This is the true story of a lost, frightened puppy born in the woods and the heroes who saved her.
By Karen Ruben
Ruby was born to an abandoned mother named Mama Dog living deep in a forest in the small, rural town of Angier, North Carolina.
Ruby was one of the Angier Pups. This was what the town called the thirty or so litters of puppies Mama Dog delivered in her lifetime.
This book is dedicated to Ruby’s saviors: Debby, Jon, Lynn, and Elizabeth.
A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to Rescue Ur Forever Friend, Garner North Carolina (NC RUFF), the amazing organization dedicated to saving thousands of stray animals in need of their forever homes.
This is Mama Dog.
She lived in the forest with Sissy, one of her pups. Mama Dog had her seven years earlier.
Every day, Debby, a nice woman who lived in town, drove up to the edge of the woods to feed Mama Dog and Sissy.
The dogs would get just close enough to let Debby give them food. But they would never let her touch them.
Dogs that have no home and have been living without humans are called feral. Most of the time, feral animals are like wild animals – too afraid to let humans get close to them.
Mama Dog was once a family pet. She became a stray as a puppy. Her family moved away and left her behind. Living in the Angier woods for so many years, she became feral. Mama Dog was no longer domesticated, meaning that she couldn’t live with a family as their pet anymore.
If Animal Control had captured the dogs and taken them to the local animal shelter, workers would have euthanized them – put them to sleep. The shelter was overcrowded, and the dogs couldn’t be adopted because they were feral.
One day, Debby realized that Mama Dog was getting a little bit bigger. Mama Dog was pregnant!
It would take a lot of people to find homes for all the puppies in Mama Dog’s litter. She was going to need help!
Dogs are pregnant for only about two months. About a week later, Mama Dog delivered her litter: Ruby and her six brothers and sisters. They were born in an old shed deep in the woods.
Mama Dog was about fifteen years old. But she was still giving birth to about two litters a year. The puppies would need their mother for about a month because during the nursing stage, they only drink their mother’s milk. Then they would wean and no longer need to be nursed. They would learn to eat real food.
Mama Dog and Sissy use their teeth to gently pick up each puppy by the loose skin on its neck (the scruff or nape) and hide it somewhere in the three-mile-wide forest. They did this because they were afraid that a predator (dangerous animal) would enter their shed and hurt or kill all the puppies.
Mama Dog usually hid the puppies in pairs in covered dens they had found. Although she would spend her day going from den to den to feed her babies, they were mainly living alone and scared. Debby wanted to find them to help. She called her good friends Jon and Lynn.
Jon is a soldier with the U.S. Army and is trained to search in the woods. Jon and Lynn have rescued six of their own dogs and couldn’t wait to help.
They checked the old shed first. “There are no puppies in here,” Lynn said.
So they kept looking.
They started going to the woods every day after work to look for the puppies. Jon led Lynn and used a long wooden stick to push through the thick brush.
They wore hats, long sleeves, and long pants to protect themselves from ticks and other insects or snakes that might cross their path. Jon also wore leather gloves to protect himself from thorns and possible puppy bites.
When they found Ruby, she was so scared! She didn’t know that Jon and Lynn were there to save her, not hurt her. Lynn hugged Ruby and told her not to be afraid. Ruby’s life was about to change!
It had taken Jon and Lynn a week to find Ruby. She was five weeks old then. It took them two more weeks to find all seven puppies in Mama Dog’s litter.
They found the other puppies in all different places, including another shed on the edge of the woods. Digger was hiding under a broken-down truck that someone left in the forest.
As soon as they saw the long, floppy ears on each of the puppies, they knew there was only one father. (Sometimes, a litter can include puppies from more than one father.) He was an old beagle Debby had seen a few times near the woods.
Jon and Lynn took all the puppies home and gave them warm baths and food. While the puppies were so happy to be warm and safe, they still needed forever homes. But first, the puppies had to learn to trust people.
Rescued puppies and kittens that have no place to live are placed with either an animal shelter or a foster home. Then, if a family chooses them, they will go through an adoption application process. Adoption is when the new family gets that lucky animal and it becomes the family pet.
Most animal shelters have too many puppies to care for. Sometimes shelters will look for volunteers to take care of the puppy until a forever family home is found. These volunteers are called foster families.
Ruby and her brothers and sisters needed foster homes. Jon and Lynn knew an organization called NC RUFF (Rescue Ur Forever Friend, North Carolina) that could help. They were able to find foster families for Ruby and all her brothers and sisters!
Ruby and Colby were placed at Elizabeth’s family home.
The family had fostered more than sixty puppies and dogs for NC RUFF. They even cared for puppies that were found in dumpsters and had fleas or were sick. They knew it took love and work to get these animals ready to be placed in forever homes.
Ruby, like all foster dogs, needed standard vet care, like exams and shots. Many foster dogs also need a vet to treat them for injuries.
When puppies are somewhere between five and nine months old, they also need to be spayed (if female) or neutered (if male). This is a simple procedure that the vet does so that they won’t keep having babies that no one can take care of.
NC RUFF advertises their fostered puppies through local adoption events, their own website (ncruff.org), and other websites like Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet. Elizabeth and her family helped advertise Ruby and Colby by posting this photo on Facebook.
Elizabeth’s brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Karen, lived in New York and had recently lost their beloved dog, Digger. As soon as they saw Ruby sitting with Colby on the laps of their niece and nephew, they just knew they were looking at the newest member of their family!
Most shelters and foster organizations have an adoption application process to make sure that the adoptive families can take care of the puppy. The first step that Peter and Karen went through in NC RUFF’s process was to complete an adoption application. This was to help NC RUFF make sure Ruby was a good match for them. Sometimes a dog will need to live with a family that has a lot of outdoor space. Other dogs may be just fine in an apartment. The application makes sure that the right family gets the right dog.
