Ashley was a sad little waif that had been discovered in a garbage dumpster in Wooster Ohio. She had been placed in a pillow case and thrown away like trash. The garbage men discovered her and turned her in to the Wooster County Animal Shelter. Horribly emaciated and with her spirit completely broken, this little dog was not considered adoptable, so the shelter called Ratbone Rescues. I was an enthusiastic newbie at that time and all I saw was Ashley’s thin little body held in the arms of a shelter worker. I wanted her. Ashley was in Ohio. I was in Oregon.
It was winter and flying a dog in cold weather conditions required extra precautions. My husband thought I was out of my head, bringing in a dog that we had never met and that required jumping through a lot of hoops to get. And she wasn’t even a normal dog. She was a mess. Robert had a hard time understanding that was precisely the reason that I wanted her.
It was freezing cold in Ohio. We couldn’t fly her out. My Ohio Ratbones person bought a crate and watched the temperatures closely. Then one day, between Christmas and New Years, we got the call. The weather in Ohio had broken and Ashley was on a flight to Portland OR.
Robert and I loaded up the pickup with blankets, bottled water and a little bowl in case she was thirsty or cold. We had a leash. We had towels in case she got sick. We were ready! The flight was late.
We sat quietly in the Delta cargo reception area, waiting for the plane that had scared little Ashley on it. Soon, Robert was pacing. I heard him ask the man at the counter if they ever lost dogs on these long flights? His tone sounded rather accusing. That attracted the attention of the other cargo employees at the counter. They reassured Robert that they didn’t lose dogs. The cargo area was temperature controlled and pressurized. Robert was worried about all the noise in the cargo area. He was acting like a new father. You would never have known that he had initially been completely opposed to bringing Ashley in.
Finally, the crew announced that Ashley had been unloaded and was being brought into the reception area. I signed the paperwork, paid the flight fees and turned just as a crate was placed on the counter. I had a brief glimpse of a long, bony little face panting in terror. Then my tough husband opened the crate and scooped terrified little Ashley into the inside of his leather bomber jacket, cuddling her against his body heat. The crew, who had built up quite a curiosity about just what kind of dog we were waiting for, was disappointed that all they got to see of her was the tip of her little head as my husband headed out the door with her inside his jacket. I was equally disappointed! I hurriedly thanked the crew, grabbed the crate, struggled out the heavy doors and hustled out after my husband and our new dog. I would never have predicted that my non communicative, ex military, slightly critical husband would have grabbed up Ashley and instantly become her new protector.
As we had shared the news that long awaited Ashley was arriving that night, we soon had my mother and our friend Rhonda, who was Mr. Tibbs dog trainer, in the living room waiting for the unveiling of the new dog. But Ashley wouldn’t come out of her crate. We placed the crate in the living room, opened the door and waited. A nose poked out, saw all the people staring at her, then withdrew back into the crate. Mr Tibbs, our own Rat Terrier, went over to the crate, stuck his head inside and his back end began to wiggle. Obviously, Mr Tibbs was pleased to see her. And Ashley seemed comforted by Mr Tibb’s greeting, for she slowly made her way out of the crate and jumped up on the couch beside my mother. Everyone sat quietly, waiting to see what she would do. We were all afraid to spook the obviously nervous, trembling little dog. Mr Tibbs, however, was simply pleased as punch to have a new found doggy friend in the house. He hopped up on the couch and plunked himself down beside her. As everyone waited quietly, Ashley seemed to gradually relax and look around her. My mother slowly reached out and ran a gentle hand down her back, then withdrew. Then she stroked her again. Ashley looked over, and put her little head under my mother’s hand as if asking for more petting. That did it. Ashley was home and she was ours.
It didn’t take long for the honeymoon to be over. Ashley wasn’t house broken and she had obviously been punished for relieving herself. Being a smart dog, Ashley had learned to hide evidence of her mistakes. We found pee and poo in the most difficult places. Behind doors, under the sink and once in a potted plant. Ashley had also been repeatedly beaten and we learned to undress and remove our belts in the walk in closet where she couldn’t see us. If you picked up a stick, Ashley would panic. If you raised your voice, Ashley would hide. Any loud noise sent her trembling to the walk in closet where she would burrow under shoes. The 4th of July was a nightmare. We just left town and went as far from civilization as we could.
Mr Tibbs became Ashley’s comforter and confident. They were never far from each other. We think Ashley was Mr Tibb’s dog and that although she learned to love and trust Robert and me, she really belonged heart and soul to Mr Tibbs.
It took a year to house break Ashley and another year before she began acting like a normal dog. By that time, Ashley belonged to Mr Tibbs and us and was no longer available for adoption.
Ashley became a full fledged member of the Cadell household. She slept in bed with us, right next to Tibbs. She traveled with us in the RV. We traded our RV in for one with a bigger bed so we could accommodate both dogs and have a little room for us. Ashley was fun to travel with. She and Tibbs ran on the beach and explored everything. Until it rained. Ashley hated rain. We had to hold an umbrella over her head or she wouldn’t pee outside in the rain.
Years went by. Foster dogs came and got adopted. Mad Max joined the household. Ashley took charge of all the foster puppies as she was a natural mama dog. She was also a wonderful help on home visits. When I had to go to an applicant’s home, I took Ashley. If Ashley was afraid of one of the members of that household, she would tremble and pee on the carpet. Ashley knew who were nice people and who she was scared of. So if an applicant wanted to adopt a Ratbone dog, they had to pass the “Ashley test”.
Mr Tibbs was now 15 years old. He had suffered from allergies his entire life and we had kept him healthy by feeding him raw food and carefully protecting him from anything harmful. But he was failing. He had contracted Cushings and it was finally taking a toll on him. Ashley was always by his side. She would clean his face and fret over him. Mr Tibbs couldn’t get comfortable on the bed anymore so he slept next to us on a soft bed on the floor. Ashley also left our bed and slept next to Tibbs. If Tibbs had difficulty breathing, Ashley would wake us up and let us know Tibbs needed help. The day came when Tibbs was not enjoying his life. We decided to let our beloved little guy move on and not suffer anymore. We took Tibby to the vet that had been his friend for 13 years and he died in our arms. But when we came home without Tibbs, Ashley went into a serious depression.
Eventually, Ashley got better. She never returned to her earlier self, but she did get better. But to this day, Ashley is missing Tibbs. Now 15 years old, Ashley has a grey muzzle and sometimes forgets where she is. She still sleeps on the bed she shared with Tibbs. She is our ancient darling and there is nothing we will not do for her. She is fed all her favorite foods on the couch in the living room. We still take her out of town on the 4th of July. Whatever Ashley wants, Ashley gets. But we think she is just putting in her time on this earth until she goes off to be reunited with her Mr Tibbs.