Hairway to Heaven

There’s barely enough room for the two of us, woman and dog, in the shower.  I kneel on a hand towel which blocks the drain.  Ruby sits and leans against the wall while I work to adjust the water temperature and soak her with the hand-held shower head.

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Golden Retriever hair lays flat and repels water like Goretex, which keeps the dog warm in the 50F degree waters of Puget Sound, but it is near impossible to get wet in a human shower.  I have to pull it sideways to find any skin.  Ruby loves it.  She may be twelve-and-a-half, but it’s me who’s getting too old for this.

My hip is already starting to protest, and I keep bumping the water handle from freezing to scalding hot lava.

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It’s been almost five weeks since I bathed the dog, and that’s not because she struggles or gives me any grief.  She freely walks into the shower when I have everything ready, or think I do.

“Sweetheart!”  My voice echoes around the walls and over the top of the shower door, out of the bathroom and through the den into the living room where the Bearded One lays towels on the floor and readies the hair dryer next to the rocker.  “I forgot the little white ear rag!”  I have to trust that he can hear me since I can’t hear anything with the water running.

Ruby cringes.  My voice is loud and Ruby is close to deaf, but she can feel my agitation. This is supposed to be a time of comforting, not a chore to endure. She’s been off her food for a couple of days, and this morning she turned down cat treats.  Even Garfield has noticed and has taken to following us on walks, at least for a quarter mile or so, herding Ruby.  This could be her last bath, I think.  She is slowing down.

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“One soft little white rag,” the Bearded One says and drops the tattered cloth over the top of the shower door.

“Thank you,” I say tightly.  Then I reach up to turn off the water.  My knees press into the drain as I slide Ruby’s fifty-five pounds of hunkered-down dog around like a bean-bag chair.  I can just reach the shampoo.

It’s a new bottle and I can’t grip the slippery teeney tiny tab on the safety seal to open it.  “Honey!” I yell.  “Please help me get this DAMN shampoo open!”

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The shower door opens a couple of inches and I hand the bottle out.  The Bearded One hands it back, opened.  Surely he must notice how pathetic we look, old, deaf, soaking wet and sitting in the swirl.  The door closes and I massage a handful of shampoo into Ruby’s hair.

Then the Bearded One walks back into the bathroom.  I can just see a shadow of him through the textured glass door.  He’s carrying something, and he appears to be sitting down on the toilet seat with it.

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There’s a lay-dee who’s sure….

He plucks his guitar, the first six notes of “Stairway to Heaven,” which he is learning to play and knows that I love.  He plays the little intro again — it is all that he knows so far — and I laugh and shiver with delight — and then he moves on to his usual repertoire starting with his own masterpiece, “How I Miss You Baby.”

Ruby can’t hear it, but she gets the pleasure through my hands.  I gently scoop wax from her ears as I listen.  I massage her old body and she leans into my naked belly.  I focus hard on trying to make her feel good.  “All that glit-ters is gold,” I sing softly, “and she’s buyyyyying a staaaairway to heaaaaven.”

Then, after I finish and the Bearded One towels her off, she trots out the open front door and down her own stairway,

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and into the backyard to roll happily in the brown grass like a puppy.

Ruby 001

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34 responses to “Hairway to Heaven

  1. Awwww…. for both the bearded one entertaining the “showerer” and the “showeree” 😛 and for the happy dog. Ours detests getting a shower.:D

  2. Robbyn Handel

    Love the blog; love the dog; love the sticks; love the licks. There’s just something about old, loveable dogs, isn’t there? Hug Ruby for me.

    • LOL Thanks for the poetic comment! Ruby’s more alert in the morning –the heat in the afternoon gets to her — so I’ll read it outloud to her soon.

  3. Christine Widman

    Oh Christi, this one really got to my heart. Beyond language right now.
    All the depth of deep long love pouring out in this vignette of showering Ruby.
    Our stairway to heaven is here on earth.
    C

  4. And THAT is what is making my heart sing at 5.04am on a Thursday morning in the middle of winter. THAT is true love 🙂

  5. Beautiful as usual! Thank you!

  6. Such a lovely story as usual. Our two briard ladies are also getting on but still try to avoid the bath. I have to carry them through the house into the bathtub. But once there they actually love the bath. When will they ever learn…..

