Yesterday was a very sad day: my sister Kathleen had to say goodbye to her sweet girl Ruby.
Ruby was 15 years old and she, like many of us, had certainly slowed down. Her hearing and eyesight were diminished and she was no longer getting out for walks.
I have some great memories of Ruby. She was an adorable puppy, full of personality. From the very beginning, she thought she was a big dog. I think maybe that was her Indian name: Runs with Big Dogs.
Once she chased after a coyote and another time she ran right up the trail at a horse!
Kathleen couldn’t resist dressing her up for special occasions.
I think, at best, Ruby tolerated it.
Kathleen and I take a walk every Saturday. They used to be longer hikes. Ruby loved chasing a tennis ball, but we learned not to bring a ball or we couldn’t make progress on the trail. In fact, we didn’t even say “ball” around her. But sometimes she would find one anyway. Her sense of smell must have been pretty good because there were times she would plunge off the side of the trail, seeking an unseen ball and after a time, her head would pop up with a tennis ball clenched triumphantly in her teeth.
Sometimes she would nudge a ball off a trail just to amuse herself and chase it down the incline, through poison oak and underbrush.
In 2003 Kathleen entered Ruby in the Doxie Derby dachshund races held at UC Davis every year. I wish I had pictures from the event but they haven’t been unearthed. Some dogs wander off the course or stop, or turn the wrong way. But Ruby ran like an Olympian! Her ears were flapping and all four feet were a blur – at one point she was flying with nothing touching the ground. She won a preliminary heat and we were delighted.
Here she is doing a happy dance.
When Kathleen brought home a Siamese kitten, Xander adopted Ruby as his second mother, curling up with her and sucking on her fur. Ruby tolerated that for only so long.
Rem was a big Ruby fan and even did a stint of weekly dog-sitting. When Ruby was little, Kathleen worked in a dog-friendly office and for 7 years they went to the office together. But later, Ruby stayed home and various friends and family members helped Kathleen by taking Ruby out for little walks.
Sometimes Rem would take Ruby with him out for coffee or a stroll. This is on the waterfront in Sausalito.
Here are some pictures of her from our Saturday hikes.
More than likely her Mama was holding a treat and calling her name to hold her attention long enough for me to snap the picture.
On more recent hikes Ruby would ride for part of the way in a puppy pack adapted by our sister Sarah. Ariel is carrying her in the pack here.
Ruby celebrated 15 birthdays. Here she is on her tenth.
Two weeks ago, Ruby suffered a blood clot in her front right leg and she could no longer use the leg, which meant she couldn’t walk. A younger dog may have been able to adapt but especially in a short-legged, long bodied breed like a dachshund, it really wasn’t possible.
Kathleen made the terribly difficult but very brave decision to keep her beloved girl from more suffering. Ruby was going downhill and was no longer eating. In the morning we had a last walk, with Ruby in a stroller, and Molly keeping company. In the afternoon, visits and petting in the sunshine on the front porch with friends who loved her. Xander lay next to her, purring, while Ruby was on Kathleen’s lap. A wonderfully kind and understanding vet came to Kathleen’s home to take care of things, and Ruby died in Kathleen’s arms.
I had plans for the evening, an outdoor symphony concert by the lagoon at the Marin Center with my mom. Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after the vet, with tears drying on my cheeks. I was tired and didn’t really feel like going out but I’m glad I did. It kept my mind off the sadness of the afternoon and it was beautiful sitting outdoors watching the sun go down, birds swooping around, seemingly in time to the music.
The concert finale included a glorious fireworks show and I had an image of Ruby racing along, her ears flapping and all four legs working beautifully, a blur of motion as she flew, and the fireworks seemed to be a fitting response to her arrival in heaven.
R.I.P. Ruby Red Faw
April 25, 1999 – September 13, 2014