August Dog Tale of the Month – Derby, The Jack Russell that Could

from: Brad Duncan

location: Prospect, Kentucky

Hello…I am writing to you and attaching a couple of pictures of “0ur Girl” Derby, an 11 year old Jack Russell. We named her Derby because my wife got her for our 10th Anniversary, back at the end of April ’98, which was a couple of days before the Kentucky Derby here in Louisville. When she and our daughters surprised me with her, she was small enough to fit on a hot dog bun. Even though I wanted a big “Man-dog”, like a Golden or a Lab, Derby quickly became a part of our family. Turning
into an eight to ten pound Mighty Mite.

Five years later we bought a runabout and a houseboat with a good friend and his family. I wanted to make sure I got the best and safest lifejacket around, so I ordered one from Ruff Wear. This quickly grew into one of the things Derby loved most; riding in our boat and swimming with her Ruff Wear life vest on. As always was the case, we would say to Derby; “Wanna go to the lake?” Her head would tilt sideways with curiosity and excitement, knowing full well what that meant. One of the easiest
conveniences of her life vest was we could pluck out of the water with the handle on the back of her life vest. Better yet, carry her around like a “six-pack” when needed while we would be at a dock.

Derby the Water Dog
Derby the Water Dog

Unfortunately, Derby died suddenly this past Friday on July 17, 2009, of a tumor that burst on her spleen, which caused internal bleeding that killed her quickly. She passed away so quickly I couldn’t even get her to our vet to try to save her.  Ultimately, this turned out to be for the best for her, as our vet explained to my wife and I after performing an autopsy, telling us that if not now, then it was bound
to happen sometime in the near future. With very few options or quality of life for her, if we were lucky enough to catch it.  So, from that standpoint, it was a blessing that Derb did not suffer long.

Ironically, I had been gone on business for 10 days and the night before, I arrived home to our usual “Lovefest” with her full of licks and receiving kisses and belly scratches from me. And the fact that she did not pass away until the next morning, truly makes me feel like she was waiting for me to return home, so I could be here for her.  Since she knew I was her pack leader and Daddy, having trained her as a pup.

The heartbreaking fact to us is even at 11 years old, she was still packed full of vitality and charisma. Being a Jack Russell, and thinking she was the size of a camel, Derby was ready to greet and if necessary, challenge most anyone and/or anything. Except like most dogs; thunderstorms, when she would shake like a $10 TV under our bed.

Regardless, when it came to the lake, Derby was her usual fearless self. As she loved riding in our boat, letting the wind flap her ears back, making her look like a bat dog.  All the while, sniffing as
much air as she could possibly take in. When stationary, if there was a tennis ball within eyeshot, she was quick to let everyone know it’s time to throw the ball, and I mean NOW, with her barking, as a constant reminder. Then, once again without fear, she would go flying off the boat in search of her quest. Never having any regard for a couple of friends’ Labradors that would deep-six her on occasion. She was going to get that ball..!!


All the while we knew Derb was as safe as could be with her Ruff Wear lifejacket on.  So much so, one time we were stopped in the middle of the lake with friends in our boat, while we were taking all our kids’ inner tubing.  And instead of squatting right there in our runabout, she calmly weaves her way through a maze of feet and legs to jump off the back swim platform.  Derby was on a mission, as she swims over 300 yards to the shoreline to take care of her business.  Our friends were howling
(no pun intended) at the sight of all this. Yet once again, we were not worried about her safety or her ability to get to the shore.  Once she was done, back in the water she came, swimming the 300 yards back to us…(I know I should’ve moved our boat closer to her, but confidence was high she would make it).  Once Derby was back at our runabout, we grabbed her by her handle and she immediately shook off, and looked at all of us as if to say; what’s the big deal and where’s that ball…??

The other humorous part was being able to take Derby to the shoreline on a wave runner at night from our houseboat.  Here it is pitch black, tied up in a cove on the water, with no light around whatsoever, other than what was coming from the houseboat itself. So, we would turn on her little beacon light on her lifejacket and there was no mistaking being able to watch where she was going to take care of business in the dark.

It has been my intent to send you a note of gratitude for years. Now I feel as if I owe it to her, being a child with fur of ours, as she has often been referred to since she passed away. Needless to say, it is with a heavy heart and a tear in my eye, (one of a thousand I’ve had) that I write this to you in honor and memory of “Our Girl – Derby”. She is all gone, but she will always remain in our hearts and our memories. Thank you for bringing some of the best memories to us a dog owner could ever have through your wonderful product(s).  Memories that we will always keep close to us…!!

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