a ruthless life

dogs, life in general

Ruth
Mastamariner White Ensign
16 July, 2001 – 1 December, 2015

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Last week, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Ruth.

It feels impossible to write about this, but I feel like I have to. I want to. The sadness is still raw and I am brittle, though my feelings are not as brutal as they were the first couple of days without her. I have decided to write this in English only, as I don’t think I could bear to write it twice.

Ruth had secondary epilepsy. Not the hereditary kind; hers was likely due to a brain tumour. She had her first seizure in January, 2014. I was away then, but Erik was with her. After seeing our veterinarian, Ruth was put on medicine to prevent further seizures. It was a while before we got the dosage right, but when we did, Ruth had a good spring, summer, and autumn. When we went to test the level of medicine in her blood in November 2014, our vet saw such low levels of the medicine that she thought we might as well remove the medicine altogether. A few weeks after that, I went to Ireland to attend my best friend’s wedding. And Ruth had another seizure. Erik was with her again, and I know how well he took care of her. Ruth went back on her medicine, and she did better again.

This summer, Ruth had her 14th birthday. A very old age for a dog. Quite naturally, she was growing slower, more tired, and a bit more unsteady with age. About a month ago, Erik and I sat down to talk about Ruth’s health. The last thing I wanted was to make Ruth suffer, to keep her with us too long for my own sake. Ruth wasn’t seeing very well, especially when it was dark, and her hearing was decreasing, too. But on the other hand, she still seemed to enjoy her little walks, and she happily gobbled down her food twice a day. We thought that she still had good quality of life.

But last week, Ruth had another seizure, the first one while being on medication. The first one that I was here for. Erik had seen Ruth recover from two other fits, and she had come through those quite quickly. This was different. After the seizure, she couldn’t walk properly, she seemed very disoriented and anxious, but also so very, very tired. She couldn’t settle, but she couldn’t walk around, either. My insides were ice cold and I was so afraid. I think that I understood that it was time, but I didn’t want to understand. We called our vet, and decided to go there for a professional opinion.

I didn’t put Ruth in the car crate, but kept her next to me on the back seat. The last few months, she had been a bit anxious in the car and wouldn’t lie down, but that night she fell asleep next to me. Her little head rested on my lap and she was so warm. When we arrived at the vet’s and I lifted her out of the car, she wouldn’t stand or walk. I carried her inside. We talked to the vet, discussed options. But really, I think that I already knew the best option, the only option for Ruth. It was time.

I called Catherine, Ruth’s breeder and other owner. I couldn’t make this decision without her. I think that it was even more difficult for Catherine, because she couldn’t see how poorly Ruth was. But she said exactly what I needed to hear: “I trust you. You have always done what’s best for Ruth, and I know that you will now, too.”

Erik had been cooking beef burgers for dinner. He had brought a couple of patties in a tub, to give Ruth a treat if needed. So, while the vet administered the sedative, we were feeding Ruth pieces of burger meat. She ate, slower than usual but still. She fell asleep with a piece in her mouth. And all the time, we held her and stroked her and told her how much we loved her and how much we would miss her, and that she was the most perfect and wonderful and amazing dog in the world.

I don’t want to write about getting home that night, without her, or the next few days. How strange it is that a small house with three other dogs in it can seem so empty. I have suffered other losses in my life, but none of them affected my daily life this much. No other absence has ever been this painfully and heartbreakingly evident.

It’s a little bit better now. I’m still sad, and writing this makes me cry a flood, of course. But the grief is not quite as all-consuming. Last weekend, I sat down to look at pictures of Ruth from her whole life, beginning with the spring of 2009 when I brought her over to live with me in Sweden. I fully expected to cry – I’d put a fresh box of Kleenex on my desk – but to my great surprise I didn’t. In every single picture, Ruth was running at top speed or snoozing in a comfy place or being fed treats or enjoying the company of various people. In my pictures, she was glowing with health and strength and joie de vivre. It gave me a very powerful perspective on how old she’d really grown in the last year. It didn’t make me miss her any less, but it gave me some comfort because I felt that I had made the right decision to let her go.

