“I am at the emergency vet with Ruby,” read the 10:00 pm text from my daughter. My eight-year-old grand dog was lethargic and had not been eating since the day before, so she brought her in for examination. She was waiting for blood work results when she texted me. I immediately called her and we chatted a bit to pass the time and she promised to keep me updated. A little while later she called with alarming news. All of Ruby’s organs were failing from an infection that she had apparently been fighting for a long time. She had likely been in pain. The vet offered to keep her in the hospital; my daughter made the decision instead to take her to her more comfortable surroundings at home. Her boyfriend was out of town, scheduled to return the next afternoon. Ruby is a Daddy’s girl who clings to his heels at every step, so any decisions needed to be made with him.
My daughter accepted my offer to stay with her overnight. Before I left the house, I let my own dog outside. I looked up into the clear sky and said a prayer, glancing at the constellations. A moment later, a shooting star streaked across the sky. The orionid meteor shower was presenting a gift; signaling something and triggering a sense of awe within me.
When I arrived at my daughter’s, she and I and a friend surrounded Ruby, giving her pets and whispers to comfort her. We curled up around her on the floor and couch. She was as still as I had ever seen her, and later pulled herself up with our assistance to her favorite place on the couch. We stayed in close Facetime and phone touch with Ruby’s Daddy who was feeling helpless. Alternating shedding tears and sharing photos and memories of her healthy days, we fell into half slumber. Toward dawn I woke up to the sound of my daughter’s distressed cries. Her arms were cradled around Ruby who was having a major seizure. Calls to the vet, confusion and our best efforts to calm her brought her through. When it was over, Ruby was breathing erratically and looking fearful. We contacted my daughter’s boyfriend to deliver the news. In a Facetime exchange that I will never forget, they made the mutual decision to end her suffering, him saying Goodbye to his baby from 1,900 miles away and giving her his blessing to let go. She visibly responded by wiggling to the sound of his voice while we all sobbed.
Immediately after, we carried Ruby out to the car and placed her in the back seat for her final journey in this life. From my vantage point in the front passenger seat I could hear my daughter’s calming voice soothing Ruby with comments like, “It’s okay Little Bear, Mommy is here” and “Your so brave, we’re almost there.” My heart was bursting with love and admiration for her courage. When Ruby had another seizure, my daughter cried out again and I was terrified. We were all crying. We also knew that Ruby was close to a way out of this.
When we arrived at the vet’s, the technicians were waiting with a gurney. It was all over in just a few minutes. Ruby was in a peaceful, relieved state at last, and so were we for the moment. I sent my daughter and her friend outside. She had been through enough, and I wanted to spare her the expense, paperwork and system that reduces precious life to an itemized list of services. I made the best of it by accepting the condolences of the kind woman behind the counter. “I’m so sorry. Always, there are no words.” I thanked her, appreciating the compassion and the shaman in me explaining that I could already feel Ruby’s spirit gathering around me. She responded with a similar story about a dog that she owned whose presence she still feels by her side. We parted with a shared smile of likeminded spiritual thoughts.
I held that smile as I exited the building to find my daughter and friend sitting on the curb grieving in their personal ways. “Are you not human?” she asked. “How can you be smiling in a moment like this?” My answer was to point out the sounds of the birds in the sunrise who along with me were welcoming Ruby’s spirit and energy back into the non-physical; far away from her earthly suffering. She had a blast with her Mommy and Daddy, but knew it was time to move on and now she was free.
Later, driving home from my daughter’s house, I’m thinking to myself that grief is perceived so differently by all of us. I view it as individual levels of processing love. My sadness about Ruby’s departure from this life is equivalent to the joy she brought us in her time here. I am also someone who believes that all living creatures come from a source of pure light, love and energy, and return to that. Death is not a relevant concept; I view it as a smooth transition from stream to stream. There is a license plate on the car in front of me that says DFY GRVT. Defy gravity. I laugh out loud and think, “Good girl, Ruby.”
As I sit in the sanctuary this evening reflecting on the events that began this day, birds of various kinds visit, and stinkbugs, ladybugs and bees arrive. I am aware of the distant sound of katydids buzzing; dogs barking. They celebrate the arrival of Ruby. Then I remember the praying mantis who spent two days in the sanctuary last week; I marveled at her visit. I smile at the memory of Ruby chasing her squeaky rubber hot dog, and at the same cry tears for my daughter and her boyfriend’s loss. I admire the strength and courage demonstrated by them in the act of granting her the freedom to go home. I’m so proud of that.
Most of all, I give thanks to the amazing Universe for the gift of that rare shooting star, for I know it was evidence of pavement for Ruby’s exciting next path. She also gets a crescent moon to guide her.
Fare thee well Ruby and Happy Travels.