the Month: Gay Marshall, Ruby
There's a day in my life I'll never forget
As I sat by the river's edge.
Across rushing waters our wary eyes met
While you watched from a narrow ledge.
I thought you were wild, I was afraid,
But offered you my hand.
You took a chance, though young and scared
And forever sealed our bond.
I knew some day you'd have to go,
But it's too soon for goodbye.
I knew some day you'd have to die,
But does some day have to be now?
If only we could find that river.
If only we had more time.
If only my love could give you life,
I know you'd live forever.
Come walk with me before we part,
Through fields of butterflies.
And make me a day of memories
To forever hold in my heart.
I knew some day you'd have to go,
But it's too soon for goodbye.
I knew some day you'd have to die,
But some day . . . please, not now.
- by Grace (Gay) Marshall
coyote was making its way down the embankment on
the other side of the river.
As it got closer, I realized it wasn’t a coyote,
but a dog.
This was High River, Alberta, the last week of
July; I’d been invited to join a pack trip in
the Rockies and had come out a couple of days
ahead to acclimatize. (I hadn’t ridden for
several years and didn’t want my muscles turning
to concrete after the first day’s ride.)
The ranch-hand’s son had come running in at
lunchtime that day full of excitement
announcing, “There’s a wild dog on the ranch - a
“Just leave it alone,” was the response he
received from Larry, the owner, “the last thing
we need around here is another dog, and besides,
it could be diseased.”
This must be the “wild dog” he’d seen. I stared
at it and it stared back, but I wasn’t worried;
it was on the other side of the river and I felt
quite secure knowing that the water was much too
deep and fast for it to cross over. It finally
gave up the staring match and disappeared.
Sitting next to the rushing water, I couldn’t
hear a thing, but it was about ten minutes later
when I became aware of a presence behind me. You
know that feeling you get when someone, or
something, is looking at you? I turned slowly,
and there, about five feet away, was the
“wild”dog. Now, I should point out, I love
animals and will hit the brakes when a leaf
blows across the road on the chance that it may
be a chipmunk: as a child, every summer our
kitchen would have a box with holes punched in
it and a bit of straw for some injured critter I
had rescued; and I was always bringing home
stray cats - still am. But there I was, sitting
on the ground, and facing me was an animal big
enough to do serious damage. I wrapped my
fingers around a rock so I would have some means
of defense if, indeed, it did attack, but
decided it wouldn’t hurt to try kindness first.
“Hello there,” I said softly, and immediately
upon hearing my voice, the dog dropped onto its
belly and began inching its way toward me. My
heart melted, fear vanished (it never crossed my
mind the animal could be rabid), I let go of the
rock and encouraged it with outstretched arms
saying, “Come on, you’re OK, I won’t hurt you,
come here, there’s a good girl.” Thinking that
any movement on my part might cause her to bolt,
I remained still and let her come to me at her
own pace - which was that of a snail. She was
very cautious and it took her close to five
minutes to reach me. By the time she actually
got close enough to lick my hand, she was on her
back totally trusting me. I didn’t know it at
the time, but I had just met my new best friend.
My hosts were less than thrilled when I, a
distant cousin from the East who had only
arrived the day before, came back from an
innocent after-dinner stroll with a dog in tow.
The next day they made a few phone calls. No one
was missing a dog and they didn’t need another
dog. . . “So what are you going to do?” I asked
with growing concern.
“Larry will take her out, away from the house,
and shoot her."
“WHAT! ! !“
They patiently explained to the city girl. “What
is better: to take this dog, who’s probably
never been indoors, put her in a truck for an
hour’s drive to the Calgary Humane Society where
she’ll spend 48 terrified hours confined in a
cage before finally being given a lethal
injection; or take her out into the field and
put a bullet in her head?”
Two days of terror or a split second. Even
though I was a “city girl from the east,” their
way did seem more humane. “I suppose you’re
right,” I said, “but you know, I’ve always
wanted a dog.” She looked to be about a year old
and was a beautiful reddish blond shepherd
It was agreed that she would be fed with their
ranch dogs while we were away on our pack trip
and if she were still here when we returned, and
If I hadn’t changed my mind, I’d take her home
with me. Well, there was little doubt in my mind
that she’d still be here. Who knew what she had
run away from or how long she had been living in
the wild. This dog was skin and bone, looked and
behaved as though she’d been abused, and here
she was getting food, shelter, and no one was
beating her - she wasn’t going anywhere and I
knew I wasn’t going to change my mind.
