31 Aug 2010


This is the posture that Ruby used to adopt, sat with her nose in the air, right beneath Tonia’s feet, whenever vegetables were being chopped in the kitchen. It was an attitude of expectation, that we came to call, “Assuming the Position.” She only ever did this at Tonia’s feet, because Ruby knew Tonia was a soft touch when it came to vegetables. And Ruby also knew better than to beg when I was in the kitchen.

I knew that Ruby was aging. She had heart disease, and kidney disease, and skin problems, and I’ve seen them taking their toll for many months. I had noticed that her most endearing behaviors were dropping away. She stopped Assuming the Position. She no longer chased butterflies. She used to love crunching ice cubes, but had stopped running to the kitchen every time she heard the freezer door open. Sometimes she’d take an ice cube if it was offered, and mouth it for a while, before dropping it and wandering off. Most noticeably, she had stopped following me around the house these last few months. Well, not entirely. If I left a room for too long, she’d always come and find me. But she wasn’t right behind me anymore. She’d usually wait a few minutes where she was, to see if I came back. As if she were weighing her need to be with me, against the exertion that following me required.

All of these things I had noticed. They just didn’t translate as “very sick dog.” Much like that twisted sock I wrote about last week, all the signs that something was awry simply didn’t register. In my head I saw an “older dog”. Not a dying one. She was bright, and happy, and though she moved at a slower pace, and I knew she had health issues, I convinced myself that with the right food, and a little more exercise, we’d have her for years to come. Tonia knew differently, and so did our vet. But I didn’t.

Ruby came to us nearly five years ago a very damaged little dog. A former breeding bitch, she’d been a puppy machine, and had spent her entire life in a kennel. We don’t know how many litters she had. We don’t even know how old she was. Somewhere between six and eight, the vet said, when we brought her in for her first visit. She needed shots. She needed to be spayed. She really needed some decent food. She needed people to love her, but what she needed more than anything were people that she could love. I read somewhere that all dogs need some sort of job to do, and this was hers: loving us.

She was in dreadful physical shape when we brought her home, but I can’t describe the condition she was in. It would be too shocking. Worse than her physical condition, the signs of emotional trauma she’d suffered broke our hearts. Though she had no manners to speak of when she arrived, with love and training she improved enormously. She didn’t learn quickly, but she did learn. Eventually all the odd behaviors, the constant pacing, the separation anxiety, and the barking at shadows or flickers of light on walls – all hold overs from her kennel years – all those weird little quirks dropped away and she became a normal dog. A normal dog, with a steadily increasing amount of health problems.

Ruby stopped eating last Thursday, and even then I didn’t think anything was truly wrong. We had recently changed her food to help manage the kidney disease, and I thought she was being finicky. I took her to see the vet again on Friday, and came away with more drugs, and a plan that I just knew would make her better. By Saturday she was worse, drinking little, peeing little, still not eating. We could see her becoming weaker and we began a desperate attempt to find something that she’d eat. We roasted a chicken, just for her, boiled and mashed many varieties of vegetables, squirted maple syrup in her mouth hoping to stimulate her appetite. But the only thing she’d accept were little hard dry dog biscuits, her favorite treats. When she threw all of those up on the lawn a few hours later, and couldn’t keep even water down, I finally got it. We were losing her. And I was not ready.

I called the vet who suggested that we while we could pump fluids into her for a couple of days, he was not hopeful. Tonia and I decided we didn’t want her to spend what could, in all likelihood, be her last days, away from home, away from me, and back in a cage. So on Saturday evening I drove her to the vet for the last time, while Tonia stayed home with the puppy. Our wonderful vet, who has treated Ruby’s myriad health problems over the years, was on call that day. It made the sad journey a little easier. He said that it’s always hard to know when to let them go, and assured me that it was not too soon for Ruby. I held her while he gave her the injection to end her life, and she died in my arms.

For Ruby, whose early life we can only imagine from the damage it wrought, becoming a normal dog was in every way extraordinary. She wasn’t smart, but she was as loving and sweet-tempered a dog as I’ve ever known, and a beautiful quiet presence in our lives. She learned to know joy, and she brought us as much in return.

As Tonia returns to work after a bank holiday weekend, I am grateful for Truman’s company. I’m also more grateful than I have words for, to Tonia, for sensing that I would need a little warm dog body to comfort me, and some goofy puppy attitude in the house to cheer me, much sooner than I ever anticipated.

Posted on August 31, in Blog


  1. Laura wrote:

    Brenda and Tonia,

    Such sad news. You and Ruby were lucky to have each other.

    A beautiful post.

