It is with the deepest sorrow that I have to report that our beautiful, loving boy crossed the Rainbow Bridge last night somewhere around 11:00 p.m. His doctor called, and I knew when I saw the number what had happened. Apparently Ray threw a blood clot, and it killed him very quickly. My only consolation, since I was unable to say goodbye, was that he passed in the arms of a vet tech, baptized by her kisses and tears. Ray was a very loved dog.
I never, ever felt as if Ray were just our dog. From the very beginning he showed that he was more than just a pet. It was as if he felt he had a mission to meet and touch as many people as he could. When we would be having lunch on the deck he would watch intently for people coming out to take a seat. He’d stand, his ears would fold back, and his tail would start tentatively wagging side to side. His yearning expression pulled people in again and again. I am eternally grateful for all the people who set down their plates to come over and give him a pat and a kind word. Every time that happened it confirmed his belief that he was special and that people needed to meet and love on him.
When Ray met someone, even once, they became part of his family. And the longer he had known them, the more excited he would get to see them. He would spy a former caregiver or good friend, and his whole body would wag, his tongue would hang out, his ears would be flat against his head, and he would be sporting the biggest pittie grin ever seen. I would leave him in a friend’s care while i went in to get my food, and that is the way he would greet me every time I came back……as if we’d been parted for eons. It is an amazing feeling to be loved like that. I never felt as if I was half as good a person as my dog thought I was.
But our quirky little boy could hold a grudge as well. Two of the gentlest, kindest men I know had gotten on his bad side, years ago….and he never, ever forgave them. Jake was walking him one evening right after the Vicktory Dogs got to the sanctuary, when he slipped and fell on the ice, scaring Ray. Until the last day of his life, Ray would bark at Jake. And amazing caregiver Paul took Ray to the Sanctuary dog park right after he got here. Since he was new, and considered a flight risk, Paul had him on a long line. Wanting to let Ray run and explore, Paul ran along behind him. In Ray’s mind, Paul was chasing him. The last time Ray saw Paul people had to move in front of Paul to block Ray’s view, because he just wouldn’t stop barking.
Whenever Ray would become frightened, which was usually because of a sound like thunder, or beeping, he would scale to the highest point he could reach. Once, when our smoke detectors went off, he burst through the door, into the garage, and scaled the built in shelving to the ceiling. It took me 20 minutes to figure out how to get him down.
Ray was a champion killer of stuffies. He would get his BarkBox toy each month, and have it “destuffed” before I could even leave the room. He took such pleasure in pulling out every last piece of stuffing. This morning his sister Turtle destuffed her first toy since she’s been with us. I think Ray was reaching out to her, across the bridge, to teach her the true purpose of toys.
When we first started working with Ray, he was so reactive to other dogs that he would become agitated just seeing them. His behavior was based on fear, and as he grew to love and trust us, the reactivity decreased dramatically. Last week he lay on the deck of the Village Cafe, 6 feet from a goofy greyhound. When the other dog first came in Ray looked at him, then looked at me. I said “I see him buddy” and that was all he needed: To know I recognized the threat, and wouldn’t let anything bad happen.
When we traveled, I saw how the bond of trust we had allowed Ray to do things I never thought he could do: ride on public transport, pass through airport security, wait quietly in a loud and busy airport, tackle elevators, people movers and escalators, and sleep curled at my feet though the noisy take-off and landing of a plane. He trusted I would keep him safe. That was an awesome responsibility. And one I think I met….at least until yesterday.
Today I am finding it hard to even breath. In the past few years I have lost both of my parents, 3 dogs and a macaw. And each death cut like a knife and brought waves of sorrow. But nothing like I am feeling now. No other pain has even come close. I understand in my soul the Native American tradition of cutting one’s hair when a loved one passes…..that slashing gesture that screams to the world your sense of loss and sorrow.
Do I regret the decision to have Ray’s spleen removed? Not at all. His spleen was making him very ill. I could tell he was tired and in pain. This was the one shot we had to give him more time. And I am thankful that he passed quickly, without fear or pain. I would make the same decision in a heart beat. What I do regret are the things I had no control over. The fact that it stormed and thundered all yesterday afternoon….something that terrified him. And I wasn’t there to hold him close, or wrap his Thundershirt around him. That he passed away without me at his side. That I was unable to say goodbye. That I will have to go to work on Monday is a sad and quiet office. Those are the only regrets I have.
I have been incredibly blessed to be able to share my life with this boy. And although I am in pain today, I know that, in time, my memories of Ray will make me smile. Ray brought me out of my shell, and brought countless people into my life. People who share my grief, and who have been reaching out to Kevin and me, with words of sorrow and love. And that is Ray’s final gift to us.
I need to call out the people who were there for Ray before I even met him, his caregivers, his friends, his champions. Thank you for loving our boy. Thank you for trusting me to love him too. He was a gift and a lesson for all of us.
RIP my darling boy. Wait for me at the bridge. I know I will see you, ears back, tailing swinging madly, grinning that incredible smile, so happy to see me once again. You are my heart.