A week passed and we returned from our pack trip
in the mountains. After only knowing the dog for
that first evening and part of the next day, and
with someone else feeding her for the past seven
days, I wondered if she would even notice, much
less care, about my return. Care she did. That
dog knew I belonged to her. I received an
exuberant welcome and every time I came outside,
she would rush over to me (others would go in
and out of the house and she wouldn’t even look
up). She was also extremely possessive: if I paid
any attention to another dog, she would
immediately come and squirm in between. She left
no doubt - I was the proud owner of a dog. Now
she needed a name. Take a chance, come by
chance, last chance. It was easy: her name had
to be Chance.
I bought Chance a traveling cage, a plane
ticket, had her checked out by a local vet (I
had three cats - all strays - and I didn’t want
to risk bringing any parasites home to them). I
also wanted to get her a tranquillizer for the
plane trip (however the vet said she only
prescribed tranquilizers for very excitable
animals as the calmer ones were better off
I called my sister and said, “When you come to
the airport to pick me up, please bring the
truck, I’m not coming home alone.”
vet was right, Chance was remarkably calm at the
airport. I still marvel at her reaction, or lack
thereof, to the whole airport experience.
Knowing she would be in her crate for several
hours, I waited until the last minute, then took
her for a short walk. I was glad we had
practiced walking at the ranch. The first time I
put a collar and leash on her, she lay down and
wouldn’t move. It was obvious that she had spent
much of her short life tied up and as soon as
the leash went on she resigned herself to
confinement. It took quite a while to teach her
just to walk beside me - something she certainly
needed to know at the airport.
Shortly after arriving back home, I went outside
to clean up the yard and noticed her droppings
were full of white things. I was horrified to
think she could have brought something back that
might infect the cats, but upon closer
examination, the white things were pieces of egg
shells. It seems the last thing Chance did at
the ranch, in addition to continually running
through the flower beds (I think they were happy
to see us both go) was raid the duck house and
steal the eggs.
Chance was about one year old, not housebroken,
and absolutely destroyed if I raised my voice to
her - probably the result of abusive treatment,
(the first time I pick up a stick to throw for
her, she dropped to the ground and cowered,
trembling in fear.) Fortunately for both of us,
she was a quick study, for although I am mostly
a calm and patient type, it was extremely
difficult to remain calm when I’d look up and
see a full-grown dog going to the bathroom on
the living-room carpet! However, in her praise,
she caught on quickly and only had very few
I was a little concerned about the safety of my
cats. After all, here was a dog that had
survived in the Prairies, for who knows how
long, on whatever she could steal or kill, but
she seemed to understand that the cats were
residents of the house and not prey. They
weren’t very hospitable at first however — they
hissed and spat every time Chance got too close
for comfort. It took a few swats on the snout
before she gave up trying to get them to play
Chance and I go to the office each day where she
lies quietly at my feet under the desk waiting
patiently for our noon walk in the park and she
gets to accompany me on errands. For the most
part, people come and go, never suspecting there
is a dog there; except for the postman: when he
walks in she greets him with her best sit and he
gives her a cookie. He’s a nice man.
This is July 14, 1997 and she is about ten years
old now. A couple of weeks will mark the ninth
anniversary of the day I found her, or rather,
she found me. Chance has turned out to be the
very best dog anyone could ever hope to have.
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About the author:
Hello, my name is Grace, or Gay, as I am
known to friends (that's "Gay" as in
lively, joyous, merry, bright). I was a
flight attendant with Canadian Airlines
in my twenties and following a brief
stint at university, moved on to office
work until retiring in 2001 at the age
2007 I wrote Everybody Calls Me "DOC" -
a story of inspiration and determination
- the story of Annemarie Doenne, an
old-fashioned country doctor. She taught
me so much about values. She had grown
up in Frankfurt and hearing her stories
about the war, I learned that money and
possessions mean nothing: life is what
is important... life is what really
travelling; hiking; turning dog hair
into luxuriously soft, warm yarn on
Annemarie's turn-of-the-century spinning
wheel; I am an enthusiastic photographer
of nature and am passionate about the
preservation of the environment - my
property is willed to the Escarpment
Biosphere Conservancy, a charitable,
non-profit, non-government organization
that works with landowners who want to
protect the future of their land by
creating nature reserves.
To earn a
little and spend a little less. To seek
elegance rather than luxury.
To think quietly, talk gently, act
To be wealthy, not rich.
To be honest, to be kind, to be
Based on quotes from:
Robert Louis Stevenson
William Ellery Channing
Photos by Grace (Gay) Marshall