    Warmest wishes
    Laura x

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  2. Cheryl S. wrote:

    I am so sorry for your loss, but I’m glad to know that she had such a loving home and family for so many years.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  3. Jan wrote:

    I am so sorry that you have lost your Ruby. I’m so glad that you found it in your hearts to take her in and make her last years her best ones. You have written so eloquently about her.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  4. CAT wrote:

    Oh Brenda, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Animals become such an integral part of our families and it is so difficult to let them go. Your Requiem was beautiful and a good first step to mourning. I hope that having the new puppy there will help to alleviate some of the loss.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  5. Audrey wrote:

    My deepest condolences to you both and a big hug. Your beautiful Ruby was so lucky to find you in her path.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  6. Kimberly wrote:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your Ruby. We lost our Sam in March and his absence is felt every day.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  7. BeckyinVT wrote:

    So sorry for your loss! We humans get so attached to our dogs, and they to us. I’m so glad you and Tonia could make Ruby’s life a happy one. And I agree with Tonia’s wisdom that having a new puppy in the house is just the thing to ease the passing of a loved older dog.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  8. marri wrote:

    oh brenda, i’m so, so sorry. i’m in tears. i’m about to go through the same, and it’s heartbreaking. at least, having experienced this 18 months ago, i’m prepared. i know the signs and i’m just waiting for my two elderly buns (both rescues with horrific backgrounds) to tell me it’s time. until then we have the barrage of medications and IVs that we administer every day. it is so hard to lose these guys. so hard. my heart goes out to you.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  9. Sara wrote:

    So sorry for your loss, Brenda. Ruby will clearly always have a very special place in your heart & I know Truman will have his own special place too & help you mourn the loss of your darling Ruby.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  10. Paul wrote:


    I’m so sorry for your loss. You and Tonia were the best things that could have ever happened to her.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  11. Mel wrote:

    I’m so sorry to learn the news. I’m just reading this after getting home from a long night at the end of a long week and a half of work.

    I remember when you two adopted her. She was much like my Tuck was when he was rescued three years ago – not really sure even how to be a dog. It was so wonderful to hear of her progress and then to see it later with Tuck, who despite his health issues has become such an incredible joy to David and myself (and who also waits at my side when I’m chopping vegetables in hopes of a bit of carrot, or potato, or squash, or….). Despite the sadness that always comes with loss, you’ll always have a bit of the love and joy that she gave to you in exchange for the love that you gave to her. I have no doubt that it’s a treasure you’ll keep close to your heart always.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  12. tea wrote:

    I´m sitting here crying with you, crying for you… I remember when you first talked about her in your podcast… much love

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  13. Mary wrote:

    I am so very, very sorry.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  14. tea wrote:

    … got me thinking… what a lovely way to go… in the arms of the person who loves you, tired and ready to leave but before any great pain… she had a hard start but the very best finish! <3

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  15. Oh, that was a very moving tribute to your beloved dog. I felt the very same way about my cocker spaniel during his last days.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  16. Oh Brenda,

    The tears flow as I read this post! We have recently had a cancer scare with our border collie and various health problems with my Shih Tzu (who like Ruby, is my shadow) and everytime we go to the vet, I get that little sick feeling ‘Is today THAT day?’

    Thankfully, that day hasn’t yet come, but it will.

    My heart bleeds for you, Tonia and Truman, but I’m glad that little Ruby got to spend her final years in a home where people loved her.

    Hugs to you all

    Sam xx

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  17. Kelly wrote:

    So sorry about your loss…happy that you all found each other though. Loving is so hard, isn’t it? Take care.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  18. Kristin wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m looking towards the same type of situation myself right now – with a failing 14 year old mutt who was adopted from the pound with serious emotional baggage. I’ve been blessed with her for 13 years, and it’s hard to witness the long good bye. However, it’s also a blessing to be able to let them go when it’s time – a valuable lesson I learned from my Dad, who’s a vet.

    Many hugs to you!

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  19. Nicole wrote:

    So sorry for your loss.

    Be well, N

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  20. Rae wrote:

    Brenda & Tonia,
    I am so sorry for your great loss. It is so hard to lose a pet. Probably because they love you so well. But I am very glad that Truman has come into your lives to take over that job.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  21. Helen wrote:

    You and Tonia did a great thing by giving Ruby the wonderful years she had with you, and letting her go at the right time. But you know all that, and it doesn’t make it any easier. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  22. It’s always devastating to have a loss in the family, even while you have a new little one to care for. *hugs* to you and yours.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  23. estyn wrote:

    Hey there,
    I’m sorry. It’s never time. Or never enough time.
    I hope you can be gentle with yourself as you adjust.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  24. So sorry for your loss. No doubt Ruby gave Truman explicit instructions to continue giving you lots and lots of love and puppy kisses.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  25. Sara wrote:

    Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. And what a wonderfully written tribute.

