The fluorescent lights are so bright I’m forced to shut my eyes. Too many people are rushing around that my anxiety level rises. The beeping from machines isn’t helping my persistent headache. Waves of nausea make me feel as though I’m at sea, but these smells and panicked aura remind me I’m in a medical facility. Her voice is quaking with sorrow and uncertainty as she tries to explain to people what went wrong. I ache all over and it’s getting harder to breathe. I wish she knew despite all this pain her voice is all the comfort I need.
Rushed into another room, I feel unfamiliar hands transfer me to another bed. The sheets are stiff, and the warm blanket provides little comfort. This is not my bed. This is not my house. I wish to be home at the place where Ruby and I grew closest.
I wish she knew I remember the first day we met. After so many years I know she thinks I’ve forgotten. My body may be failing, but my mind is not.
We were just kids back then on that hot summer day. Her dad was the one to introduce us as I showed up for my first day working on their farm. I remember her strands of golden hair swaying in the breeze in the same way the wheat did that grew on the side of their property. Her freckled cheeks and bright smile made me giddy. She greeted me with the warmest hug. I wish she knew her embrace still warms me to this day.
My eyes are growing heavy and each breath more labored than the last. The monitors chirp away to acknowledge I still have some life in me, but I’m beginning to question that myself. I hear Ruby’s “mm-hms” as the medical personnel continue to discuss my blood counts. I wish she knew despite all this, her leaving for college was the hardest thing I had to endure.
As time went on, kids grow up like they’re supposed to. Ruby would explain to me the pros and cons of several colleges, though a simpleton like me didn’t know the difference. Nevertheless, I showed her my enthusiasm knowing full well this was what she really wanted to do. Finally, the letter came and we both knew our lives were about to change.
After packing all her essentials in the back of her dad’s pickup truck, we both knew an inevitable departure was approaching. Not many words were exchanged before she left. It was as though saying good-bye meant the end of our relationship. Instead, I gave her a kiss on the nose like I always would do. “I’ll see you soon Jethro,” was all she could say before she left to begin a new chapter in life; a chapter void of me.
Days turned into weeks. Several months would turn into years. Ruby would come home to visit me on her breaks, and it was as though she never left. Her hair was sometimes shorter and her nose ring was new, but she was still my Ruby and I was still her Jethro.
“Jethro, wake up! Please wake up!” Her command rings in my ears. Wanting to please her, I try to muster my sapped energy to respond, but all I can do it let out a moan. The unremitting pain persists. It is as if I can feel the cancer rotting my flesh to bones. This is not my first time in this room. This is not my first blood test, but I’m afraid it will be my last.
I wish she knew this wasn’t her fault. My body is old now, and all lives must come to an end. Ruby gave me a purpose. She was and will always be the love of my life.
“Jethro, no… please… not now…” she whines through uncontrollable sobs. As she pats my head, I manage to wag the tip of my tail one last time. My final breath escapes me as she rests her head on top of my fuzzy ears.
The monitor stops beeping and instead emits a loud monotonous tone. I’m no longer in my body, but I can see Ruby embracing me around my old collar. “I’m sorry we couldn’t do more,” the veterinarian whispers over Ruby’s shoulder.
I wish Ruby knew the pain is gone. My body doesn’t ache, and I feel like a cloud. I wish she knew it’s going to be okay, though as she’s forced to leave with only my dog tags, I feel guilty for not hanging on longer. As I begin to float upward, I wish she knew the life she gave me was the best life I could have. All those Christmases, our summer lake trips, and late rainy nights were some of my most treasured times with her. Ruby didn’t see me as a dog, and I didn’t see her as my owner; we equally saw each other as best friends. I will go on to brag about her love for me in dog heaven if such a place exists. Regardless, I wish she knew beyond life and even into death, she will always be my Ruby.
Afterthought from the Author
One purpose of a writer to is invoke a reader’s raw emotions. It is not simply to “show, not tell,” but rather to feel. This piece tore at my heart strings as I wrote it, but I felt it was important to share in honor of all four-legged loved ones who aren’t able to fully tell us how they feel. Just like this big guy of mine (Bo Dean), I know I can’t comprehend what I mean to him, although he attempts to remind me every day with wet kisses.
Until next post,