A counselor from NC RUFF reviewed their application. Usually, a volunteer from the organization will do a home visit and see how the new pet fits into the family and where they live. Peter and Karen agreed to have Ruby spayed, and they paid an adoption fee. NC RUFF uses the money from adoption fees to cover the cost of food and vet care for the fostered animals.
Peter and Karen loved Ruby from the first second they held her.
It’s important that family pets wear a name tag at all times, just in case they get lost. Peter and Karen brought Ruby the collar and name tag they had picked out. As they placed it around her neck, they promised to give her the best life a dog could have.
Jon and Lynn went over to Elizabeth’s house for a special visit to meet Peter and Karen, and to say good-bye to Ruby before she went to her forever home in New York.
As they got ready to go, Peter and Karen asked a favor. Would they please name one of the puppies from Ruby’s litter Digger, after their beloved dog. That’s how the puppy they found under the rusted-out truck got his name.
Bringing Ruby Home
Ruby settled into her new home quickly!
Dr. Vic became Ruby’s veterinarian. She visits him regularly at her yearly check-ups. He examines her and makes sure that she is always up to date with her shots. At her first visit, they scheduled the appointment to have Ruby spayed.
Ruby’s sister Jessica gave her new puppy a kiss.
Her sister Nicole gave Ruby belly rubs.
Her brother-in-law, Justin, snuggled with Ruby.
At first, Ruby was not too sure about her new kitty friend. Sparrow is Nicole’s rescue kitty. He was found abandoned in a garage with a terrible eye infection. He doesn’t even know he has only one eye. He whispered to Ruby, “I think it’s playtime.”
It’s best to train dogs when they are young. By nature, they are pack animals that live and work with other animals and not on their own. Dogs need to learn how to behave in a human’s world.
At three months old, Ruby met her trainer, Malik, for the first time. Class met once a week at a local pet store. After class Ruby loved to visit all the animals in the store.
First, Ruby learned the four basic commands: sit, stay, come, and down. She was a fast learner and practiced for just 10 minutes every day. Because Ruby enjoyed learning new tricks, Peter and Karen have continued to take classes with Malik.
Malik and Ruby have a special bond. He’s not just Ruby’s trainer, he’s Peter and Karen’s trainer too. He teaches the family how to work with Ruby. They learned how to repeat commands. That’s the most important part of the learning process.
Ruby is smart and eager to learn. She loves her training classes! Her favorite trick is waving hello. She also loves to twirl like a ballerina, walk like a human, touch, retrieve, and give objects. She can wipe her own paws on a towel and cross her paws for a photo pose. Sometimes she likes to stick her tongue out too!
Ruby also was trained to be a therapy dog. A therapy dog is trained to comfort people other than their owners. They sometimes visit hospitals, schools or other places where people need a little extra love and affection. Therapy dogs help people feel better. Ruby donates her time so she can comfort people and sometimes entertain them with her tricks.
She usually comforts individuals but, sadly, there are times when an entire community might need some big hugs.
It felt great to honor Ruby’s rescue team by helping other people in need.
It felt great to honor Ruby’s rescue team by helping other people in need.
Fundraising parties are a fun way to raise money to help animals in need.
Karen and Peter took Ruby on a trip back to North Carolina to visit her foster family, the Singhs. They drove straight through the forest that used to be home to Mama Dog, Ruby, and her siblings.
Everyone shared big hugs and were happy to see each other.
Before Ruby said good-bye to everyone, she posed for a photo with her rescue team. (Debby, Courtney, Jon and Lynn)
Through social media, many of the Angier Pup families keep in touch. Ruby’s family enjoys exchanging pictures and stories with Sadie and Bogart’s family, Cal and Amy.
(Sadie and Bogart)
Ruby’s sister and brother, Sadie and Bogart, went to live on Cal and Amy’s farm in Pennsylvania. They help with the farm chores like feeding the cows and gathering eggs, and they are a great addition to their family.
Ruby and Sadie still look pretty much identical! While Bo’s markings are clearly different, his face is by no mistake the same as his sisters’.
Much in the same way that all mothers teach their offspring survival skills, Mama Dog taught her puppies to dig a hole, bury the ham hocks that Debby used to bring for Mama Dog, and then smooth the dirt with their nose to hide that there was anything there that another animal could steal and eat.
All of them have retained this skill, and it’s funny to see the dirt on their noses! Those dogs can’t hide from their family what they have been up to!
Thank you for taking you and your family on this journey with Ruby. There are millions of dogs and cats that need help and homes. I hope you will join us in making sure every animal finds its forever home.
MALIK’S BASIC DOG TRAINING TIPS
- Hold a treat on Puppy’s nose while she is standing.
- Slowly lure her head up until Puppy’s bottom touches the floor.
- As soon as this happens, say, “Yes!” and give Puppy the treat.
- Repeat this several times.
- After Puppy has learned the sit command, ask her to sit.
- Say, “Stay” and at the same time, hold up one hand, palm facing toward Puppy, and hold up a treat in the other hand.
- After a couple of seconds, say, “OK,” praise and treat Puppy for staying still.
- Keep the stays short at first, then build up the time Puppy waits for your OK command before being treated.
- Hold a treat on Puppy’s nose while in a sitting position and slowly lower the treat to the ground.
- Puppy should follow the treat to the floor. As soon as she is in a down position with elbows touching the floor, say, “Yes!” and treat Puppy.
- Hold a treat on Puppy’s nose.
- Turn and walk away. While looking back at Puppy, say, “Puppy, come”.
- When Puppy reaches you, say, “Yes!” and treat Puppy.