Chasing squirrels forever: A tribute to Ruby May

Chasing squirrels forever: A tribute to Ruby May

It’s been 12 years since I’ve had to wash out a peanut butter jar before putting it into the recycling bin or worried about food that had fallen from countertop or chopping block. Nor have I had to give a single thought to whether or not the lunch meat that was one day beyond its expiration date was OK to consume.

My longtime kitchen assistant gladly helped me with all of those things. Always at attention, she would stand by enthusiastically, sometimes for hours while I prepared various dishes, her bushy eyebrows rising and falling each time I scooped, spooned, carved or grated something that could possibly end up tumbling downward. The five-second rule didn’t apply in our house. Nothing ever made it to the floor. Such was the talent of my canine sous-chef, Ruby May.

If I happened to take too much care in keeping the fixings on the countertop during the chaotic course of my cooking, Ruby would roll onto her back at my feet, limbs splayed in all directions in a silent protest that quite simply screamed, “Can you see me now?”

Such was her passion for human cuisine that we were forced to reduce the mutt’s kibble portions dramatically, lest she wind up too wide for the entry to her cave, a 3-foot-deep hole that she’d excavated underneath the carcass of our 1966 pop-up camper in the back yard. The cave was a strategic, subterranean outpost in the center of enemy territory, a vast, untamed land where black, red and gray-coated guerrillas launched daily assaults on the bean sprouts and birdfeeders of civilized society — a place known as Squirrel Country.

Ruby was a lover of all creatures, man, beast, bird and butterfly with but one passionate exception: She despised squirrels. I’m talking “take them apart to the molecular level” kind of hate. Ironically, and not for lack of effort, only once did she get to fully express her loathing for the species. Word travels quickly in the squirrel world, and once she had proven her savage abilities — which included leaping to a height of nearly 8 feet by boosting off the trunk of a tree — the puffy tails quickly learned to keep their distance.

While gifted in athletic endeavors such as hole-digging, tennis ball chasing and squirrel pestering, Ruby was no scholar. She left the big tricks like rolling over, spinning on command and falling dead to a mimed revolver shot to her older sister, Juni.

Juni, a Border Collie, also defeated the child locks on our kitchen cabinets and mastered the opening and closing of our backyard gate. (Had she lived beyond her 14 years, Juni would have no doubt figured out a way to drain our bank accounts and jet off to Scotland to live out her days in her ancestral homeland.)

Ruby was, as we were apt to describe her, just a dog — the kind that was forever there at the ready and always by your side when you desperately needed her and didn’t even know why.

The way I see it, the only downside to sharing your life with a dog is the likelihood you may well live to one day see the relationship come to an end. Juni left us a year ago, and just one day past that solemn anniversary, we were forced to make the toughest decision a dog’s best friend can face. Ruby now greets the sunrise from a quiet, forested hillside in the presence of Juni and the other great dogs I have known — and with a paw-sized hole in my heart, gone on to outlive. Rest in peace, Ruby May. We all love you.

Kristin and John would love to hear from you. Write Drawing Laughter, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627, or email John at