The pictures gave me another powerful insight. I couldn’t look past the fact that Ruth really, really did have a wonderful life. Catherine put it so well: “I held Ruth as she was born and you held her as she died. There was never a day between that she was not loved and cherished.”

So, that’s what I want to do now. I want to share some glimpses of Ruth’s life, and our story.

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Ruth is the dark puppy in front, on top of the blue one. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

Ruth was born on the 16th of July, 2001, almost a year before I met her for the first time. But I’ve heard the story about her birth so many times that I almost felt like I was there for it. She was born as the last of five pups in her litter. And as Catherine held her and rubbed her dry, before Ruth had even had her first fill of milk, Catherine chose her. She boldly exclaimed, “This is the one!” Ruth was special from the moment she was born.

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Baby Ruth, taking it all in. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Having a cuddle with daddy Graham in the office. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Partners in crime – Ruth and the goldie pup Dusty. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Ruth with her family. Auntie Marie, mother Deborah, father Hercules, and daddy Graham. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Ruth’s first snow. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Beautiful girl in the bluebells, spring of 2002. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Playing with her aunt and best friend, Esther. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Stunning youngster. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Showing off her movement, spring of 2002. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

In the early months of 2002, I was contemplating what to do after graduation in the summer. I really wanted to work with dogs, and preferably in England. I don’t know why, but I had always felt drawn to the British Isles. I had heard of someone who had worked abroad as a “dog au pair”. So, I went online and put in “dog + au pair” in the search engine. The first search hit led me to a green homepage, for kennel Mastamariner. In England. With Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies – the breed that I was as much as love in as I was with England. It seemed too good to be true. I put together my application very carefully. I’d never wanted anything as much as I wanted to go there and work. I was thrilled when we agreed that I should join them in the summer. I spent hours and hours on the Mastamariner website, admiring all the dogs and learning their names. My favourite was a Border Collie boy called Scrumpy – he looked just like the dogs in my childhood storybooks. I didn’t really notice the young girl with the dark face that was Ruth…

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Ruth, spring of 2002. This is exactly how I remember her from the first day we met. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

I arrived at Mastamariner around midday on June 25, 2002. I met all the dogs and I was given a tour of the house – everything was exactly as I had pictured it and I was thrilled. We had a cup of tea, and then the afternoon lull settled in. And then, out of nowhere, I became desperately homesick. I’d never been abroad alone before. What had I done? Left all of my family and friends and everything familiar. I wandered outside and sat down on the ground. I was just about to burst into tears when I noticed that someone had come up to me. It was the girl with the dark face. With the tiny nose and the huge ears. Her tail was wagging swiftly. She put her paws on me, leaned in and kissed me on the cheek.

And that was it. I forgot all of my homesickness, and I fell instantly, absolutely in love with that little dog. Just like she had charmed Catherine from the moment she was born, she charmed me from the day that we met. I loved all of the dogs at the kennel, but Ruth was my favourite.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

We had a completely blissful first summer together. I thrived at Mastamariner. The work suited me perfectly and Catherine and Graham encouraged me in everything from dog training to photography. Ruth was constantly by my side and we had all sorts of fun together. Catherine and I agreed that Ruth was entirely perfect – hence her epithet, Perfect Ruth – all while Graham grumbled good-naturedly that we were spoiling her rotten and being completely blind to her slightly naughty side. But Ruth was never pushy or demanding. She was just completely irresistible, sweet, and fun.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

Ruth was my ideal dog, but I knew that I could never have her, because she was Catherine’s special girl, too. She was destined to stay at the kennel and, besides enjoying life there, pass on her fabulus genes to a new generation of fabulous Mastamariners. So, I aimed for the next best thing – a sister from the same parents as Ruth. I left for Christmas in Sweden in December 2002, and returned later in 2003 to pick up my little Ruth sister, Aska. I thought that it would be easier to leave Ruth behind when I had my very own Border Collie girl, but it wasn’t. I loved Aska then as I love her now, but she could never replace Ruth.

