I was mowing the grass and crying. I was crying because I wasn't having to dodge as much poop as last time. A few days earlier, Ruby, our dog of over 11 years, had to be put down.
She was a golden retriever mix that someone left at our child's daycare center - and my wife and child just could NOT let that dog stay alone, close to a busy highway. So the puppy came home and my dreams of having a yard with lots of shrubs and flowers went away!
Ruby stayed outside most of the time in her younger years. Then she got to where she just liked the AC house better than the outdoors! She learned to walk to the right when meeting oncoming traffic in the hall. She learned not to move when someone was stepping over her. She learned to judge the look on your face to determine how heavy the object was that you were carrying toward her so she could get out of the way before any accident happened.
She would go to comfort my daughter when she heard her crying. She learned to nuzzle you when she needed to go outside. If you wouldn't get out of bed she'd find a plastic shopping bag to wag her tail on till you got up to let her out.
She was a quiet, loving, giving, protective, constant companion who gave us the best that she had. Her final days came quick. I noticed a difference, then thought it would go away. Two long, busy work days passed and I noticed she wasn't better. I couldn't take her to the Vets till another day passed. In the back of my mind I knew - but didn't want to know. She'd wag her tail but just wasn't anything like she had been.
Took her to Vet on my way to work. That afternoon the call came. My son in Vet school 45 miles away, wife with her dad 100 miles away, young teenager daughter - they just couldn't go to see Ruby. Maybe it was because I'm sympathetic to her old age but I just could not let Ruby die alone.
I was able to get off early and made it to clinic before they closed. They gave me time alone with Ruby before they came in with the final medicine. They suggest you don't stay for the end, that you keep your memories of how they were.
I'm the weak one. I pass out easy. I may get panicky, need to rush out for air. Not for this though. I could not let Ruby be alone at the end. I petted her when they came in, when they injected, when they laid her head down and I petted her after they said she was gone. Ruby gave us so much love, I just could not leave her to be alone.
So now I cry. I cried mowing the yard, when I rediscovered the photo of her from just after she came to us, when I drop something at my desk and start to apologize to Ruby for scaring her, when I wonder what to do with the rest of her special diet food or her cushion and when I start to feed our pets or give snacks to the neighbors' dogs - because Ruby was always first.
I was glad no one was close to me at work on Friday when I found the one image that kept eluding me. Ruby wasn't photographed a lot and there was just this one day at our house where the light coming in was "just right" and I wanted to try and capture the feel.
It's not a great picture of Ruby but when I re-found it - it did to me what I hoped the day I shot it. It put all the emphasis on her eyes. Those brown eyes that would just draw you in - so there I was, crying at work. It took me longer than I wanted to get my things together so I could leave work. I wanted to get out and feel the breeze.
I got outside and the summer humidity was much lower, almost felt cool in the breeze. Just the kind of breeze that would have made Ruby's golden hair look like she was a model ready to be photographed. And that's how I see Ruby - the long hair of her high flying tail, on her chest and at her ears, all flowing in the wind. Her ears are up in that happy look of hers.
I thank God for the time Ruby was in our lives.
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