the story of a birthday girl


Today, July 16, is the 10th birthday of the sweetest dog in the world. I want to celebrate it by sharing our story…

It all began around February 2002. At the time, I was almost 19 years old and looking forward to my graduation in June. Many of my classmates were already putting their university applications together, but I knew I wanted to do something different for a bit. Something that would involve dogs, and preferably Border Collies. I had heard, from some friend of a friend, of someone who had gone abroad as an au pair, but to look after dogs instead of children. Curious, I went online and put in “dog + au pair” in the search engine. The first hit on the list was a kennel called Mastamariner. I clicked the link – and everything clicked. Instantly, I knew that this was where I had to go. The dogs – Border Collies and Golden Retrievers – seemed perfect and everything else looked very promising, too.

A much angsted-over application to the kennel and some months later, I was sitting on a plane from Sweden to England. I was travelling abroad on my own for the first time and, admittedly, I was a little nervous. But everything went all right and I was safely collected at Heathrow airport by Graham, my “kennel dad”, and another Swedish au pair girl named Camilla. Eventually, we arrived in the adorable little country village that is the home of Mastamariner kennel. I was welcomed by another fellow au pair girl, Josie, my “kennel mum” Catherine and, of course, a pack of happy, excited dogs. I could tell most of the dogs apart from the beginning, having stalked the Mastamariner homepage daily since February.

I was given the tour of my new home, and everything was just as great as I’d imagined – and that was saying something, after several months of anticipation. After a cup of afternoon tea, everything settled down for a few hours before dinner. And that was when it hit me. Out of nowhere, a great wave of homesickness overtook me. To this day I have no idea why, because everything was just as I had hoped and wished. Yet, tears came to my eyes and I felt like there was absolutely no way I could do this – live so far away from home, speak a different language and be independent! I was out in the front yard, and hopelessly I slumped and sat down on the ground, not knowing what to do with myself. I probably would have started crying in earnest the next moment.

But I didn’t. All of a sudden, I felt a small, wet nose nudging me. Looking up, I found myself gazing into a pair of dark brown eyes in a tiny face, framed by a set of absolutely enormous ears. One of her front legs had a black stocking, and her tail was wagging happily. Without hesitating, she placed a doggy kiss on my nose. And instantly, forgetting all about my troubles, I fell in love with that little dog.

I knew which one she was, of course, from the homepage. But I didn’t know who she was, that she was Ruth, the dog of my dreams. She was eleven months old then, and the youngest Border Collie at the kennel. I like to think that she took as instant a liking to me as I did to her. It certainly seemed that way. The other au pair girls were wonderful at taking care of the pack, but they weren’t too interested in dog activities. I was, and Catherine and Graham kindly let me take Ruth to agility training in a village nearby. We quickly bonded over our agility evenings, and we shared everything from long walks and trimming sessions to toast and my bed. Ruth accepted and returned my devotion like none of my own dogs back in Sweden ever had.

Ruth and I at the agility course, July 2002. Photo by Catherine Everitt.

Of course, Ruth belonged to the Mastamariner household and was intended to stay at the kennel with her two- and fourlegged friends. So she did, and when I eventually had to leave for Sweden, saying goodbye to Ruth was the most difficult parting. I thought that getting “my own Ruth” would help, so I set my heart on having a little sister from the repeat mating of Ruth’s parents. That’s how Aska came into my life, and I’m sure I’ve never met a dog more different from Ruth. Although lovely in her own ways, Aska didn’t lessen my longing for Ruth. Whenever I wrote to Catherine or Graham, I requested that they give Ruth a special cuddle from me – Ruth, and no one else. When I came to visit, Ruth was the first dog I looked for, the one I spoiled the most and the one I insisted on having sleep on my bed.

Eventually, Ruth retired from her motherly duties at the kennel, and was looking forward to many happy years of retirement. Jokingly, I said to Catherine that now that Ruth had retired, I would come and kidnap her. Imagine my surprise when she agreed that I should! I never expected it, because the dogs at Mastamariner are anything but “breeding stock” – they are family, each dog loved. Such dogs are not routinely rehomed when they get old, but cherished more than ever. I thought very carefully about my decision – could I really offer Ruth a home as lovely as the one she already had? It was difficult not to be selfish and simply get her for my own happiness. I reasoned, however, that I could at least offer her more special attention with only two other dogs for company, as well as all the love I had felt for her since that very first day.