    • Thank you, Science Guru. And I don’t know about your dogs learning/remembering that the bath is a good thing — our 22-year-old son is still learning it! lol

  7. oh, how precious this is- the power of love and music. beautiful.

  8. A beautiful post.
    I have a furry friend too, and my heart hurts whenever I am reminded that she does not get as long as I.
    Thank-you.

  9. Aw, this one made me cry. I hope the time is not near for Ruby! Also, B.O.’s serenade is true love! So sweet!

    • Oh, Susan, thank you. With all that you’ve been through this past month or so, I imagine you could use a serenade or two yourself. Hope you are feeling well. 🙂

  10. Thank you Christi….serenades do fix everything! I’m on the mend, but I think the process may take a little longer than expected. I appreciate your kind words! I will be thinking of you guys and of your precious Ruby.

  11. Lovely post Christi. She is a gorgeous old retriever. I love the idea of Garfield herding her up on your walks. Old friends the pair of them.xox

    • Thanks, Cathy. Garfield is very affectionate with Ruby even though they weren’t raised together. She even growls at him sometimes, but Garfield doesn’t take it seriously. 🙂

  12. napperscompanion

    Strumming on the can! Classic. Thanks and peace, John

  13. Talk about grabbing my heart this week…. I just came n from watching my own two goldens ( 7 yrs old ) wander around n backyard after dinner…. Ever since Molly suddenly went blind a year ago, life’s been a little harder, but her spirit of adapting has been inspirational. Mac wears a bell on his collar so she can find him – a patient of mine thought of it, bless his heart! She bangs n2 a lot of walls, etc. then backs up & forges on – even up & down the stairs! I love her even more now. I’ve known of Ruby & Jake since y’all gave them their home – bless her and y’all!! Love knowing your lives through ur writing, lady. Vicky

    • The Bearded One says: Holy **** Hello Hello — fun to hear from you. Hope you got my rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” on your phone machine last February. Did you ever find Chuck?
      Christi says: Thanks, Vicky! Your Molly and Mac sound like great mates. Love hearing from you.

  14. Oh, Christi…After losing our Sweets recently, anything about an old dog, especially an old Lab, squeezes my heart until the tears come. Desi, Sweets’ sister, still misses her, as we do. It reminds us that Desi’s time will come, too, and maybe sooner than we expect — she’s at the vet today with a lump behind her front leg. We’re getting a Lab pup to keep her company, so that Desi can pass along her dog knowledge about rabbits and deer and staying out of the compost.
    Give Ruby a hug for me, too. Labs are my favorite. Such love they give, such gentle patience with children, such beatings with those tails. 😉 As usual, this was a great read and wonderful glimpse of you all. Becky

    • I had Lab stuck in my head. Tell Ruby I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize that she’s a Golden Retriever. Silly me! 😉

      • Thank you, Becky. Labs and Retrievers have the same gentle spirits, I knew what you meant. And Ruby is still with us. She’s not in pain, but she has a big lump on her throat now. She’s not eating or drinking so it can’t be much longer. I cried today. Dying is a process, and she is on that journey right now. It’s hard and good and life. I’ll hug her for you.

  15. What a beautiful story, and I love the illustrations.

  16. Christi — after this last post I enjoy your wonderful husband as much as I enjoy you — what a great story!

    • Thanks, Sherrie. 🙂 He really is a good guy. We fell in love in college (1977), but things got crazy and miserable with parents and we parted ways…and then reunited in 1996 and married in 1997 when we both were smarter AND decidedly nicer to each other. I know that you, too, are in love with your husband. Makes for a sweet life!

  17. Christi, am thinking of you all. Not an easy time, as I know myself. Loved the story of the BO singing for you. I love STH, too. Music is such a healer; I keep seeing stories on the news lately that illustrate this, but it’s been known forever. One book I llike is “Music as the Bridge”. I need to re-read it, I think.
    Anyway, hope all is well with you, your family and Ruby. Golden Retrievers are lovely dogs, in my experience. And so intelligent. I had the privilege of working with one for a time once. He was so much fun! Hugs, my friend.

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