August 30, 2008
Today is the most important day of the year in my life – it’s the day we celebrate Ruby’s rebirthday. On August 30th, 2008 my sweetest angel came home from a week in the hospital, near death from complications of diabetes. We were told all along that it didn’t look good for him, and even as we brought him home, we knew we had a very long and uncertain road ahead. One thing was certain though…there was nothing in the world, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I wouldn’t do for that dog…and here we are 7 years later.
Everything changed after Ruby came home. I changed. I’m still changing. Folks who rescue dogs or fall hard for them, like me, have a saying that goes “who rescued who?” I used to think it was sorta corny and cliché, but through experience I’ve come to learn that question is almost rhetorical…the healing power of these animals is astonishing and we humans are mere mortals in their presence. Ruby’s about 14 years old now and I’m told that makes him a senior dog. I don’t buy it for a second. He doesn’t look a day over 5 and he’s going to live forever.
I’m gonna be really honest with you dear readers…I have a very hard time talking about it. Actually that wasn’t honest after all. The truth is, I just straight up don’t plan on talking about it so let’s just drop it.
Speaking of Clichés
This whole growing old thing in general is something I can’t believe I’m facing (or trying not to face) in so many ways. For years I heard grownups throw around lines like “youth is wasted on the young” and it made me think to myself that old people are idiots. I’m now that idiot. And I’m here to tell you know-it-all kids that saying couldn’t be truer. Too bad you couldn’t look up from your iPhone long enough to even hear me.
Mrs. Jacob Clayton and I have developed a saying of our own “now that I’m over 40”, which is usually followed by a declaration of something we can no longer tolerate in people or pretend to have the energy to even acknowledge in their ridiculous behavior. (Or sometimes I’m commenting about my chronic back pain or the fact that I clearly need bi-focals…now that I’m over 40.) If you’ve read any of my previous blogfessions, you know that I’ve been desperately working at living a life of gratitude and inner peace, despite the noise and haste. But damn the human race makes it so impossible in so many ways, doesn’t it?
For example, last month the family was on an evening walk and a neighbor approached to say hello. We explained, as we always do, that Ruby can’t see her but if she puts her hand out slowly and announces herself he’ll give a sniff and is very lovey. She did the typical deep siiiiggghhhh that says I’m so sorry for you because your dog is blind and then she asked how old he was. Upon learning he was 14, she responded “you need to get another dog”. That’s right folks. And since this is a nice family blog, I’ll leave it at that and won’t go into the details of how I feel about her and her family and what should happen to each and every one of them…but the words I now use to describe them make George Carlin’s list of 7 read like a Dr. Seuss bedtime story.
Rescue Hound to the Rescue
In contrast, Ruby has excelled in his ability to block out the distractions and is clearly living a “now that I’m over 14” campaign of his own. For example, all his life, he used to get all worked up like a mad man with a big puffed up back and tail that we could barely control on his leash whenever he just even caught scent of another hound. Now he can’t even see them, he’s focused on enjoying his retirement and couldn’t be bothered so he just goes about his business and has a nice time outside. I can see that this shift in him has brought him greater happiness and inner peace. On the subject of growing old, Desiderata says:
“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”
That’s exactly what Ruby has done and continues to do. I can only hope to one day make him proud, and show him how much he has taught me about living a good life. But more important to me than my own quest for happiness, I ask myself more often than ever if he is happy. I wonder if he has everything he needs. I wonder how much his legs hurt him when he gets shaky on them. I wonder if he knows how loved he is. I do know he goes through each day of his life knowing who has back no matter what. He knows his schedule, to the minute. He knows his most comfy spot to lay, where he knows he is safe…right on mom’s pillow, of course. Ruby knows his purpose, he lives and loves with abandon, and still to this day, every single moment of his life, Ruby represents and remains true to his authentic self.
It was sometime in the middle of the night a few months ago that I was on the couch unable to sleep, my finger mind-numbingly cycling through our 20 channels of basic cable with the remote. One of those Entertainment Tonight or Inside Edition type of shows ended up being my best option and they were showing a recent interview with an actress named Viola Davis. I know I had heard her name before but couldn’t have told you anything about her at all. I caught the very end of the clip and she said something (that I’m paraphrasing, plus it was like 3 in the morning) but she said something along the lines of her being at the age or point in her life where she simply doesn’t have time for people who don’t represent their authentic selves. I kinda LOL’d and then literally said out loud “amen, sister”.
I Googled her the next day and quickly realized she’s a pretty big deal and a very celebrated actress. I found an article about a commencement speech she delivered at Providence College in 2012. It seems that even back then she was preaching the virtues of being your authentic self – claiming it is “trapped under the most negative forces of this world” – negative forces which “include everyone else’s expectations and desires, other people’s definitions of success, the quest for money and possessions, and the notion of entitlement without responsibility”. I read other articles and interviews as well where she also elaborates on this theme and offers that the key to not falling prey to these forces is simply to live a life with purpose and to never lose sight of it.
Dear readers, here on Ruby’s 7th rebirthday, there is no question in my mind, that taking care of him, growing old with him, sharing my life with him, is the single greatest accomplishment of my life. When it comes to rescue dogs, especially senior rescue dogs, I truly believe I have found my purpose. And contrary to the brilliant and absolutely unsolicited advice of my stunning neighbor, no it’s not time for me to get a new dog…but I have been thinking about how to help other dogs like Ruby. I am clawing up the walls desperate to share some really big news about how he and I are planning on doing just that, together. But in the meantime, his made-to-order fresh salmon with a side of spinach is getting plated up and he knows it! I’ve got a birthday celebration to attend and don’t want to keep the star waiting. Nap time is just around the corner and he’s got the next 14 years to rest up for.
Happy rebirthday sweet angel. Thank you for being the greatest gift of my life.