After a year and a half in Sweden, Aska and I returned to England and Mastamariner in 2004. This was the summer that Sirius was born and I was allowed to keep him. My three favourite dogs in the world – Ruth, Aska, and Sirius – were all in the same place and I couldn’t be happier.

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In 2004, Ruth and her parents graced part of the front and a whole page of the Pedigree calendar as they represented the Border Collie breed.

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Ruth and her sister Rachel, spring of 2004 before I returned. Picture by Catherine Everitt.

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Reunited at last! Summer of 2004. Picture by Charlotte Ragnarsson.

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In the fall of 2004, I got to enjoy Ruth’s babies, too.

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Ruth with her son, Toby.

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With her daughter, Skye.

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An outing in Basingstoke with Johanna, Charlotte, Severus, and Rachel.

In January of 2004, my “kennel dad” Graham had started up his own dog training company. This company offered basic level agility classes, which meant that Mastamariner now had its own agility course. Ruth and I had learned all of the agility obstacles together in the summer of 2002. So, when I first got back in 2004 and the new kennel girls suggested that we take a couple of runs around the agility course, I naturally wanted to take Ruth. They laughed a little at this – Ruth, run agility? They said that she was so slow! I couldn’t believe this, and indeed, when I took Ruth through the agility course she ran like the wind. Of course, I’m biased and human and I always liked to think that I was special to Ruth, but this still seemed like some small proof that I really was.

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Picture by Catherine Everitt.

In the spring of 2005, I had to leave England again. This time I had both Aska and Sirius to take with me, but it was no easier to leave Ruth behind. For purely selfish reasons, of course – I knew that Ruth couldn’t be better looked after. She was happy and loved and spoiled and enjoyed a very full life.

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I spent the next few years studying and working, and I loved the company of my Ruth siblings Aska and Sirius. But I always missed her. Whenever I wrote to Catherine or Graham, I always requested that they should give Ruth a special cuddle and kiss from me. She was never gone from my mind. I could not quite let her go.

Ruth retired from her motherly duties in 2008. Later that year, I jokingly wrote to Catherine that I would come and kidnap Ruth. You cannot imagine my surprise and wonder when Catherine replied that she thought I should do just that. They had never, ever rehomed a retired dog before. I know that some breeders routinely rehome their bitches when they can no longer have puppies, but that was not the case at all at Mastamariner. Ruth was so loved there, and she was so special to Catherine in particular. And still, Catherine was willing to let Ruth go because she knew how much I loved her, too.

My whole heart screamed, “Yes, YES!” but I did not make the decision at once. I sat down and tried to think about it objectively. Could I give Ruth a life as good as the one she already had? What could I offer her? In the end, I decided that I could give her exactly what she already had, but also a bit more special attention, as I only had two dogs and there were many more at the kennel. I couldn’t quite believe it, still. Was I really going to be allowed to have Ruth, my dream dog? In March, 2009, I went over there to make this dream come true.

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An unremarkable picture, perhaps, but in this moment my heart is bursting with joy. Ruth is mine! She’ll be coming home with me!
Picture by Sabina Svensson.

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Of course, in March 2009 there was still lots of snow in Sweden! But Ruth didn’t seem to mind.

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Reunited with her little brother Sirius and her little sister Aska. This sight made me feel like the richest person in the world.

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Snow games.

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Meeting my goddaughter Turid for the first time.

Ruth embraced her new life in Sweden with gusto. She’d been a picky eater in England, but after only a few weeks in Sweden, she started eating better. The kennel had always had many visitors so she was used to meeting many new people and always enjoyed that. Now, she got to see many new places, too. If her ever-wagging tail was any indication, I believe that she enjoyed it all very much.

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On a trip to the mountains, June 2009.

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Patiently waiting for her photographing mum… Picture by Gittan Lingdell.

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Mountain snuggles. Picture by Gittan Lingdell.

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My niece Stella was very afraid of dogs when she was little, but Ruth emanated a calmness that Stella could sense.

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Out on a fishing trip – my grandmother giving sausage to Ruth and their Schnauzer Molly.

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“Which treat would you like first, precious?”

