Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Farewell to Ruby - My Companion

Today at 9:30 a.m. Ruby, my dog, passed away. I couldn't watch. Like a coward I went into my bedroom and bawled like a baby while the deed was done by a compassionate vet from a company called Compassionate Care here in the Portland, Oregon. After it was over, I spent a few minutes with her lifeless body, and then helped the vet put her on a stretcher and carry her to the car. Her last stop is at Dignified Pet Services, where she will be cremated.

Who was Ruby? Well, I adopted her in March 2005 from Golden Bond Rescue, who deal in Golden Retrievers that need homes. Ruby had a hard first six years of life. She was a breeding dog and had lived her life in a 6x12 kennel pushing out puppies at a mill. When she was six, the breeder got rid of her and a family adopted her back east. She was dumped again and ended up in a few foster homes in Oregon before she came into my life.

Ruby didn't have many social skills. I never knew a dog that didn't know how to play. When I first brought her home, I bought toys and balls like any owner would do. She looked at them totally clueless as to what they were used for. As much as I tried to teach her to play, she never caught onto the idea. I spent hours on my belly rolling balls her way that she merely stared at and then looked at me with confused eyes. Ruby didn't like sleeping on soft beds either. The hard tile floor near my front door was her favorite spot. I guess she was just use to sleeping on concrete.

She was a good dog too. Never chewed anything up. Never barked, unless I left her alone more than 9 hours at a time. Then I'd come home and she'd give me one resounding disapproving "woof" to let me know of her displeasure. She never messed inside and behaved well. Her favorite thing to do was to lean into my green recliner and make me stroke the side of her body for hours on end while I watched TV. When I tried to stop, she would just nudge me for more. Her favorite treat was popcorn, and I swear she ate more in the bag than I did.

She feared firecrackers, and the 4th of July and New Years were always a trying time for her. She also shrunk away when I brought the broom out for the first time around her, which told me that she had been abused in the past. However, she never barked at the vacuum when it was running or tried to bite it like my last dog.

Ruby was friendly to everyone - a tail wagging lovable girl. She even liked sleeping with my neighbor's cat, Bentlley, when she watched her when I went away on trips.

In the past two months her health declined. She had a sore on her paw that wouldn't heal, and I took her to the vet. After examination they told me she had a cancerous mass in her mouth. I never knew dogs could get cancer in their mouths, but I guess it's a prevalent place. We tried six weeks of antibiotics to heal her paw, but it never got better - only worse. She started bleeding from her mouth periodically. Finally, Saturday she stopped eating altogether, and Sunday was her last lick of water. I guess she was just tired of hurting and was trying to die. Perhaps she forgives me for helping her go at the end.

This is the second dog I've had to put down, and it never seems to get easier. I feel like I'm killing them, rather then helping them. Even though I prayed the Lord would just let her die in her sleep these past days, it was obvious it wasn't going to happen for a few more. It was too painful to watch her when she got to the point that she could no longer stand to go outside and she would lift her sad eyes to find me. Ruby was nearly blind too.

So this morning she walked across the Rainbow Bridge, that place we mortal humans make believe our dogs have run off to when they have died. I guess the image of her romping around the green grass with other dogs and cats that have passed over the bridge is somehow comforting. However, I also remember the scripture that an animal's soul just returns to the dust from where it came. I guess the heaven of Rainbow Bridge sounds much better than to think Ruby has ceased to exist in any manner of body or soul.

I hate death. The older I get the stranger the cycle of life and death becomes to me. Billions have gone to that "undiscovered country" before us. When you think about the centuries past, I guess we are like the Bible says a vapor that appears for a brief moment upon this earth and then disappears. Ruby's vapor last for 12 years, and for the last five she graced my life.

Rest in peace, Ruby. For some reason, my world even feels emptier without you waiting for me to come home.