Ruby came into our world as an 8-week-old ball of fur and attitude and changed our lives forever!
One summer day, we went to the home of a family in Bellingham, Washington, planning to pick a golden retriever puppy from their new litter. We played with all the adorable puppies one at a time and wondered how we could ever choose just one. Instead, one of the puppies chose us.
As one spunky little girl lay upside down on my lap, she looked directly into my eyes and wrapped her front legs around my arm. I had been chosen. And I was hooked. End of story. After all, how could I say no to THIS face?!!
We soon found ourselves crazy-in-love with this absolutely precious and completely maddening little redhead who was full of personality and had a mind of her own. Soon she owned not only our hearts, but also our home and our schedules, as well. And we didn't care!
She tore wildly around the house. She dug holes in the yard. She stole our socks, our shoes and the hearts of everyone she met. But she gave back so much more. She taught us the importance of living in the moment, the skill of playing with passion, and the joy of unconditional, unwavering, unabashed love.
As she grew, Ruby retained her characteristic spunk, but mellowed into a lovely and regal lady. Oh, she still loved to roll in smelly things and play in the mud, but if you looked deep into her eyes, you could see the wise, old soul inside. She listened to our secrets, encouraged our dreams and removed our stress like no one else could. A simple hike or swim with Ruby was better than any therapy money could buy -- and lots more fun!
When we got Kody, our second golden, Ruby wasn't sure, at first, that she wanted to share her life with this little blonde boy who jumped on her head while she napped and rushed up to steal her food when she ate. But she was amazingly patient with the new little brother who worshipped her and she even tried to teach him a thing or two. Like how to jump up and pick apples from the tree in the backyard. (He never got one on his own, but he sure tried.)
Many of our favorite memories of Ruby center around Christmas. She loved Christmas as much as any person could -- maybe more! She would actually "guard" the presents under the tree, eagerly waiting for the fun of opening them on Christmas morning. Sometimes when the waiting was just too much to handle, she would come find me and lead me to the tree. She'd paw my leg and then sit and look back and forth from me to the gifts. If I didn't react quickly enough, she'd jump up and paw my leg again! It's hard enough to tell a kid to wait three more days -- imagine trying to explain that to a dog!
When the long-awaited present-opening time finally arrived, (not until after the reading of the Christmas story!) she would not only enjoy opening her own presents, but she would also "help" everyone in the room open theirs, as well! Christmas just will not be the same without our furry Christmas angel!
Ruby loved to have friends over, too. Whether it was her English setter buddies (who actually joined our pack and lived with us for awhile) or an evening visit from special friends, she welcomed all with open arms, er... paws! And if there was a birthday involved, promising treats and toys, all the better. She'd even tolerate hats for that!
We don't get much snow in Seattle, but Ruby looooooved to run and play in the snow whenever she could! In fact, right after her spaying surgery -- when she was supposed to be RESTING -- we looked out the window to find her in that flat-out, full butt-tucked run, gleefully welcoming the newly fallen snow! Yup. Tore her stitches. Sigh...
She often put her nose down into the snow and actually ran with her head UNDER the surface, but she never crashed into anything! I wonder if dogs have sonar...
But most of all, Ruby loved her family. She just wanted to hang out with us. And if Dan had not spent enough time with her lately, she reminded him by carrying one of his shoes out to the middle of the backyard and lying down beside it, patiently waiting for him to come retrieve it and play with her.
When life got complicated or busy, Ruby reminded us to just "be." She was faithful and loving and patient and gentle and true: everything you could ever want in a family member.
Ruby and Kody were always the best of buddies and loved to play together. They chased each other around the house and the yard, played tug-of-war with their toys, and wrestled endlessly. Sometimes, Ruby even let Kody win! But he submitted without complaint, for she was a benevolent top dog. There was never a fight or even a growl between them. They even shared food.
As Ruby got older, we discovered the truth in the saying, "There's no gold like old gold." She got softer, gentler and sweeter, just like a fine old wine. She grew just as happy to snuggle as she had always been to run and play. And we cherished every moment.
During Ruby's last months, old age set in and she was faced with a body that didn't work as well as it had in the past. She didn't pout, complain or growl at those around her. She didn't grow impatient or grumpy. She just figured out new ways to maneuver and rested a bit more.
We were soooooo grateful for the beautiful weather (a little gift from God!) on Ruby's final weekend with us, because we were able to spend a couple of days lying outside in the grass together and telling Ruby what an amazing dog she was. One side of her face had become sort of paralyzed, so she struggled to use her tongue to eat and drink, but she was able to eat small, hand-fed meals and was still interested in food. Kody lay nearby and kept a watchful eye on her. He's such a good brother. :-)
I hand-fed her bites of scrambled eggs for her last breakfast and she was able to swallow the entire plateful -- three eggs worth! (The appetite must be the last thing to go!) I fed her water from a syringe for awhile, but she was eventually able to get her tongue to work enough to lap up a little water from a bowl on her own. She always wanted to do things herself, even at the end!
When it was time to help her into the car, she took the first few steps on her own, lingering on the hill from which she liked to survey the neighborhood. It seemed she was taking one last look, like a scene from a movie. That's our Ruby -- ever the drama queen!
They had to wheel her into the hospital on a gurney and even though she could no longer walk, her head had that left-leaning tilt, and the left side of her face was droopy, she still managed to look like a lady, with her head held high and her silky fur floating on the breeze. I hope I have as much dignity in my final days as she did. (Oh, the life lessons we learn from our dogs!)
Life simply will not be the same without our precious Ruby. Our little family is forever changed. But she leaves a legacy of lessons to take with us as we journey forward. And we are better people for having known her.
Sleep peacefully, sweet princess. You're forever in our hearts. (To read Kody's story, click here.)
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." -- Author Unknown