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In the summer of 2009, Ruth’s siblings and I taught her to eat blueberries from the sprigs.
This was all very well, thought Ruth, but it was much more practical to eat straight from my bucket!

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The Perfect Ruth and me – the luckiest girl in the world.

In the autumn of 2009, we moved north to Sundsvall where I started at university again. More new places to explore and more new friends to meet. This was also where I, a year later, fell in love with Erik and he and Tintin joined our life. I could not have asked for a better daddy for Ruth.

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My favourite study buddy.

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Marie, who was at Mastamariner when Ruth was born, is originally from Sundsvall,
so when she came home to visit her family she paid us a visit, too!

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Supervising the gingerbread decorations with some of our friends in Sundsvall.

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Ruth only tried tracking once. She didn’t think much of it, but she was very impressed with me for finding her treat at the end! Picture by Elaine Rodin.

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The ever patient Ruth, letting my little cousin Adele play with her.

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There was always a treat for Ruth.

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The Perfect Ruth.

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With her new adopted little brother Tintin, January 2011.

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And with her daddy Erik.

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Picture by Erik.

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Picture by Erik.

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Picture by Erik.

Ruth was not a “one man dog” – she loved people and people loved her. But I was special to her. She chose me that first day in the summer of 2002, and she kept on choosing me. She was not anxious about being close to me, but to her very last day, she would always get up and follow me, and settle wherever I decided to sit. I was her safe point, and she was mine. When I called my grandmother to let her know that Ruth was gone, she said: “What a gift it was for you to have been so important to Ruth.” And that’s exactly how I saw it, as a gift. I have no idea why Ruth and “clicked”. I can’t explain it. I just know that we did. Instant, mutual love that lasted all of her life and that will last of all of mine.

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Photo by Erik.

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Photo by Erik.

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Photo by Erik.

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Someone, I don’t remember who it was, questioned my decision to bring Ruth over to Sweden. What was the point in taking on a dog that old? We would have such a short time together. But where love is concerned, time doesn’t really matter. I loved Ruth every day from when I met her, whether she was with me or not. I would have brought her home even for only a year, or six months. As it was, she spent six and a half years with me here. I promised Catherine and Graham when I took Ruth from them that I would give her the very best life that I was capable of. When I look through all of my pictures – of everyday moments and big adventures alike – I feel like I did my best to fulfil that promise.

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In the autumn of 2012, we moved to Ruth’s last home in the woods of Värmland. Ruth was 11 years old.
Our new neighbour had a cross between Border Collie and Tervueren called Kimi. He was 10 years old and became Ruth’s boyfriend.

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In the early months of 2014, after Ruth had her first seizures, the new medicine made her very hungry. We went through a lot of carrots!

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With our dear friend Anna.

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“Please scratch my butt!”

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Just looking to see if we remembered to bring the treats…

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Photo by Erik.

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In July of 2014, Catherine and Graham came all the way from England to celebrate Ruth’s 13th birthday with us.

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Of course, there had to be cake.

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As the saying went: “There are no kisses like Ruth kisses.”

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In the beginning of 2015, Ruth was still on the move. In the summer, when she was almost 14 years old, we went for a full day’s hike and walked 11 kilometres and she came along without a problem. Of course, we kept a slower pace so not to tire her out. I remember that people kept complaining about the weather this summer, it was too cool. But I was grateful, because it meant that it wasn’t too hot for the dogs, Ruth in particular.

In the autumn, I couldn’t look past the fact that Ruth was slowing down. She didn’t seem to enjoy her walks as much – we were walking slower and slower, and sometimes I felt like the only reason that she kept walking forward was so that she wouldn’t lose sight of me.

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Photo by Erik.

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Out on our long hike. Photo by Erik.

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From my last proper photo session with Ruth.

So, here I am now. Ruthless. I have three other wonderful dogs and we are expecting a puppy. They help keep me above the surface. They give me something to look forward to. But they can’t replace Ruth – I learned a long time ago that no one will ever be able to do that.

