Rufus came with paperwork—a couple of pages of vet records that showed what shots he’d had and that he was born on September 11, 2010, which seems improbable, weighed 98 lbs., again, improbable, and was a “yellow Lab mix var. bunyon.” Well, when two out of three things on a dog’s records are false, who thinks anything of the third thing?
But we’d been home with him for about a month when we got a phone call from a Minnesota area code.
“Ms. Phillips? This is Arthur Gunderson. I think I owe you some money.”
“I’ve been trying to track down the family who bought Rufus and that appears to be you.”
“Oh, we didn’t buy Rufus. He was a rescue.”
“Goodness,” Mr. Gunderson got very quiet. “Was he abused?”
“Not as far as we can tell. He seems very inexperienced with regular life, but he’s not shy of people or aggressive or anything. He’s a real sweetheart.”
“Well, now I just feel terrible. I suspect that the reason I’m calling you may be the reason he was abandoned by his original owner. I own Rufus’s father and my son owns Rufus’s mother. We’re part of a small group of enthusiasts who are working to revitalize this line. My son sold the litter Rufus was a part of those many years ago and I was supposed to receive the runt. The dogs take some time to grow full size and it is obvious now that my dog is full-size. I’ve contacted the owners of all of Rufus’s littermates and they’re also full-size, which means that you must have it. Rufus is the runt.”
“The runt?” I tried to interrupt.
“My son and I feel that it’s unethical to have sold Rufus for full price when he’ll never be full-sized. But poor Rufus. Clearly, when he remained so small, his original buyer abandoned him.”
“Small?! Wait. Time out. Rufus is huge. Other lab owners stop us at the park and ask us what kind of dog he is. How big are these other dogs?”
“Can he still fit in your house?”
“Yep, definitely the runt.”