The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

MEL BUTTLE MY LIFE REVOLVES AROUND MY DOG

- MEL BUTTLE Mel Buttle is a Brisbane comedian

Ruby is my $50 best friend. She’s a Bull Arab from the RSPCA, and my life revolves around her. I leave work early when it’s raining because she’s afraid of storms, I make her a special dinner once a week from chicken mince and vegies; to be honest I eat something similar most nights, we’re both keto, it just makes it easier.

I wondered if I’m a good owner to

Ruby sometimes. I think I’m doing my best but sometimes I worry I fall short. How could we possibly know if our dog likes us? Wouldn’t they just run mindlessly up to anyone who comes home to them after work? And bump their heads lovingly into the thighs of anyone holding a dog food bag? After a wine, I try a bit hard to get Ruby to give me a sign that she loves me, I look at her and say, “Give me a signal if you think I’m the best?” If she moves at all, I take that as a coded message of genuine devotion. If there’s no sign from Ruby, I quickly say, “Or, give me no sign at all if you love me intensely?” Then all my bases are covered.

Ruby is 10 in April, that’s double digits, she’s getting on in age, and I’ve noticed it. The ageing mutt only walks down the stairs now with a bone in her mouth instead of running away to the very rear corner of the back yard. She’s much calmer when I get home, she now says hello with a tail wag and a slow trot around the house, instead of a series of leaps in my direction and running in circles. Ten is 70 in dog years which means Ruby is well on her way to bifocals, voting for whoever has the nicest smile and choosing a restaurant based on the parking.

Ruby hasn’t been herself lately, it worried me a little bit, was she depressed? She was sleeping a lot. Or is getting up at 9am just what 10-year-old dogs do? Of course, as a way-too-invested dog mum, I pictured the worst. I began to reflect on the kind of life she’s had, and I think it’s been pretty good. She goes to the dog park, the off-leash beach, she’s been to

Sydney and

Melbourne and even starred in an episode of Totally Wild. If this is her time, she’s had a good innings. I had Ruby written off, ashes scattered at Nudgee Beach, small ceremony, fish and chips afterwards.

Then, this week Ruby gave me a sign that she is not ready to go to the farm anytime soon. It was a slightly overcast afternoon when I came home to hear Ruby but not see her. I called out to her, and in reply all I got was a soft whinge. Somehow, Ruby had jumped from my yard, over the six foot fence into my neighbour Tamieka’s yard.

“Ruby! You’re 10, how did you do this?!” I yelled. Ruby was powered by her storm phobia, it was about to rain and she

was in a manic state. Tamieka, however, was out, she goes to the gym after work, so I had no way to retrieve Ruby. Come on, Buttle, think. Then it hit me, if she jumped over, she must be able to jump back. I got down on the ground, in my yard with her lead in my hand and jingled it. I saw her head pop up above Tamieka’s fence, once, twice, then she did it. It was like something out of a police show, she was up and over in a matter of seconds. Ruby isn’t depressed, old, or sick, she was merely saving it all up for this one phenomenal fence-leaping act. Ruby, you’re in big trouble when you wake up, young lady.

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