I am sad, but I am also endlessly grateful. To Ruth, for choosing me. For seeing my distress on a June afternoon thirteen years ago, for kissing my face and making all the bad feelings go away. For all the joy she brought to my life. We simply enjoyed each other. We never proved anything to anyone. Ruth didn’t show her qualities through ribbons or trophies, yet she was liked by every single person she met. She was kind and gentle, sweet and funny. No one was ever afraid of Ruth, because anyone could sense how kind-hearted she was. We called her Perfect Ruth jokingly, but that was what she really was – perfect. I would not have changed a single thing about her.

I am grateful to Catherine and Graham, too. For being so incredibly unselfish and letting Ruth come and live with me. I can’t really put into words how very thankful I am. But I think that they know.

I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife of some kind. I hope that there is more. But I don’t know if I can believe it. I hope that I will see Ruth again, but I’m not counting on it. Even so, I would not trade my time with her for anything in the world. She is such a huge part of who I am, she has shaped the way I look at the world and at other dogs. There is a quote that comes to my mind: “Oh, how am I going to live without you?” – “Take the love you have for me, and spread it around.” I hope to be able to do just that.

Thank you, Ruth. For everything.

So this is where we part my friend
and you’ll run on, around the bend
Gone from sight, but not from mind
new pleasures there you’ll surely find

I will go on, I’ll find the strength
life measures quality, not its length
One long embrace before you leave
share one last look before I grieve

There are others, that much is true
but they are they, they aren’t you
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought
will remember all you’ve taught

Your place I’ll hold, you will be missed
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this… I loved you best

Jim Willis, 2002

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16 Responses

  1. *sobbing*

    *wonderful*, anna – just WONDERFUL…
    <3

    Anna Reply:

    Tack bästa du. ♥

  2. Vilken otrolig förmån att få ha en sådan fin 4-bent vän i sitt liv. Tårarna trillar när jag läser om hur ni fann varandra & att hon fick vara DIN i 6 år. Ni var verkligen ämnade för varandra.
    Kram från oss!

    Anna Reply:

    Tack för dina fina ord Jeanette! ♥ Jag var verkligen lyckligt lottad.

  3. *hugs* We’re grieving here across the ocean as well. So very sorry for your loss – and also just so grateful that you had so much wonderful time with her.

    Anna Reply:

    ♥ Thank you so much, MJ. *hugs*

  4. Kondolerer!
    Jeg kjenner ikke deg, og jeg kjente ikke Ruth, men jeg kjenner følelsene du har, og jeg føler med deg. Du skriver så vakkert om din soulmate, og jeg gråter med deg.
    Det har gått 7 år siden jeg måtte ta farvel med min Border Collie, og jeg kommer alltid til å savne han på samme måte som du savner din Ruth.

    Anna Reply:

    Tack snälla Kjersti. ♥ Ja, det blir lättare att leva med sorgen, men saknaden finns alltid där.

  5. Fina bilder och jättefin text. <3

    Anna Reply:

    Tack snälla Lotta. Fanns några tusentals bilder att välja mellan kan jag säga. :)

  6. Så fint skrivet om Ruth och vilka fina bilder! Ja, hon var verkligen perfekt, så snäll och älskvärd! Fina Ruth ❤

    Anna Reply:

    Tack snälla Carina. ♥

  7. <3 så fin historia.

    Anna Reply:

    Tack raraste Åsa. ♥

  8. Oh Anna how beautiful, heartfelt, loving, and just wonderful words for Ruth. I have loved reading every single word and looking and taking my time looking at every single photograph, even though tears are streaming down my face. You had fantastic times together and you gave her the most beautiful life. These memories will live on in your hearts forever and always. Thank you for the photo of my darling Skye on FB. She has so many of Ruth’s qualities, love, kindness and gentleness.(But she does have her manic moments too sometimes, which always make us laugh) :-) And like Ruth was with you Skye follows me everywhere. We are so lucky to have two wonderful girls in our lives.

    My thoughts are with you all.

    With much love to you and Erik, and many many cuddles hugs and kisses from Toby and Skye xxx

    Anna Reply:

    Thank you so much for your lovely words, Ann. I’m so glad to know that Ruth lives on in her children, and that Skye is such a joy to you. ♥