I couldn’t sleep again last night, likely because I drank a couple glasses of wine. What can I say? Sometimes you just want pizza and wine with friends without acting like an old person and worrying about the consequences. Still, when I wake up at 1 am ready to take on the world, it’s not the best. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now, but here we are.
I read if you can’t sleep, it’s a good idea to journal to unload your mind of whatever thoughts might be hindering your return to sleep. So, after an hour of hoping but failing to drift back off, I got up, herded our senior furry friend (the one who had woken me up in the first place) to the bedroom door, and headed to the sofa with a journal and pen in hand. Ruby is 14.5 now, which is towards the older end of a border collies’ general life expectancy. She seems to have her days and nights confused, sleeping all day and wandering aimlessly all night. I never know where she will be at 2 a.m. A couple days ago I found her in the master bathroom staring at the closet door, presumably thinking it was our bedroom door, the place where she stands when she wants to go out. And as I sat writing, she continued her travels around our main floor. Her nightly 5k is recorded through nail clicking, then silence when she hits an area rug, then resumed clicking. She seems unsure of where she was headed or what she was looking for. All I can think is, “Same, girl. Same.”
I find myself in tears when I look at her now for more than a few seconds because I know is waiting down the road, whether I am ready to get there or not. She has cataracts and doesn’t see well; she doesn’t hear well either. Tonight I noticed a small, tumor-like growth on the back of her right leg. Just another sign of where she is in her life’s journey. The medication and CBD treats we give her to ease her discomfort seem to be less help these days. Right now it feels like we’re in a holding pattern, circling the inevitable, but not yet cleared by the tower to land.
As I watched her amble around, I thought of our sons. They were 5 and 7 when she came to us. Joe is her favorite person. The boys have made it clear they aren’t ready to say goodbye to her and they hope they aren’t here to see her last moments because they think it will break them. I feel that in my soul. When Ruby is finally ready to cross the rainbow bridge, her passing won’t simply mean the loss of my constant companion of 14 years. Losing Ruby means I will have to let go of the period of my life I have loved the most thus far, the part where our boys were my day job and my night job, and Ruby was assistant to the assistant manager. It’s a double loss, which probably explains why it’s so heart-wrenching for me to sit with her on those long, silent nights. I’m double grieving. It needs to be done, but that doesn’t make it suck any less.
I see her discomfort with her achy joints, her struggle to get to her feet and balance herself before taking a step, and her confusion, but I also see moments of spunk when she goes toe-to-toe with our young corgis and very nearly resembles her 3 year old self. I am one with her in all these moments, facing my own mortality as well, whenever the universe wants its atoms back. Damn, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. “I know what’s ahead for me too, girl,” I tell her each quiet night we alone share. “I know it’s hard to let go of the people you love and the duty to watch over them.” I run my hand down the length of her frail body, weeping and reassuring her. “It’s okay. You’ve done a beautiful job taking care of us, making us laugh, and teaching us how to be present, but you can let go and rest when you’re ready. You’ve earned it. You’ve trained Loki and Goose well. They can take the torch from you and manage us with the same herding-dog spirit you did the whole of your wonderful life.” Last night she looked at me through those cloudy eyes, and I saw again what drew me to her. She is like me. She isn’t good at relaxing or doesn’t want to relinquish her favorite responsibility, either. We are sisters this way. And today she continues to fight for every moment of this precarious life as if she means to live forever, and all I can think is, “Same girl. Same.”
“Maybe I just wanna fly, wanna live, I don’t wanna die, maybe I just wanna breathe, maybe I just don’t believe, maybe you’re the same as me, we see things they’ll never see, you and I are gonna live forever” ~Oasis