Tuesday, March 29, 2011

For the love of a dog

On October 22, 2004, I drove out to Musquodoboit Harbour (Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada) with a friend to meet and pick up my new dog, Ruby. I had wanted a dog since childhood - it was a big day. After picking up the necessary supplies for greyhound ownership, Ruby and I got into the back seat while my friend Louise drove us home. Within a minute, Ruby lay down, putting her head in my lap. It was love.

We spent the first few days establishing the rules. You sleep in the crate. OK, sleep on the floor by my bed if you want. Well, if it means that much to you to sleep on the bed, go ahead. And you might as well get up on the sofa while you’re at it.

I introduced her to my parents, long-established non-dog lovers. “Grandma and Papa’s” hearts were quickly won over, their home becoming her favourite spot to visit (and one of the few prompts that would entice her off the comfort of her sofa and into the car.) And what wasn’t to like? They gave her treats and bones (safe ones), leftover veggie scraps, walks and loads of attention. Her only expression of discontent was when my dad would watch TV in the den. She’d butt at his arm with her head, saying, “Come out and pay attention to me.” I remember stopping at my parents to pick her up one evening after being out and seeing them sitting in the living room with an old black-and-white TV set propped on the end table. “She didn’t like us watching TV in the den,” they said. And that was that.

Saturday morning walks with our friend Judith (and more recently her dog Ellie, who had more energy than Ruby appreciated) were the routine. While Judith and I had coffee at Steve-o-Reno’s, Ruby would wait in the car with her head out the window, watching for the first sign of my return. Evening and weekend walks at Shubie Park and around the neighbourhood with my sister Nancy and her dog Rin Tin (who learned quickly that Ruby required a gentle touch and wasn’t much for play) were a highlight for all of us. As Nancy and I chatted after our walks, Rin Tin would tentatively approach Ruby and lick her ear, backing away just as quickly. They established a friendship of sorts, even stretching out on the same blanket on Christmas morning as the rest of us opened our gifts.

Every day when I came home from work, Ruby would greet me at the door. She’d then grab one of her two favourite stuffed animals, which were always nearby, and pounce on them once or twice (this was the extent of her daily play) before we headed out for a walk.

Mostly, Ruby slept. As my friend Catherine jokes about dogs, “They sleep all day to rest up for the really big sleep at night.” Ruby enjoyed few things more than stretching out – on the sofa, on the deck, on my parents’ carpeted floor or on her favourite blankets. Sometimes, I followed her lead. There’s something very therapeutic about a good nap.

On one of the occasions that we had overnight company, her sofa was occupied for much of the weekend, much to her dismay. Seeing no other option, she climbed into a small armchair. As dogs do, she circled before sitting down - her rear perched awkwardly on one arm of the chair and her front end on the other arm. We humans laughed until our stomachs hurt at the sight of her gangly figure positioned so uncomfortably, while she tried to look perfectly at ease. She protested our mocking by getting up and leaving the room. And when our company left, and she reclaimed her space on the sofa, I could swear she smiled.

Not everyone appreciated her beauty (see Skinny Dog). A few of the neighbourhood kids insisted she was a deer (and to be fair, she did bear a striking resemblance). To me, she was a stunning beauty. Her gentle, steady and loving presence was a gift.

On March 10, 2011, Ruby died. I underestimated how much grief I’d feel at losing her. While it’s getting easier, I still miss her, and know she’ll always hold a very special place in my heart. Yet, in spite of the sadness, I wouldn't trade the experience of having had her in my life.

I’m not sure where dog spirits go when they die, but I imagine her stretched out somewhere on a blanket in the sun, comfortable and relaxed, needing nothing, feeling loved.


  1. Her and Chester are getting along, burying bones, and curled up on furry blankets and keeping all the treats to themselves! - C.

  2. Very nice Margaret. Love, Susan

  3. I wish Ruby could have met Daisy. They had a lot in common.

    Hugs, babe.

  4. Apparently I needed a little cry tonight. Thanks Margaret ~ beautiful writing! I'll never forget the look on Chester's face that night. I hope they are getting along up there in heaven! I truly believe it's always sunny up there for our fur kids! xox Patti

  5. Oh Margaret, I and so many others who've lost dearly loved pets know exactly how you feel. Thinking of you..Cindy

  6. That was beautiful! I'm giving my dog Jett (and my cat Pickles) extra room at the end of the bed tonight. Admittedly, they BOTH sleep there in mine and Mike's queen-sized bed. Mike wasn't a dog person until we met - or rather, he hadn't explored his dog side until we met. Now he's a happy owner like me. Thankfully, otherwise he'd have to go. They stay! ;)

  7. What a gorgeous tribute, Margaret. Thinking of you. XO. -- Susan M.

  8. What a beautiful story! Ruby will live on, in your heart forever.

  9. That is such a beautiful story, Meg. She and Rin Tin got along great :) So, she and chester ARE probrably streched out, burying bones, etc. just as catherine said :) She is deeply missed :,( Even though she was a dog, she was still a member of the family.

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