Ooo you make me live!
"Been with you such a long time, you're my sunshine."
4 weeks ago I lost my deaf bull terrier mix, Ruby, to sudden liver failure. She was only 8 years old, but she stuffed an enviable lifetime into those dog years.
You know that Queen song "My Best Friend"? Well life was like that, but she was also like the hairy, naughty little daughter I never had. She woke up each morning with a great big toothy smile, her fangs worn down by playing ball, her eyes lined perfectly in black against her bleached-white fur. It was perpetually Christmas (or Hanukah or Halloween - whichever is most blissful). She infused every day with a joy and energy that I constantly marveled at. Her giant ears stood straight up on her head both majestically and ridiculously. They were festooned with black polka dots and they heard nothing. Despite being unable to hear, she went through life with more zest and positivity than I've seen in any other dog, and certainly any human. She was a clown and a saint, even as she stole loaves of bread from the kitchen counter, insisted on sitting in the front seat of the car, ate my friend's underwear and launched herself across the room as guests entered the house.
"...whenever the world is cruel to me."
It is my goal to be more like Ruby, only without the underwear eating. And frankly, if I'm going to be like Ruby it would be helpful if everyone else would also make the effort. Nothing kills a positive attitude faster than running up against a curmudgeon.
So let's make this more simple, more general if you will. For me this is The Ruby Approach to Life. For you guys it could be The Canine Approach to Life. The majority of you who share your lives with a companion dog know what I'm talking about. If you have a cranky dog, try to be more like Snoopy and leave your pooch to his growly philosophizing. It could even be The Sandra Bullock Approach to Life. The name is of little consequence other than it must inspire. Don't go calling this new leaf you may be overturning The Dick Cheney Approach to Life unless you've somehow managed to spin him into a glass-half-full kind of happy dude. I mean, regardless of your political views, he's a little crusty. Would you want his face on your coffee mug?
Here are the ingredients Ruby put into my life to make it the best batch of cookies I've ever tasted:
- Guilelessness. Let's not be naive, Ruby stole candies and hid them under the carpet and furniture cushions. She pulled backwards out of her harness in a brazen attempt to escape her vet visits. She ate books. Not just any books, but really old literature with flaking, yellowed pages that Benjamin Franklin probably owned. She once chewed a 1933 Dickens. She stole a whole jar of my turtle's dried shrimp and ate them all. She ate one of the seatbelts out of my car and unstuffed a living room chair. But everything was done with such innocence and humor. Like when my sister's dog Detail peed on my Go-Go's VHS video tape. He didn't hate the Go-Go's - how could he?? He just needed to pee and there they were, smiling up at him. Nothing Ruby ever did was intended to hurt anyone. Sure she was occasionally selfish, but if she ate your lunch you could be sure she'd come crawling submissively over to you, tail wagging, body wiggling nervously, to apologize profusely and give you an exorbitant amount of French kisses. We aren't going for perfection here, just niceness. Application: If you've stolen a few office supplies from work, volunteer a little at an animal shelter or tip your server really big just once. That's you French kissing your Karma canine style. Forgive. Be yourself.
- Joy. Ruby experienced unbridled, limitless joy. She held no grudges. Even her deafness acted as a sort of filter and if another dog growled or complained, she didn't hear it. This missing of social cues sometimes resulted in her playing with a dog that did not wish to play, but the joke's on him, for ignorance is bliss. Fortunately she never got herself into a truly dangerous situation. There are people like that, and it can be annoying. Those people who you wish would stop calling or coming into your office. They don't get those subtle hints. Don't be like that. But seek the good in people. Find the joy in situations. Often there is joy to be found but people don't bother looking very hard. We are a world that wishes to make as little effort as possible...in marriage, obtaining food, researching information, recording television shows. Remember programming a VCR? Ruby would have found joy in each step of the process. She would have stared in awe at the blinking 12:00. 12:00. 12:00. But us, if it isn't easy we give up. We no longer enjoy the journey. We want to click over to the destination. Application: Enjoy the ride. Smile at a stranger.
- Playfulness. People are such old farts. Even some people in their 20s are old farts. It's like we are all too cool to have a sense of play anymore and no one runs in the hallways at their office. So few people physically play. Ruby was obsessed with playing ball. Soccer balls were kicked around and then subdued and pulled apart methodically until the black rubber core was extracted. Tennis balls and "Chuck-Its" were her true love. She tossed them into the hot tub, placed them gingerly in your crotch, rolled them down stairs and pushed them skillfully over balconies. She hid them in purses, lunchbags and the toilet. She was a master baller and invented her own games. Her policy was why walk when you can run or bound? Her greetings at the door were not mere welcomes, but events, and she'd plunge her face into any package or bag you carried. When you came into our home, you were noticed, and probably suffered some bruising. Sometimes love hurts. Ruby put all of her energy into love and expressed it with an indomitable playfulness. Every insect, every rubber band, every belly rub, every unguarded bagel was a celebration of life and she embraced it all. Application: Reignite your sense of play. Enjoy the little things and inflate them into unparalleled experiences of rapture.
Ruby ping pong
"But yet I know, where'er I go
That there has passed away a glory from the earth." -William Wordsworth