So Ruth came to Sweden, in March of 2009.

I have not regretted it for a single moment. The people who questioned my decision to bring a third dog home forgot their doubts as soon as they met Ruth. She is the loveliest, sweetest and most wonderful dog in the world. I have never met her equal in kindness or patience. Alongside her younger siblings, she has seen new places, had new experiences and met new people and creatures, and if her ever-wagging tail is any indication, I believe she has enjoyed it all. She used to be a picky eater, but now she happily gobbles down her servings every day. At ten years old, she still enjoys a run at full Border Collie speed. She never strays from my side, and she sleeps on my bed every night.

I know that she is dearly missed at Mastamariner, and I still can’t quite believe that Catherine and Graham let her go. But I’m deeply grateful that they did; I can’t properly express all the joy you have given me by letting me share my life with Ruth. All the sunny days are brighter still because I have her to share them with, and when I need to be comforted she will be there with her little nose, just like the first day we met.

So, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for Ruth. And a happy, happy birthday to my precious ten-year-old girl!


Ruth at two years old.

Agility training in England! Photo by Catherine Everitt.

Ruth with her second litter.

Ruth and one of her sons, Toby.

Flying over the fields, almost 10 years old.

My companion, my best friend, my darling Ruth.

12 Responses

  1. Åh Anna, du lyckas så väl fånga den kärlek och de band som knyts med de allra mest speciella fyrbenta. Jag blev alldeles tårögd!

  2. Vilken solskenshistoria! Grattis Ruth! :)

  3. *torkar glädjetårar*

  4. ååh så fint! Grattis till Ruthy toothy ♥

  5. I read your lovely story of Ruth with tears in my eyes. Happy tears though for a very special and loving story. A very happy birthday lovely Ruth from your daughter Skye and your nephew Toby, and lots of love from me too. xxx

  6. She is special but so are you many thanks for looking after our special girl and we hope to see her next year when we come to visit!!

  7. We were talking about Ruth this morning and I just logged on and saw your post. I know my beloved girl couldn’t be happier than she is with her special Anna.
    10 years ago, after Deborah had “finished” whelping and some 3 hours after her last puppy a small, dark, tired, bedraggled parcel was deposited in the whelping box for me to unwrap. As I held the little soul on the palm of my hand, before her first filling feed, I could see every nuance of her conformation and made the bold statement – “this is the one!”. And so our little Ruth entered the world, she grew to be beautiful but more than that – she grew to be kind and like her mother she has lightened every life she has touched.

    Now she is 10 and still beautiful and kind and still spreading that special magic that comforts and delights.
    Thank you Anna for loving her so much and giving her such a special place in your heart.

    Cuddle my beloved girl for me again tonight!


  8. Blev alldeles tårögd av att läsa detta. Så fint skrivet!!

  9. The love between you and your dogs makes my heart glad. You and Ruth have a beautiful story and relationship.

  10. Anna, du skriver så bra så det finns inte en enda människa som läst detta inlägg som inte förstår och kan känna din kärlek till Ruth!
    Jag sitter här och dränker mig själv i tårar av glädje över din och Ruths fantastiska historia och jag minns när hon kom till Sverige, denna fantastisk varelse. Men tårarna rinner också av saknad till mina egna två som har lämnade ett konstant tomrum efter sig för en månad sedan. Men det är en tröst att veta att dina tre underbara fyrbenta finns kvar och att jag kan få ta del av deras mjuka och fluffiga pälsar när helst jag beger mig norr ut. :)

    Grattis i efterskott Ruth!

    Massor med kramar till min kära Aaana, Ruth, Sirius och Aska.

  11. Den här “sagan” snuddade verkligen mitt hjärta, sådär att det känns… som om något stannar upp. Tårarna är i antågande, och andningen blir fördröjd. Jag älskar din kärlek till Ruth. & jag är så omåttligt glad för din skull, att du får ha henne i ditt liv. Vilka fantastiska människor där i England, som lät dig ta hem din guldklimp! Jag blir så glad så glad så glad av att läsa!