Beautiful story.  How the dog Ruby gave war-wounded Christopher a taste for life again

Beautiful story. How the dog Ruby gave war-wounded Christopher a taste for life again

Three years ago, the Army Wounded Assistance Unit (Cabat) launched a program allowing soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress to adopt abandoned dogs. Christopher is one of the first to benefit, gradually regaining the taste for life thanks to Ruby.

DWhat does she remember? The dull slam of a car door closing? Unless it is the cold concrete floor of the pound box embedded in the grounds of the Carcassonne Society for the Protection of Animals (SCPA)? Someone left it there discreetly, like a package. “They left us with another animal last night,” notes, without surprise, one of the members of the shelter team. In the early morning of March 1, 2021, a frightened dog came to join this already overcrowded shelter, in Berriac, on the outskirts of Carcassonne (Aude). After a little over a week, no one came to claim her. “You can put her up for adoption, she is doing well,” judges the veterinarian after having examined her and proceeded to sterilize her. Well, we should give this shepherd cross dog a little name for her health record. » “Well, we discussed it among ourselves and agreed to call her Ruby,” the employees respond. As for its age, given the animal’s morphology and its 25 kg, the veterinarian estimates it at 3 years old.

“You, my dear, you are far from looking stupid! » says Vincent Roucoules, one of the shelter’s employees. Seeing him, the dog gets up, wags her tail and tilts her head three-quarters. A few more days of observing her, and he announced to Chief Warrant Officer Frédéric Degré during his visit to the site: “She would make a good candidate. » Spare with words, the dog handler nods. Entering the army in 1994, he learned “to speak, to think dog”, in his words, trained within the 132nd cynotechnic infantry regiment, in Suippes (Marne). Having since settled in the Carcassonne region, he left his position as a Navy reservist to join the Army Wounded Aid Unit (Cabat), on the suggestions of sociologist Christophe Blanchard, also a dog handler. Requested by the army as scientific coordinator of a program called Arion, the academic is betting on the potential of dogs that shelters are full of to accompany war wounded. From the outset, the project appealed to Frédéric Degré, especially since he set himself a challenge: to help his brothers in arms to escape their isolation and their discomfort. Vincent Roucoules presents him with six dogs for this project. Ruby is part of the lot because she has evolved well among her 90 peers in the shelter: calm while asserting herself, independent but also seeking the affection of humans. The Arion program can begin. We still have to convince wounded soldiers to benefit from it…

“Hello Christopher, how are you? » Regularly, Delphine, referent at Cabat, inquires about the condition of Christopher, who has been on sick leave since 2017 after the Army Health Service finally diagnosed disorders linked to post-traumatic stress. At 35, after several years of wandering from apartment to apartment, Christopher, from the 1st infantry regiment of Sarrebourg, in Moselle, has just acquired a 30 m2 duplex house, in a hamlet perched at 450 m altitude in Haut-Languedoc. He lives there as a recluse, isolated from his family, without heating, sometimes sleeping on the floor. Far from everything, seeking absolute calm, unable to face the gaze of others, Christopher dwells on his dark thoughts. No one can understand what this master corporal, although experienced in difficult missions, has been experiencing since his participation in Operation Sangaris, an external intervention in the Central African Republic, from October 2014 to February 2015: he found himself immersed in a bath of violence.

No one can understand what Master Corporal Christopher is going through, isolated from his family, sleeping on the floor.

In this spring of 2021, Delphine has a proposition to make to him: “You told me one day that you loved animals. So, I thought of you to take part in a course with a view to adopting a dog, continues Delphine. What do you say ? » Silence… “Why not?” » finally says Christopher. ” Great ! Delphine replies. You have an appointment in mid-April at the SCPA, a shelter near Carcassonne,” she tells him before hanging up. On D-day, after a little less than two hours of driving, the soldier arrived in front of the gates of the establishment at the wheel of his Skoda Fabia, a small city car that belonged to his grandfather. Other candidates on the program withdrew, not Christopher. However, as soon as he gets out of his car, he takes the full brunt of the concert of barking and begins to panic. Fortunately, it is late in the afternoon, after the shelter has closed to the public, and Frédéric Degré comes to meet him to introduce him to the dogs.

Ruby looks great with her fawn coat, beige chest and almond-shaped eyes. She sneaks among her peers in front of the gate of the courtyard to attract Christopher’s attention. The young female stands on her hind legs and comes to lick his fingers. “But he’s Louna’s double!” he exclaims. She was my girlfriend’s family dog ​​in high school. » The complicity becomes evident during the games in the refuge park and an outing below the establishment: a small piece of countryside, between a railway line and the Aude river, with a distant horizon the wooded slopes of the Black Mountain.

