Life is full of lessons to be learned, some of those lessons can only be learned the hardest of ways; through a loss. The experiences we gain from loving and losing are the most difficulty to deal with. Some of the best teachers I have had have been those who don't need to speak their lessons, they simply live them. Some of my best teachers have been dogs.
This is the story of Ruby...
The night was just beginning to overtake Kigali, and my guitar and I were planted on the balcony, reacquainting ourselves and entertaining the passerbys as they made their ways home after a busy and sticky African work-day.
The call came as most bad news does; without warning. My grey phone vibrated on the table and read, "Vans" and I smiled outwardly, excited to speak to my sister. "Hello??????" I almost yelled into the phone. "Hi...." she answered, almost completely disguising the tears and sobbing, "... I have some bad news to tell you..."
When you are aware from home, powerless and simply a voice on the phone, those words are your worst nightmare. For a moment, the world was silent. It was a silence you could feel on your skin, somehow you could smell and taste it, as the Rwandan nightlife seemed to not exist anymore. You could even hear the silence somehow, locked away in the deep recesses of the mind. My eyes, instead of showing me the Kigali landscape, glazed over into a photo-collage and video of every person that was important to my life. In that instant, everything you have learned, everything insignificant detail, everything you had planned for that night, for the future did not matter. It wasn't about that. Life isn't about that stuff, I decided right there and then. As my heart flip-flopped in my chest, and my body went numb, my mind decided what was important to it.
This was my first thought:
1) Did I Tell Everyone I Loved Them Before I Left? Do they know just how much they mean to me? Does Mom know how much I love to hear her laugh? How much Dad is an inspiration to my life? How Rishi is a best friend as much as he is a brother? How much Vans taught me to love the world? How much Angie's positive energy can change my day? Does my family know that I carry them everywhere I go? Do they know I love them??????
"We have to put Ruby down..." Vani said.
Ruby Jaipaul, the newest member of our family, joined us last year after she was found roaming the streets of Westlock, Alberta. When my sis saw Ruby at the shelter, she soon found herself the proud owner of a big, black dog (verdict is still out on the kind of dog). Her droopy eyes made it seem like she was a shy actor, holding back her sweet side, as if years on the street had made her self-conscious. Her ears had a delightful, floppy quality to them, swaying to and fro as she slowly cantered around the house, always moving but never really getting anywhere.
Archer, the Golden Retriever I had grown up with, taught me one of the grandest lessons I have ever learned; that love can be unconditional, instant and everlasting. Love, he showed in his years with us, can be effortless and pure. I loved Ruby with the same gusto as I was taught, from the first moment on, and I knew the feeling was mutual. When she first did her patented drop-to-your-stomach-and-crawl (because it's WAY better than walking) across the room, she had me ("What ARE you???"). I was even a jerk to her, trying to get such a 'mean-looking' dog to bite me, using every yawn as an opportunity to fit my hand into the gaping mouth. She just shot me your standard Ruby-what-are-you-doing-look and continued on her way.
And she changed so much, going from a shy and quiet giant to a lovable and peaceful one who began to start wagging her tail and smiling at the fun we had. She even hopped (well, was carried) into the truck and visited me along with the family when I was living in Jasper. The hikes, hotel and caribou confused her immensly, and although nervous, it was obvious she was becoming comfortable in our family.
That's just Ruby, we found out, a quiet soul with so much love....
I spent the night thinking about a miracle, we always do, when something terrible happens. Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Maybe there has been a mistake, a misdiagnosis. Maybe she would make it. When I saw the status's of my family the next morning, it confirmed the inevitable. Ruby was gone.
However, Ruby, like Archer, never left alone. Surrounded by family and friends, Ruby left in a circle of love, a circle of people who cared for her. Ruby knows what she meant to us in the end, and that's important. Her death leaves a void only goodbyes are capable of leaving. I thought about my last moments with her.
I hugged her tightly in the doorway of my sister's home, kissed her on her big snout and slobberly black lips and said what would be my final words to the wonderdog,
"Ruby!!! I will miss you, and I love you."
That's all, I think. That's all that needed to be said.