Reflections on Rufus

I’ve had a number of dogs over the course of my adult life, and I loved each one in its own way, but Rufus stands out among them for his gentle ways.

We spent Christmas day, 2008, in San Antonio at Katie’s aunt’s house. Dinner and dessert were over, and several of us were standing in the driveway watching Samuel try out his new skateboard. A big male Golden Retriever trotted up and greeted each of us. We looked for a collar and tags to no avail. We took him in the house and asked Katie’s aunt if she recognized him. She didn’t. At the end of the evening, we had a minor disagreement about whether Katie’s cousin and her husband would take the dog back to their home in East Texas or we would take him home to Pflugerville. We prevailed; I think we were a little pushy about it.

We put ads out for him, but nobody claimed him. We took him to the vet and found out that he was heartworm-positive, which is not uncommon in our area if a dog doesn’t take regular heartworm medication. He became our dog.

Here he is the next day at home with our other Golden at the time, Xena:

And here he is with me at Enchanted Rock on January 1, 2009:

In 2014, I started working for a company that had quarterly Bring-your-dog-to-work days, and Rufus became a familiar face around the office. At one of his visits, he met a coworker who had just arrived in Austin from New Delhi, India. In India, few people have pet dogs and there are many street dogs that you don’t want to get near, so this guy had never actually petted a dog before. With the help of a very good friend who worked with me, this guy spent 30 minutes on the floor of the office petting Rufus. Another coworker was afraid of dogs but Rufus was the only one she would get near. Both of these stories show his gentleness and trustworthiness.

By 2019, Rufus was getting on in years, and the last BYDTW day of that year was pretty rough on him: the relative unfamiliarity of the surroundings, being out all day, having to walk on slick floors in the building lobby and elevator–his hips were getting weak by this point. I told our HR person who administered the BYDTW days that that had probably been his last visit to the office.  She asked me if he could possibly make it one more time and suggested that we make the theme of the next BYDTW day “Rufus Retirement.” I agreed, and everyone at the office and at home was thrilled.

The next BYDTW day was scheduled for late March, 2020, but the pandemic hit, and we all started working from home. Rufus never got his retirement party; one more sacrifice to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rufus developed cancer in his leg in 2020, and after a couple of surgeries to remove it, he died in December of that year. We captured this magnificent portrait of him in the greenbelt behind the house a couple of weeks before his death:

At the next company all-hands meeting after Rufus’ death, the President of the company paid his respects to Rufus and what he had done for the company and its employees:

At some point, the marketing team used that magnificent photo on the company’s “About” page as the symbol for company culture, and though I no longer work for this employer, Rufus’s photo is still there:


Lt. Reginald Barkley has joined our family

Lt Reginald BarkleyIn May, we welcomed Lt. Reginald Barkley, a three-year-old male Golden Retriever, into our family. He was, as we call it, a CraigList rescue. His previous person had bought male and female Goldens with the intention of breeding them, but she was in over her head and was selling the male. He had never had vet care, not had heartworm preventative (he was HW negative, thankfully!), had a skin infection and showed signs that he had spent most of his life in a kennel. He can never take the place of Rufus, but he has stolen our hearts already.

Goodbye, Rufus

RufusOn Christmas day, 2008, we were standing in the driveway of a relative’s house in San Antonio watching Samuel try out his new skateboard when this big, red dog came bounding up to us. We took him home with us and posted ads to find his people, to no avail. He turned out to be heartworm-positive. We treated his heartworm, named him Rufus and made him a part of our family. On December 12, 2020, we had to say goodbye to the bestest boy. You will be missed, Rufus.

My furry running partner

Stan and Charlie on the running trail

Last spring, our beloved Golden Retriever Xena died of old age. A couple of months later, we went to the Pflugerville Animal Shelter to adopt a kitten but came home with a dog whom we named Charlie. He was somewhere under a year old when we adopted him, weighs just under 20 pounds, and is an unknown mix–our best guess is Pomeranian (due to curly tail) and Golden Retriever. It turns out that Charlie is a real athlete. I tried taking him running with me a couple months ago, and he has really taken to it. He pulls like crazy, but due to his small size, that’s not too much of a problem. To date, our longest run together has been nine miles.