    I know Ruby will live on in your hearts and thoughts from here on out. I know she was a blessing in your lives. My thoughts are with you both as you grieve.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  26. M-H wrote:

    A lovely post. You gave her a beautiful life and she loved you in return. She was so much a part of your lives, and you’ll never forget her.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  27. Janet wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your story. As a fellow guardian rescued dogs, I thank you for giving your home and your heart to a dog in need.

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  28. Felix wrote:

    A lovely homage to Ruby, and Tonia, and Truman.

    I cried at this post, too.

    It is wonderful that Ruby got to be with you and Tonia for a few years, and I am really sorry that you didn’t have as much time together as you hoped for. I hope you find some comfort in knowing that Ruby couldn’t have asked for a better home for her last few years, than the lovely one that you and Tonia made for her.

    Thinking of you all x

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  29. Margaret Lifgren wrote:

    Thank God she had time with the two of you after all the mistreatment she endured. It just breaks the heart to lose such a dear one. Love to you both. Margaret

    Posted on 8.31.10 ·
  30. Kristi wrote:

    Oh Brenda & Tania! I am so sorry for your loss =(
    My heart breaks for you. I’m so glad that you have Truman to help you two through this pain tho, big hugs and a scratch behind the ears to him, and some shed tears for Ruby. She was blessed to have such a wonderful home for the last chapters of her life.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  31. kmkat wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, but so happy that Ruby was able to live her last five years with you and become a normal loving and much-loved dog. Those furry critters worm their way into our hearts forever.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  32. Annetta wrote:

    Dear Brenda,

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    We have taken in (or been adopted by) several pets of various kinds over the years, and sometimes only for a short period of time before they passed on. We, too, have had the immense pleasure of giving real quality of life to our furry and feathered friends, even though it’s been emotionally wrenching to say goodbye to them at the end.

    You gave Ruby a wonderful second life, and I’m pleased that you and Tonia and Truman have each other (and yarn) during this difficult time.

    Take good care,

    Blackwall, Australia

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  33. Jocele wrote:

    I’m so sorry. It’s amazing how those four legged creatures become such a part of you and your family. It’s wonderful that you were able to give her a good home the last few years of her life. Give the puppy some extra hugs and scratches…for him and you.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  34. Angeline wrote:

    My heart goes out to you at this sad time. Just know that you are loved, by many of us all around the world, and we feel your pain.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  35. Kathy wrote:

    So sorry for your loss. No matter how much it hurts when they go it is so worth the pain to have the joy of sharing their lives for however long we get. For the holidays last December my girls were allowed to pick out a kitten each from the local rescue, we already had a 16 & 11 year old, but 2 months later the 11 year old died from congestive heart failure the day after my birthday. We did know he was sick and it was quick, but as you have said, having the young ones around made it easier. I got to laugh through my tears and hold a small warm body who would fall asleep on my lap. Hugs to you all.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  36. Animals do such a good job at teaching us that life is a long series of Hello’s and Good bye’s. Here’s a piece of my heart today…

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  37. Gina wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss! Your post brought tears to my eyes!

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  38. Kimberly wrote:

    I don’t know you…. or Tonia…. and I never met Ruby. But I cried when I read this, and felt thankful for the memory of every doggy kiss I’ve ever received, thankful for every dog I’ve ever loved.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  39. LaurieM wrote:

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. It lifted my heart to hear how well the end came for Ruby and how much better the last half of her life was than the first half.

    Thank you.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  40. Nicole wrote:

    My heart goes out to you both. Please take good care.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  41. LoriAngela wrote:

    So sorry for your loss. She was a blessing. You took a great risk to save her and shared so much love.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  42. carrie wrote:

    thank you for sharing your joy and sadness with us all.
    I put my dog Ginger down last year . I know the sadness you are going thru and the joy you feel with a new puppy. I don’t know how you got the dog but it was awesome of you to take her in . I’m gonna go shed a few tears as I remember the dog that loved us .

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  43. Pam wrote:

    Dear Brenda,
    I am sending my deepest sympathies to you and Tonia. What an eloquent tribute to Ruby. It is so heartbreaking to lose a beloved member of your family. I have a little buddy at my feet who is reaching those last years. Like you, I am not ready for what you have just gone through…I remember the pain from losing my last dear friend. But, the years of unconditional love, attention and pure joy that Truman will bring you will make that pain slowly fade. You were very kind to have Ruby be in your arms in the end, the place where I am sure she felt the most loved.
    Oh my goodness, I need to stop crying. Hugs to you, Tonia and Truman.

    Posted on 9.1.10 ·
  44. Kristin wrote:

    Thanks for sharing Ruby’s story. I cried while I read it. So sorry for your loss.