It’s time for Christopher to go back home… without Ruby. “Think before you want to adopt it. A dog is a responsibility, warns Frédéric Degré. If you’re still up for it, see you next week. » With a heavy heart, the wounded soldier sets off again: “I had already gotten used to her! he laments. He realized that her presence relieved his anxieties. On his next visit, Christopher does not hide his eagerness to see Ruby again. On the other hand, this time, he is unable to communicate with the shelter team. For two days, it was impossible for him to utter the slightest word: he communicated by writing on pieces of paper. And then, his tension goes back to Ruby’s side and he can express himself again. For this session, Frédéric Degré plans to increase the number of dog training exercises, walks in the forest, then in the surrounding villages. The dog handler scrutinizes the way Ruby and Christopher interact. “Sit, don’t move, come back”: the dog shows exemplary docility. The wounded soldier learns to modulate his voice and give him orders by putting himself at his level. The experience is conclusive: Christopher can, this time, take Ruby home for two weeks.

Quickly, upon contact with the dog Ruby, Christopher realizes that the animal relieves his anxieties.

Next and final step: an afternoon outing in the city center of Carcassonne! On the program, traffic, pedestrian streets, other dogs, noise, mothers with their strollers, onlookers on the café terraces… A real baptism of fire! “As long as Christopher doesn’t panic in the middle of the crowd!” » hopes Frédéric Degré who concocted the course in order to verify that Ruby obeys her future master. He holds on, feeling protected by the presence of the dog, even if he emerges from this test nervously exhausted by all the agitation to which he is no longer accustomed. The same evening, back at the shelter, he signed the adoption papers and also agreed to stay for the little party that followed, just to mark the occasion. Christopher leaves home with kibble, bowls, a harness, toys, blankets… Ruby has found a new home. “Everything went well,” rejoices Frédéric Degré. But the fact remains that for a year, the dog handler will visit Christopher every month.

The following August, he was alarmed: “She is only skin and bones. We can see his ribs! Are you feeding him well? » Christopher readily admits that he only benefits Ruby from his daily diet: vegetables, fruits, etc. He no longer eats meat since his return from the Central African Republic, where soldiers told him they had witnessed acts of cannibalism among civilians fleeing fighting and pushed to the limit by starvation. “I wonder how she managed to hold on… She absolutely needs three portions of kibble per day,” the dog handler firmly reminds us. And Christopher admitted that Ruby went out from time to time to clean the trash in the hamlet or to hunt. “She once caught a wild boar!” » The young man also says that it happened “only once” to him to shout at her during a walk. But Ruby sat and waited for him to calm down, before leaving again. “I promise, I won’t be caught again,” he swears, ashamed. Despite these problems to be resolved, the results are very positive: since taking care of the dog, the injured soldier has started walking again, then running, he, the former great sportsman. He takes pleasure in gazing at the landscape which surrounds his house overlooking the mountains and the Orbe valley. Sometimes, in the afternoons, he takes her by car to Lamalou-les-Bains where walkers with their dogs meet on the greenway. Christopher finds himself exchanging a few words with them… “Without Ruby, I wouldn’t have found the strength to talk to them,” he admits. And when he forgets the daily outing, Ruby comes to show up by nudging him with her muzzle and giving him insistent looks.

Assailed by nightmares, Christopher’s body tenses. Ruby then presses herself to the most painful point: the lower back.

The animal also represents a comforting presence during the night, when nightmares attack it. Images then come back to him in flashes, of those moments when he was caught under fire from rebels in the Central African Republic. The bullets whistle, ricochet around him. Will the next one be for him? Ruby licks his hand, his face, wakes him up… and the images dissipate. Sometimes Christopher’s entire body suddenly tenses up on his bed. The dog then sticks to the most painful place: the lower back. “It’s crazy, the heat from your body immediately relieves me. Huh, my Ruby, you are precious! » he whispers, caressing her stomach. The dog waddles, growling with pleasure, near the wood stove he has just acquired. He also ordered a sofa bed: to receive a guest… one day. Who knows, it could be that this young woman from Tarn, with whom he started corresponding on a dating site, will come to visit him one day? But “it’s still too early, I don’t feel ready,” he admits deep down. So, his mother? “Yes, that would be more likely,” he smiles, while he sets about making a sweater for the latter, impatient to be able to come and spend a few days with him.

A few months ago, Christopher joined a knitting club and also volunteered at a resource center. He has even just joined an association to practice yoga. At 38, so many changes in his life! Since the fall, while walking in the hamlet, he has become friends with Julien, the son of his neighbors, a lumberjack going through a depressive episode. They are about the same age and as they chop wood together, the two men confide their worries to each other. Ruby has a blast running around them. Christopher, not long ago, found himself saying to his new friend: “Julien, wouldn’t you like to get a dog? You know, it really does a lot of good! »

Similar Posts