14 years ago my ex husband (then boyfriend) and I were driving along a country road in Western Wisconsin when serendipity struck. We were in the right place at the right time and something wonderful happened. It was the middle of January, late afternoon, when we noticed two small animals on the side of the road. When we opened the car door to investigate, two little puppies made a beeline for us. We weren’t far from a farm house so we grabbed the pups and drove into the driveway. After knocking on the door for a while, a strange looking woman who was missing a few teeth, and in much need of a root touch up, answered the door. Upon opening the door ten more puppies scampered out into the cold.
We returned the pups and as we were getting back into the car the strange woman asked us if we would like one of the puppies.
We didn’t need a puppy, we didn’t have time for a puppy, we certainly didn’t want to train a puppy.
We were chosen by the smallest dog in the litter, we named him Reuben, after the sandwich. There was always confusion about how we should spell his name but since I am telling this story we will spell it the right way.
Reuben was half dalmatian, half black lab and 100% retarded.
He was also one of the sweetest dogs I have been blessed to have. My ex husband was remodeling my parents’ cabin, it was a long project that took nearly a year to complete. Reuben grew up at the cabin. He spent his days in the lake chasing rocks and the occasional fish that swam by. When he wasn’t chasing rocks he was spinning.
Reuben had OCD. When he was in town with me he didn’t have access to a lake to chase his rocks and would instead find a sock or rope toy and spin with it. He would spin for hours if we let him. The spinning was entertaining but a little disruptive to the house and any children who were nearby so we tried to stop him before he got going. Once spinning, the only way to stop him was to take away the rope and find something else for him to fixate on, usually me cooking dinner, until he forgot about the spinning. We had to put the toys up on the china cabinet or the top of the door so he didn’t get them and start spinning again.
Reuben didn’t like to be left alone. When we had to leave him alone he made his displeasure clear by pulling down the blinds or uprooting my potted plants. Sometimes he pulled the stuffing out of the couch.
We took him everywhere, he was even at our wedding.
Reuben was always happy. The sun was always shining in Reuben’s world. The sky may have been a different color too. As long as Reuben had rocks to chase and spinning to do it was a good day for Reuben.
Reuben protected my children and made me feel safe even when I knew he would hide under the table if someone tried to break in. My ex husband and I had locked ourselves out of the house one night and had to take the back door off the hinges to get in. I watched from the patio door as Reuben hid under the dining room table only to bark fiercely once he figured out it was us. When I was pregnant with my daughter Reuben would rest his head on my belly and then bark when the baby kicked. It never got old and he never figured it out. After she was born he would come and get me when she cried. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to make it stop and that he hadn’t developed any kind of Lassiesque traits.
Reuben loved apples, carrots, cucumbers and especially green beans. He loved them so much we couldn’t plant them in the garden because he would eat them before we could harvest them. Reuben loved car rides, long walks and he especially loved my ex husband. He loved me too, I was his mom, but I was also the one who took him to the vet for neutering, gave him his medicine when he was sick and pulled the 3 X 5 inch square of carpet that he ate out of his ass.
As Reuben got older he suffered from arthritis and a torn ACL. He’d had surgery on it a few years back but because he couldn’t sit still it never healed right. The pain didn’t seem to stop him much or maybe he just didn’t understand why pain happened. We couldn’t keep him out of the lake. He would stay in the lake for hours until he was shivering and my ex husband had to wade in and bring him back to shore. If there were rocks to be chased, Reuben was in heaven.
I don’t know when it happened but Reuben got old. He become incontinent, he couldn’t walk up or down the stairs without falling, and he was nothing but skin and bones. His body had given out but his mind didn’t tell him that. He was still happy which made the decision we had to make so difficult.
Last night, after months of putting this off, my ex husband did what had to be done. He buried him up at the lake he loved so much and marked his grave with all of the “Reuben Rocks” we had collected over the years.
I know he is in a better place. I know he is chasing the big rock without any pain and spinning to his heart’s content. I know all this, but I still miss him.