    Posted on 9.2.10 ·
  45. joan wrote:

    Brenda and Tonia,
    My heart is aching for your loss. The wonderful picture of Ruby with her beautiful soulful eyes made my heart break, especially knowing her story …. but she knew she was loved and she loved you!! I know words can not adequately express your loss …. and words can not do enough to express my sympathy to you both.

    Warrenville, Illinois USA

    Posted on 9.2.10 ·
  46. Jennifer wrote:

    I am sorry to hear of your loss. We lost our dog this summer, and while we were able to spend a long time with her, and we knew she was near the end, it was hard, and she is sorely missed. My thoughts are with you all.

    Posted on 9.2.10 ·
  47. Michelle wrote:

    So sorry for your loss Brenda.

    Posted on 9.4.10 ·
  48. Colleen wrote:

    Brenda, I’m so sorry to hear about Ruby. You have the consolation of knowing you gave her a wonderful last five years.

    I had to make the same decision for my cat of 19 years, and it was not easy. I didn’t want to do it. But I could also see that anything else was prolonging the inevitable and was doing her no favours. I still question my decision at times, wondering if more could have been done, but I think the outcome wouldn’t have changed.

    We have two other cats that we rescued and that we spoil rotten. I love both of them dearly but I’ll always miss my first cat.

    Ruby had a great life and you did the right thing. She’ll always be with you in some fashion.

    Posted on 9.5.10 ·
  49. Judith in Ottawa wrote:

    My deepest sympathies to you both in this time of loss.

    Posted on 9.8.10 ·
  50. Merry wrote:

    Such a touching post. I’m so sorry for your loss. At the same time, it is so nice that Ruby found true rescue and a life of love with you and Tonia. What a gift you gave her, and she gave you. We lost a Corgi a couple of years ago and it was very hard for me. The house was so quiet for almost a year, and then we got a Cavalier/Bichon puppy. She’s so affectionate and loveable. I still miss all my past pets and nothing replaces them as individuals, but the joy of providing a home for a new puppy and getting to know her is healing for me. I hope the same for you and Tonia.

    Posted on 9.8.10 ·
  51. Erin Rasmussen wrote:

    Ruby sounds like a good and true friend, and it’s hard… and then I’m neatly to the bit where my words totally fail to convey what I want them to. so, hugs.

    Posted on 9.9.10 ·
  52. Beverly wrote:

    I was away & didn’t read this until today. I too am so sorry to learn of Ruby’s passing. I know how very sad you feel now, but I also hope that the day will come when you can remember only the wonderful times you had with her, and the sadness of today blurs away.

    Posted on 9.14.10 ·
  53. Sandy wrote:

    I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. You have brought up memories of two dogs I have had this sad experience with during the past decade. Ruby was fortunate to have found you. Remember her with love and know that you gave her the best life a dog can have, as part of a family.

    Posted on 9.17.10 ·
  54. Nina wrote:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Ruby’s story with all of us. Having two shelter dogs myself, I know how wonderful it is to see them get past poor treatment and become amazing dogs. We can learn so much from their ability to adapt and love and get over terrible things. I’m glad that Ruby got to enjoy a warm and loving family in her final years.

    Posted on 9.17.10 ·
  55. Leslie wrote:

    Ruby was so very blessed to have you as her final family. Having had to say good bye to a beloved four legged family member is heart wrenching even if you know it’s the kindest thing – been there – I share your loss and tears. Just hang on to the “remember when she…” stories, they will get easier to tell and more loved as time goes by. Blessings!

    Posted on 9.17.10 ·
  56. Juliann wrote:

    I just decided to read your blog since I don’t know when. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my fur baby this summer on July 26. I am still missing her. About two months before her death, I adopted a puppy mill breeding dog. She had such horrible dental disease, the vets pulled all her teeth when she was rescued. She has so many emotional issues, as you mentioned about Ruby, but I have great hope that in a year she will become a “real dog”. Right now she has discovered the joy of hunting grasshoppers. I have to dig out the mangled corpse from her mouth since she cannot truly chew it to swallow it. For the first time she can go outside without me for just a short period of time. I cannot imagine what her life was like locked in a cage and forced to breed constantly. The vet that rescued her will not allow me to know all the details. She took 16 of the dogs rescued that were in the worse condition. She was at the vet’s kennel for 3 months before she could be adopted. Again my sympathies to you and Tonia on your loss of little Ruby.

    Posted on 9.19.10 ·
  57. Jennie VH wrote:

    Oh, I am so sorry. It is very hard to lose a pet. She sounds like such a personality.

    I do hope that black hole in your chest fills in, as slowly as it needs to, with the help of your silly young’un. My heart goes out to you both.

    Posted on 10.4.10 ·
  58. @MySpyderWeb wrote:

    So sorry. It’s so hard to lose a furchild. They love us so unconditionally. Hugs

    Posted on 10.12.10 ·

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