Ruby Slippers

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She lies in the woods just 100 feet from the house, under the crook of a young cedar which branches from an old nurse log. I can see her vertebrae she’s so thin.  The lumps on the side of her neck are thick and growing.  Her stomach rumbles very loudly, almost without end.  She woofs out air to clear her lungs.  Everything is going at once.  Besides that, she’s calm and serene and deeply tired.

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Two days ago Ruby entered this cave, after two weeks of not eating.  Yet still she breathes, and occasionally opens her brown eyes.  She’s an old dog and is dying and we are caring for her, but not trying to rescue her, and it’s hard. Planes rip across the dawn sky.  Coyotes scream in the night.  We visit often to stroke her bony head and rub her ears and paws.

*   *   *

“Where’s Ruby?” the Bearded One and I began to say to each other last week in greeting.  In the high weeds under the plum tree?  Behind the hut in the salal?  Under the house?

The Bearded One knows dogs.  He used to train sled dogs in Alaska, and he has had to put dogs down with a gun.

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If Ruby shows signs of pain or distress, I’ve asked him — after he offered and after studying the euthanizing options — to take her into our woods just off the nature trail where we’ve already dug her grave next to her brother Jake and shoot her with his gun.  She adores the Bearded One.  He is her person.  This is her home, and there’s no place like it.  He has agreed to this.

But neither of us believes it will come to that.  She is too far gone.  “She’s trying to ride it out,” he tells me, and I get an image of her galloping into the sunset.  In fact, the one thing Ruby seemed to enjoy this last week, before instinct pulled her under the log, was lying in the sun.

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*   *   *

Our daughter the nurse knows about dying from up close and knows how long it can take.  “She’s dying, but not dying fast enough,” she says.  I laugh at this raw truth and take a breath.  Dying is a process as consuming as marriage or divorce or graduation or any of life’s big transitions.

*   *   *

Saturday we helped our neighbor Brooklyn Man harvest his 53 meat chickens.

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Weasels killed all of ours, 58 total, in just two hours in broad daylight on June 29, but Brooklyn Man escaped the weasels and he gave us 10 birds as a thank you for helping with the 6 hour harvest.

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Momma Goose wasn’t there.  She’s in her own empty-nest transition to some new life and, fingers-crossed, a job with her brand new license driving truck.  Maybe a crane.

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Their son, Jonah, was there, his new golden wedding band twinkling in the sun.  He got married two weeks ago.

Our oldest daughter gets married in two-and-a-half weeks and I have finished the 235 half-pint jars of 4-berry jam she’s giving all the guests.  The Bearded One has about 70 labels to go.

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He also made the sign holders for the reception out of plum and alder and cedar cross-sections.  Earlier he finished the 9-foot arch under which she’ll take her vows.

*   *   *

My reoccurring college nightmare forever, which thankfully I have just once or twice a year, is the Bearded One refusing to marry me.  I beg and beg and he won’t do it.  And of course I had it last week, on Thursday.  I woke up crying.  Weddings bring it back.

“Will you marry me?” the Bearded One whispers in my ear in the kitchen that afternoon.

Tears spurt from my eyes and drench my eyelashes, then my glasses, then drip down my cheeks onto my lips.  I click my heels together and say “Yes, yes, yes.”  So what if we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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*   *   *

Ruby died at about 6pm, August 6, 2013.

The Bearded One was with her at 5:30pm.  He held her close and sang her the Dogsology.  He put an ice cube to her parched lips.  We loved her and her litter mate Jake very very much.

 Born 2/23/2001 — Jake died November 17, 2009

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56 responses to “Ruby Slippers

  1. Thank you as always I say with free flowing tears.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. They both will always be in your heart and your memories.

  3. I’m sorry, Christi. Good old Ruby. Rest in peace, girl.
    Like you said, lots of transitions.
    xoxoB

  4. What a beautiful lyric essay you have written out of love for Ruby and her place in your family and love for your family and its front and center place in your life. Gorgeous and quite a tribute to strength in life.

    • Thank you, Sheila. Lyric essays aren’t my usual form (farmula?), but so much happened it couldn’t fit in one narrative line, so I went with images and theme and crossed my fingers. Learned the trick from you.

  5. Christi, I’m crying of course….my heart is breaking for both of you. That was beautifully written. Bye, precious Ruby. May your daughter’s wedding and the love that you share comfort you during this painful time. You really touch me.

    • Thank you so much, Susan. You have had so much loss and trauma recently in your life, I feel honored that this writing touched you. Things do balance out — laughing and crying, you know? Thanks, again.

  6. Ruby was a good dog. I will miss her dearly. Bailey, our family dog, just left us a few weeks ago too. Heartache and relief at the same time. See you soon

    • Thanks, Jake. I heard about Bailey. 😦 Maybe there will be another dog for your Mom and Kip. We’re going to wait ’til spring. “Heartache and relief at the same time” — perfectly put. Looking forward to seeing you any time.

    • Oh, Jake, thank you. I heard about Bailey and know how acute her loss has been. Love takes us through it all, eh? I look forward to the next time I see your lovely smile. 🙂

  7. I’m so sorry.

  8. Oh, Christi- this is just such a lovely honoring of Ruby and of the beautiful home your family has tended. What a good life and what a sweet death. I adore your ability to capture it so well. Wendi

    • Thank you, Wendi. And I know you’ve been through this loss this year, too, and wrote eloquently about it, which helped me. Ruby is the first dog I’ve had this long and that died of “old age.” Lots of lessons. I hope we get to meet some day. 🙂

  9. Rest in Peace beside your brother Ruby. I’m crying as I read this because I’ve dealt with the same thing 3 times before. She was a good girl and I know she will be missed by more people than ever knew her.