In memoriam

I’m sad to report that this morning, we had Tippiedog put to sleep. She was about 15 or 16 years old, and, as this photo shows, had been a member of our family since 1995 or 1996. We already miss her greatly.

Update on Rufus

Last week, I wrote about the stray Golden Retriever that came up to us on Christmas day.

Well, Katie took him to the vet today. As soon as he heard Rufus’ story, the vet guessed that Rufus had heartworms1. Apparently, a lot of people abandon their dogs when they test positive for heartworms: either the owners think the dog is a goner, or they don’t want/can’t pay for treatment, which can be quite expensive. In either case, just dumping the dog is a poor choice (don’t get me started!).

A heartworm test was one of the reasons we took Rufus in to the vet. Sure enough, he tested positive. Fortunately, our country vet only charges $3002 for treatment, and he thinks that little enough damage has been done to Rufus’ heart that he’ll have a full recovery.
1 Heartworms are very common in this part of the country, and all dogs should be given preventive medicine.
2 He said that other vets charge up to $1000.

Welcome, Rufus Ray McDufus III

Our invisible dog rescue sign followed us to San Antonio on Christmas day. After dinner, we were standing in the driveway at Katie’s aunt’s house, watching Samuel play with his new RipStick, when the dog below walked up. I immediately put a note on Craigslist, and we brought him home. No collar, no microchip and no responses to the Craigslist note, so it looks like we’ll be finding a home for him.
UPDATE 3 Jan 2009: No luck in reuniting him with his people. In the meantime, we’ve fallen in love with him and, against our better judgment, we’ve decided to keep him. We’ve named him Rufus Ray McDufus III.

How Far Would You Go To Keep Your Dog Alive?

I’ve written before about the high cost of veterinary care. A pair of opinion artciles in the Wall Street Journal discuss how much people are willing to spend on pet health care. The author ponders:

[These days] [v]ets do aggressive cancer surgery and hip replacements. They pump dogs full of expensive drugs for various maladies. In short, dogs get many of the same procedures we humans get. But it’s not cheap, and if it’s anything like human medicine, it’s going to get more expensive as vets take increasingly sophisticated and heroic measures to keep dogs alive.
I’m not here to say this is good or bad. We live in a very rich country, and if people want to spend thousands of dollars on their dogs, so be it.
But should the willingness to pay for expensive procedures be a prerequisite for getting a dog, as some of the emails to me seemed to suggest? I question that. That would pretty much mean that poor people, or their children, couldn’t own dogs. That doesn’t seem right.
Even people with the wherewithal to pay for expensive dog care are going to draw the line differently

In principle, I don’t believe in paying thousands of dollars on pet health care. Due to my country upbringing, I see a distinct line between pets and people.
In practice, however, things are not always so clear cut. A few months ago, Penny tore her ACL and meniscus (there are other veterinary terms for the injuries, but those are the human equivalents). The vet told us that if we did not do surgery she would be in pain for the rest of her life. The surgery, of course, would cost about $1500.
After doing due diligence to determine that there were no other alternatives to surgery, I suggested that we should ask the vet if there were cheaper procedures that would relieve the pain but not necessarily return her knee joint to its original function, such as fusing the joint or even amputation. Boy, did that cause an uproar in our household.
In the end, we didn’t ask about other alternatives, and we proceeded with the surgery. Penny seems to have made a full recovery.

On the other hand, we’ve made different choices with Tippie, our 14-year-old Shepsky. We recently stopped giving her heartworm medication ($18/month). There’s very little chance she’ll get heart worms, and even if she did, she’s still likely to die of old age before the heart worms could harm her. And we’ve been giving her Ibuprofen for her aching joints, even though this runs the risk of harming her liver. Our goal is to make her comfortable for her remaining time with us, not to extend that time as long as possible.