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This story has been shared as part of the Fur Fam Story Contest. You can submit your own tale through December 5th. Voting will run from December 6th through December 31st. Three grand prize winners will receive a $500 prize, plus $2000 in cash and supplies for their favorite shelter. Share your story here!The moment Ruthie was born, everyone knew she was special. Her amazing breeder Lisa took a look at her and realized she was born with a cleft lip. She reached out to The Devoted Barn to see if we could take care of her, and she came to the Barn.
PHOTO: RHONDA GELSTEIN
I work with newborn dogs that need to be tube fed. I had a son born at 24 weeks gestation and because I was willing to learn how to tube feed him, he was able to come home from the NICU early. Using those skills all these years later, I tube feed puppies born with cleft lips or palates or have other medical conditions that prevent them from nursing properly.
When Ruthie was 6 days old, she came to me, and we promptly fell in love. It’s easy to fall in love with newborn puppies, but she was something special. We also had my mother-in-law living with us at this time. Mom was 94 years old and loved dogs. She spent many happy hours holding Ruthie. Every day, she would say how much she loved Ruthie and how special she was. Ruthie would always settle right down in her arms. These two special souls nourished each other, one at the beginning of her life and one at the end. It was magical.
Ruthie is a Berger Picard, a breed I had never heard about. The breed is very rare in North America and each one is precious. The Berger Picard community continued to support Ruthie, even setting up a special Facebook page for her and raising money to help with her care. We felt like we gained a whole new family as they provided love, advice and support. As Ruthie has grown, she has been reunited with both her parents as their owners brought them over to visit. Others who own her litter mates or siblings from other litters have followed her development.
PHOTO: RHONDA GELSTEIN
Ruthie turns 1 in January. She has vision and neurological issues along with her cleft lip and palate, but for us, she’s absolutely perfect. Ruthie wears a diaper in the house, and she runs kinda crooked because of having no vision in her left eye. You will never meet a happier dog. She LOVES to play and run and always has a smile on her face and the happiest eyes ever. She has lots of doggy friends and other fur sisters in our home. She’s goofy and loves her people with all that she is.
She is a great “big sister” to puppies that continue to come in for care and helps take care of them until they go on to their forever homes. She also has an amazing sense of compassion. A couple of months ago, I had two newborn chihuahuas, one was born with a cleft lip and one was failure to thrive. One passed away, and Ruthie stayed very near as I was caring for the second one.
Sarah (the puppy) passed away around 3:30 am. When I woke up to give her the 3:00 am feeding, I knew she would not make it. I sat and surrounded her with love until her last breath. Then I put her back into the incubator to be buried later that day with her brother who had passed away a few hours earlier. No matter how many times this happens, a part of me feels like I failed the puppy, even though intellectually I knew we had done everything we could.
Around 4:00 am, Ruthie crawled up next to me and laid her head on my shoulder. Pretty soon, she started licking my ear, something she had never done before. Then she stayed there and went back to sleep, her head on my shoulder and her big paw on my chest, hugging me. I fell asleep, too, knowing that with her, I did not fail. She was comforting me in her own beautiful way.
PHOTO: RHONDA GELSTEIN
On a different night, I woke up and my husband and I had fallen asleep holding hands. Ruthie had slipped her paw under our hands, so all three of us were joined together in sleep. I grabbed my phone and managed to snag a photo before she woke up. She’s incredible. There is just something so special about her.
Ruthie will continue to act as a spokesdog for animals born with birth defects, showing they can have amazing lives. She appears on the Devoted Barn Facebook page and attends public events showing that different is beautiful. The Devoted Barn is hosting a special needs dog show in 2022. Ruthie will be helping promote it, and of course showing off her special style and skills.
She is perfectly imperfect and we wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s one of a kind.
This story was submitted by Rhonda Gelstein, in support of The Devoted Barn. To share your own submission for the Fur Fam Story Contest, click here!