Today’s post is a little different. Last week I had to say goodbye to my dog, and I’m crushed. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. It’s so permanent. No matter how much you want to change things, you can’t. It just feels like a heavy weight crushing down on your chest. And you can’t think or focus. You just sit in silent disbelief replaying how it all went down.Ruby was my husband’s dog. I met her when she was 3, and I’ve always thought we had a cute little story. Nick had a girlfriend (before me, of course) who worked at the Humane Society. He went to a Humane Society auction with her simply because they got free tickets to the fundraiser and (I should mention) whiskey tasting. Little did he know that he would hold a sweet puppy and fall in love with her. That was Ruby. I guess you could call her an impulse buy. When bidding for her began, he couldn’t resist. He ended up in a bidding war, and being just out of school with no money and steep loans to pay off, Nick had to let her go to the higher bidder. He left that night with a hole in his heart already. Two weeks later he received a surprise phone call from the Humane Society. The other guy never came to pick the puppy up, and Nick could have her for the standard adoption fee of $60. Score!
A few years later, I spotted Nick on a popular dating website. At the time I swore I would never do online dating until I became desperate. I guess I became desperate because I came home from a wedding and agreed “just to look.” I saw Nick’s profile, and decided I needed to meet him. After a lot of deliberation I went for it, and I created my profile in hopes of meeting Nick. I sent him an email, but days went by, and I never received a reply. Finally, after a whole week an answer came. What I didn’t know was that Nick had only been active on this website for 1 month. He didn’t go out with anyone, and he decided it wasn’t worth using any longer. So when he got my message, he had to decide if he wanted to pay another monthly subscription of $30 just to read my email. Luckily he took a leap of faith. And the rest is history.
Our life was like a MasterCard commercial. The pup. $60. The girl. $60. Eternal love. Priceless.
So you can see how disgustingly cute we were as a family! It was a bunch of near misses, but the stars aligned and brought us all together. The moment I met her, I loved this dog’s personality. She was sweet and loving. She was cute and did funny things. She loved everyone she met, and they loved her back. She went to work with Nick everyday, creating quite a fan club. We think she lived so long because she had a job, a purpose. We hiked with her, took her everywhere with us, and often times stayed in on weekends just so we could spend time with her. She lit up our lives. Nick, being a dog whisperer, trained her so well. She was never a beggar dog. At meal times she just hung out nearby without pestering us. One time I put some chicken in her food bowl to give her a little treat. I went about my business cleaning the kitchen for the next 10 minutes. And then I felt the intense stare-down she was giving me. She was such a good girl that she patiently waited with anticipation that whole time for me to give her the “okay” to eat the food out of her own bowl. I had never known a dog to be so well-behaved. She was more than just a sweet, well-behaved dog though. She was clever and quite a master manipulator. When left alone in the house, she would jump on the sofa and mess up the pillows. One time I caught her in the act, and she was having a ball! It was as if she knew she was doing something bad.
When she turned 12 I noticed her starting to age. She slowed down a bit, tripped more, and I cried the first day she didn’t bark when the doorbell rang. She even got sick one time and couldn’t walk for a few days. She recovered, and we got used to a new normal. In those times I went through a mourning period, anticipating her death that I had no idea was a good 3 years out. I cried a lot, envisioning how I would tell people about her passing. As more time went on, I realized I was wasting time worrying needlessly over her death, and learned that I was just mourning the loss of her youth. So I decided I wasn’t going to mourn her until I really needed to. We had 2 and a half more good years with her, and 6 months ago, things started to change even more.
She slowed down a lot. Our hikes that were already downgraded to long walks around the park had to be shortened to a mere 3 blocks. Two months ago it progressed even more. She stopped wagging her tail. She stopped licking us. But it was a new normal again. We adapted. We didn’t want to let her go. Adapting was our way of hanging on to her. And last week it just all became too much for her. We had to make the difficult choice all dog parents dread. In the moment it’s so hard to decide. You rationalize that she’s still okay. Even though most moments are tough, you cling to the very few good moments because you don’t want to make that decision, and you don’t want to let go. But now looking back, every fiber in my body tells me that it was her time.
Her bed looks more empty now. I feel motivated to do nothing; especially picking up remnants of her life in the house. The clutter and mess from the mismatched rugs we moved to our hardwood floors in the last month to keep her upright were the only thing left we had of her. I hated having them mess up my house, but now I procrastinate to get rid of them.
It’s amazing how permanent this is. It’s more amazing to notice how compassionate others can be in times like this. Life has a way of showing you beautiful things when you are having some of the saddest times. It doesn’t make the sadness go away, but it helps. The community of people who reached out simply sharing their love for Ruby eased a little of the heartache. The people who shared stories of recently losing their own furry loved ones softened the blow. Patients who knew and loved her, co-workers in our office, and friends and family who loved her too helped make us feel a little less alone without her. The bittersweet nature of saying goodbye gets a little less bitter and a little more sweet knowing how much she touched so many lives.
To those of you who reached out with a note or a call, thank you. You helped us say goodbye with a little more grace. Oh, and thank God for ex-girlfriends.