. See, look, I was in two calendars!”
There he was, full page, August 2010 and October 2011. No doubt, he was one truly photogenic pooch!
“So, what kinda stuff do you like to do?”
“I LOVE camping, riding in the truck, and walks. One night, Grandpa said me and Grandma shouldn’t go past the gate ‘cuz the big light was out. But Grandma said it was okeydokey cuz she had a flashlight. Well, when we got to the gate, I stopped. Wouldn’t budge. Grandma tried to get me to move, but I just planted my paws. And that was that. I was Paying Attention.
“When I was a pupster, I did lotsa digging and galloping around. One time I couldn’t put my brakes on and ended up in the lake! But nowadays I like to sit by the window on my ottoman (I call it my throne) and Survey My Domain. I can also open the door where my treats are, but I don’t think Grandma and Grandpa know that, so don’t tell, OK?”
“My lips are sealed,” I assured him.
“Oh, and my 10th birthday’s comin’ up in October. I always have a big party with CAKE. Grandpa lights the candles and everybody sings, “Happy Birthday, Dear Ruffio! Ya know, Bonz, I feel like I’m getting wiser with every birthday.” he sounded serious. “There was a pooch up in Jersey I’ll never forget – Elwood – he changed my life.”
“ELwood?” I exclaimed. “THE Elwood? You actually MET him? He’s, like, a LEGEND in the dog world!”
“Yep. Back in ‘07. He’d just won the World’s Ugliest Dog contest and was on tour raising money for animal rescue groups and promoting his children’s book teaching that it’s OK to be different. I was in line to get his paw-tograph. There he was, this little Chihuahua mix. I could see why he’d won. He was dark-colored, no hair ‘cept a little white fluff on his head. His breeder was ackshully gonna Put Him To Sleep cuz she thought he was too ugly to sell. But he was saved by a nice lady.
“While he was signing my book, he looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘Always remember, never judge a pooch by his pedigree. Look beneath the surface. Be kind. It’s OK to be different.’”
Heading home, I was thinking about how happy Ruffio is with his big, loving, extended family of pooches and humans. And thinking about what he’d learned from Elwood. We pooches are good with that stuff, but it sometimes seems to be a big problem for humans. I wonder why.
Till next time,