Chapter Two: Ruby
I splash around in the pool at the base of the waterfall, diving face first for minnows and good sticks I can take home later. Water rushes over my body, through my fur and feels heavy… I make it to the bank and shake off. Looking back for my human…wait…where’d she go? Ruby! I look around, panting….Ruby?! I bark loudly.
Every morning I walk back to the waterfall to see if she is there. Sometimes she is, and we play, but she never lets me go back home with her anymore. Not since she lost her boot. I found it for her, and keep trying to give it back but she just laughs at me when I bring it to her. She never did like shoes much. Ruby always says “I love to feel the earth beneath my toes… there’s something romantic about it and it grounds me.” She has the most melodic voice ever.
Ruby is the reason I ever got to experience such beautiful things. As a pup, I sat hungry in a cage for days at a time. Every now and then, a man would come by and fill up my water bowl and give me food. My feet hurt all the time and flies would feed on my flesh in the heat of the day. I used to wonder when I’d fall asleep forever like some of my brothers and sisters. At least then, they didn’t seem to be bothered by the flies.
One day, a few of my siblings were taken away by the man and never came back… Three days later, I fell into the deepest sleep I’d ever experienced. Her voice, Ruby’s voice… woke me up, but barely. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t do anything but whimper and shake. Next thing I knew, she was gently lifting me from my cage. I could feel the warmth of her hands beneath her gloves. She held me close and I listened to her heartbeat.
Ruby’s pack had come to save us all. She was taking me away from that place, forever. The sound of her heart and warmth of her body soothed my soul, and I squinted my eyes and looked up towards her face. Her pupils dilated and nearly filled her soft gray eyes. “You are Finian,” she said with confidence and grace, “and you will fight to live.”
Voices carried on around us and I heard cages opening all around me. Some dogs howled loudly and then I heard the man screaming at some other men, until a door slammed. That was the last time I heard the man’s voice.
I fell into a deep sleep in Ruby’s arms.
“Where’d you come from, buddy?” Addison asks again… taking a step back and lowering her walking stick. Panicked, I run away a few steps and turn back. She stands there, head tilted to one side, staring at me intently. “It’s okay,” she speaks so softly, holding her hand out to me. Ignoring temptation, I turn away, cross the creek and head towards the waterfall. Ruby might be waiting for me and I don’t want to miss her. I stop at my cove, grab her boot and march on.
Urgency consumes me and I pick up the pace as I know I am later than usual. As I near the waterfall, I see her there, sitting on the rocks with her toes in the pool. She hums the sweetest tune and skims a stick against the current. She is all wet. One day I’m going to get here early enough to swim with her again. Ruby looks up at me, notices her boot in my mouth, and laughs out loud, “Drop it, Finian,” she commands. I do as she says. “Good boy! Now come here,” she calls me and I playfully skip from rock to rock in her direction. She throws the stick before I can reach her, “Go get it, Fin! Get the stick!”
I LOVE this game! I dive into the water and swim for the stick before it’s submerged. Retrieving it from just beneath the surface, I turn around to head back and… she’s gone. Hearing movement in the leaves, I drop the stick and try to run after her, but she’s vanished. Sadness fills me and I howl. I don’t know why she won’t take me home with her. And she left her boot, AGAIN. Maybe she’ll come back. I’ll wait a few minutes.
Hours pass by and Ruby doesn’t return. In the distance, I hear an old Barred Owl scream out, “Who cooked the food?!” Reminding me that I’m hungry, I grab Ruby’s boot and head to Silvia’s for dinner. Chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots. Silvia treats me so good. She waves at me through the window and I sit and stare back at her for a while. With a full belly, I grab the boot and head back towards my cove.
What’s that smell? Not something you ever want to wonder… but as I get closer to my cove it grows stronger. I proceed with caution, and with the softest of steps, I gingerly peer inside. A blue and light gray blanket has been laid atop my pine straw bed. Placed nicely in the back, I see a chew bone (tastes like bacon!!), a few snacks (pepperoni-Oh how I’ve missed you!) and a YELLOW FUZZY BALL!!!
That Ruby! She must have snuck away and done this for me!! No wonder she didn’t come back to the waterfall… Relieved, I circle and settle in for the evening. Just as I start to drift off to sleep, it hits me that none of these things smell like her…