I have had the privilege of managing Dogster’s community of dog lovers for more than five years now. I’ve learned a lot from the community and have become a better caregiver for my pets as a result.
One of the things that’s resonated with me over the years is that we are the voice for our pets. They can’t speak for themselves, so we must make sure that the needs they can’t express are met, giving them structure and stability, exercise, good food, proper health care, socialization and training, lots of love, and the freedom to be a dog.
Another small but significant aspect of Dogster’s community areas is role playing — literally giving a voice to your dog and participating on Dogster as your dog by displaying the personality traits you think your dog has. I am often invited to Dogster groups and in forum threads dedicated to this type of role-play as my own dog Lucy.
Lucy was a blind Basset Hound, who on one paw was stubborn and defiant, and on the other, an incorrigible clown. Her online persona would maneuver through these make-believe events by bumping into other dogs, ignoring them when they tried to get her attention, and playfully making messes by leaving a trail of slobber and drool and wherever she went.
I understand that that to some people, this may seem odd, or even a bit crazy, but for us has been an opportunity to step outside of the routine of our every day lives and just have some silly fun.
Through our dogs, we took virtual trips around the world in hot-air balloons and on cruise ships, attended pretend weddings, celebrated the occasions of our pets — birthdays, Gotcha Days, and memorial gatherings for the pets that we’ve lost — held fundraisers for those in the community who needed assistance with vet bills, and offered support for the many other needs that are required to care for our pets.
One voice, that of a dog named Rudy Putudy, stood out among all of the others. Rudy was a mere three months old when his caregiver joined our community. A chubby little puppy with a fur heart marking his behind, Rudy became a prominent figure at these virtual events.
Rudy was a puppy, so his voice resembled that of a toddler just learning to speak. It quickly became known as “Rudyspeak” and others in the community, drawn by his dynamic and witty personality, studied enthusiastically to understand him. I pride myself on being fluent in Rudyspeak.
Rudy grew up on Dogster, but he never outgrew his “puppy talk.” He’s a thriving six-year-old dog as of today, who, in the virtual world, likes to “cuff (cuss),” play with lighters, “fwick fwick (flick flick),” order and have pizza delivered at lighting speed; “Weds owders pizza **wing wing** bimg bomgs pizza be heahs! (Let’s order pizza, ring ring, ding dong, the pizza is here!),” whips up “wummy magmical hewbal bwowmis (yummy magical herbal brownies),” and is a painter of “Rudy’s originals.”
In real life, Rudy lives in Evansville, Indiana, has a flirt pole, likes to chase the Frisbee, and play at Lorraine Park with his brother Freddy.
In 2007, Rudy was the recipient of the coveted day in the Dogster spotlight. This is his diary entry on the day he was awarded Dogster’s Dog of the Day:
“Dis be a bewy bwight day in my wife ! I wakes up to wotsa emails .. I finks hmmm… dat be stwange ..den I see mosf be fwom Dogsta ! I fimes ouds I be da Dogsta Dog Ob Da Day !!! Dere I be wight dere on da homepage ! I be so e’cited ! ( finks mebbe I eben piddle a widdle) *bwushes* I wants to fanks ebewypup so much fo dere tweet wowds , da tweats, pup pal wequests, pwesents. Da best pwesent be my womderful fwends an da womderful pups dat wights up Dogsta an my wife ebewyday. Dis twuey be a cwose commumity ob cawing , tweet , woving genewous pup. Fank you tweet fwends an fank you Heads Quadders fo ebewyfing.”
Allow me to translate:
“This is a very bright day in my life! I woke up with a mailbox full of email and I thought, “hmmm, that’s strange.” Then I noticed that most of them came from Dogster and I found out I was Dog of the Day! There I was, my photo, right there on the Dogster homepage! I was so excited (I think maybe I even piddled a little). **Blushes** I want to thank everyone so much for their sweet words, the treats, Pup Pal requests, and gifts. The best present is my wonderful friends and the wonderful pups that light up Dogster and my life every day. This is truly a close community of caring, sweet, generous pups. Thank you dear friends and thank you Dogster Headquarters for everything!”
Brenda Harris, the woman behind Rudy’s voice, passed away earlier this week, leaving those of us who laughed joyfully at Rudy’s antics on Dogster with a palpable silence. Brenda was a kind and compassionate; she was a devoted friend to many of us here on Dogster. She had a wicked sense of humor, loved dogs, and generously gave her voice to speak out for their needs and rights. I know I am not alone in finding it difficult to imagine Dogster without her.
To borrow from Rudy, Dogsta and ebewypup wubs you Brenda. Your spirit will live on forever in the heart and soul of the Dogster Community.
Friends of Brenda and Rudy are invited to share their memories of Brenda in the comments. And please tell me how you express the voice of your pets.