“None of us are getting out of here alive, So please stop treating yourself as an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There is no time for anything else.”
Ruby is on a special diet because of her failing kidneys. She is none too thrilled about the fact that she is no longer getting table scraps or bites of peanut butter and jelly toast. The way she is fixated on that toast in this photo reminded me of the above quote. We know that she is in the final months of her wonderful doggie life, so we are working to make them as good and healthy for her as we can, presumably to help keep her around a little longer. But as she sat staring at Steve’s evening snack, I found myself thinking about that quote. She just wants to eat the delicious food, but we aren’t allowing her to do that.
We humans are funny creatures. We pay so little attention to life while we run around living it. And then when it comes down to facing our mortality, then and only then do we get serious about living intentionally, about paying attention to the important little things in the fleeting present moment.
Perhaps Ruby was simply trying to remind Steve to savor that damn toast because someday someone might decide it isn’t good for him, and then he won’t get to eat it anymore. He will have let his last bite of peanut butter and jelly slip away and won’t have even taken the time to savor every bit of its perfect complexity, the flawless balance of the salty and sweet. It will be gone, and he won’t have taken a moment to celebrate its gustatory elegance.
Sometimes I think we’d be a lot happier if we lived like our dogs do: begging for the best snacks, rolling around on the soft rug, chasing after butterflies, napping in the sun. Maybe we should just let Ruby eat what she wants. She’s been living her best, most aware, most immediate and intentional life since she was born. Maybe she doesn’t need to eke out more life. Maybe we should let her keep living the way she has been because she’s been getting it right all along. It’s only we humans that screw it up.
In his twelfth year, my beloved canine companion developed vestibular syndrome. He couldn’t stand for a couple of days, nor walk for a few after that. Slowly, over weeks and months we got back to walking, each of us in our aging gaits. In his fourteenth year, vestibular syndrome struck the other ear, and we re-learned to walk again, though now with little, if any, hearing. Clearly his vision was beginning to age as well, and he could not see me if I was more than fifty yards away. Unable to hear or see clearly, I was afraid for him. Afraid he would walk into the road in front of a truck. For the first time in fifteen years, he was placed on a leash. He accepted this, as only dogs can, but was clearly disheartened. My kids were in shock. “Chuy on a leash?!” came their incredulous inquiries. This was nearly as painful to me as it was to Chuy. In his fifteenth year I awakened to the reality of the situation. Life is made to be lived. The toast and jelly to be savored. And the freedoms we have known all of our lives. Life on a leash was no life at all for Chuy.
It was scary to leave him off leash, but it was the best for him. Not the safest, or the surest, nor the guarantee of greater longevity. But it was his best life, and I had no right to cheat him of it for my own feelings.
At the end of the story, on a warm and sunny July morning we took a walk before I left for work. It was a brief walk, and I remember him looking at me like “That’s all?”. “I have to go to work.” I told him.
Two hours later, he walked across Engleville Road as he had done a thousand times before, without seeing the Ag truck, nor hearing its rumbling tires as it crested the hill.
To this day I cry for that dog, like the old man in the song “Mr. Bojangles”.
And I will forever be thankful I did not let him die on a leash.
He died exercising his universal right to liberty, and pursuit of his own happiness.
My heart goes out to Ruby, and the rest of her family.
Paz…Thank you for telling me about Chuy. It’s a heartbreaking story, but one I understand well. Even though Ruby is on a special kidney diet, I have been sneaking bites of cheese, turkey, and popcorn to her because life is meant to be lived and it’s what she deserves. Chuy lived a long life on his terms because you loved him. Wishing you peace in the knowledge that he wouldn’t have had it any other way and he was lucky to belong to you. 💗
I think Chuy and Ruby are shining examples of the phrase “lucky dog”.
All my best,