  10. Thank you Christi, though tears flow I am so happy that you two are strong enough to let your beautiful girl go in the way she chose. Our animals give us so much joy and go too soon huh? But I have noticed that they so often go when something new is about to start ….. I want to send you both a big hug!

    • Oh, Pauline, thank you for that insight — “I have noticed that they so often go when something new is about to start.” I think there’s truth to that! Transitions in the air and the animals lead the way to newness. Hugs back to you.

  11. A sad tale, lovingly told. With so many things going on in life, it is important to honor the most meaningful ones. I cried for your loss.

  12. This was a beautiful blog entry. This touched my heart so much! My Ollivander is 11 and starting to show signs of old age catching up to him. I am sorry for your loss but thoroughly happy that Ruby and Jake led such a happy life!
    Congratulations on your engagement!

    • Oh, Nally. LOL. You caught me off-guard…me? engaged? And then I hooted and hollared and gut-laughed to the B.O. — “Listen to this! Congratulations on your engagement!” Thank you, bright one.

  13. Christine Widman

    The Dine people (Navajo Nation) choose to be outside in a place of beauty and harmony as they are dying.
    I was deeply touched that Ruby chose this for herself – lying in the shelter of a cedar tree.
    I would choose this for myself. Being outside looking at the vast blue sky and the star-sprinkled heavens.
    Maybe now Ruby and Jake are running with Sirius – the bright dog star.
    I send my love.
    C

    • Thank you, Christine. I have felt your love all week. And I thought of that Navajo tradition when I saw Ruby lying there like an old woman, returning to Mother. It really is a gorgeous spot. I’ll show you when you come here next. Sending love to you and Den.

  14. I am so sorry, Christi; I know how sad you must be right now. It’s the hardest part of having animals in our lives, isn’t it; knowing that they will leave us. But the love we share makes even this pain worthwhile. I wish I could have met her; she sounds so lovely and loving. I’m glad she was able to die outside at her own pace, hard though that was for you and the BO. Love is two-edged, for sure. I am thinking of you all and sending you hugs and loving thoughts. Wish I could deliver them in person. ~ Linne

    • Thank you, Linne. Your email this week was very helpful…you described exactly what Ruby was exhibiting, and it is the way dogs do it. Not so bad, really. It’s strange that I say there wasn’t pain. How do I know? She seemed serene and calm and only struggled with coughs and some breathing at the very end. Struggling isn’t exactly suffering…. I’m glad it’s over, and the community of readers including you has helped so much. Thank you thank you.

  15. I have only read a dozen of your posts, but I love them all and this one brought me straight to tears. I am glad you have so many other creatures to keep you company on your farm. So sorry for your loss.

    • Thanks, and you are right about the other animals helping. Everyone knows she’s gone, especially Garfield, who has asked about her numerous times today. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  16. That was so amazingly beautiful. I am so deeply, profoundly sorry for your loss. My sweet golden is almost 9, and I cannot imagine life without him. Best and wonderful wishes for your daughter’s wedding; it’s sure to be beautiful.

  17. She died close to the earth in the summer in the moss and the fecundity of the height of the season. What better way for a creature that straddled our human world and her own base natural space to spread her wings and fly away? Such a sad thing to lose a dog, a companion and a friend. Those loving eyes and that ever present tongue absent and stilled. I want to hug you both and can’t. I only have my words. Somehow they aren’t enough 😦

    • Dogs do “straddle our human world and her own base natural space” — what a beautiful way to put it. Your words are powerful, Fran, and I feel them. I love how you enjoy every single day with Earl and Bezial. Thank you for sharing that relationship with all of us — we will get another dog or dogs. Some day. In the meantime, we have Garfield. He keeps reminding us. 🙂

      • Just don’t let him sit in too many boxes, you never know how crazy he might make some poor strange half alien dog in the future 😉

  18. A beautiful farewell to Ruby, Christi and BO. She died surrounded by love and the nature she loved being a part of. Why dog’s take themselves away from their pack to die has always puzzled me. Enjoy your next few weeks leading up to a most joyous celebration of love and life to come with your precious daughters wedding. We’re all thinking of you now xoxox

    • It is fascinating how dogs take themselves away somehow to die, Cathy. Ruby was as close to us as she could be and still be in the “wild” where Mother Nature was calling her. Thanks for your lovely comment and wedding wishes. I feel the love. 🙂

  19. Lorie Robinson

    Christi and Keith, so sorry for your loss. I remember when Jake passed and how sad it was……cant help but tearing up……Ruby will be missed by many.

    • Thanks, Lorie. Transitions are so hard but so necessary. I miss you and will call next week when your book arrives. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend in the wild. Hugs and love, ck

  20. So sorruy to hear about Ruby. So glad she had such a loved farewell. Keith (Brooklyn Man)

    • Thanks, Brooklyn Man. Ruby was a good dog.

      I’ve got pictures for you.:) Too many to do the FB wall thing. Could you FB message me your email and I’ll send them that way? Thanks again for sharing your birds. 🙂

  21. Oh…I’m so glad she got to go with her person…loved and she knew it.

  22. I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to see the farmlet and meet Ruby. Love to you and the bearded one, see you in two weeks!
    Taylor

  23. A hug to you, for comfort for your loss, and as a thank you for such a beautiful post …

  24. What a beautiful tribute to a well-loved family member. I have had the pleasure of loving 3 black labs from puppihood to their last days and I know how much it hurts to lose one. She a lucky dog to have been placed with you on the Farmlet.

    • It’s been a month tomorrow that Ruby has been gone, and I do miss her, but neither of us is ready for another dog yet. A puppy takes lots of focus and time and we will have that again, I know, perhaps this spring. Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂

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