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Rueben’s Story

December 28, 1997 –  April 2, 2012

Rueben was born in my little 17 ft camper 3 days after Christmas. He was the first of 3. He had so much white on his head I thought I could never love a dog with so much white. How wrong I was.
He grew fast and started training to herd sheep. He was very hesitant to go out to pick them up. He’d stop halfway and look at me as if to ask if I was sure this is what I wanted. I’d tell him to go ahead and he would. I didn’t know what to do about his insecurity.
I took him to a trainer in Connecticut who had large fields and a large flock of light sheep. He had a great time, but still didn’t look like much. The trainer said some make it and some don’t. When we came home, he was a different dog. Something clicked and he started working sheep like a pro. We attended one trial that the trainer happened to be judging. Rueben placed and she asked me where I got that dog. I pointed out that he was the same dog I had brought to her and that he had changed after our workout. She was amazed.
Working with him was a delight. He was obedient and very willing to learn. I had a real herding trial potential here. Then disaster struck. I noticed something funny about his eyes. I had seen it before. He was going blind.
I worked him as long as I could, but without the pressure of training a trial dog. I started running the dogs on a sled dog team in the winter to keep them fit and occupied. He was fine for a while, but then would pull the team off the trail if a snowmobile went by. So we had two teams. The fast team and the “Old and Blind” team. 

Then, in the middle of winter I lost Rueben for 8 days. I had left him in the house. He ripped a dog door off the wall and got through 2 fences. He started to follow a pick-up truck, I’m sure thinking it was me. He followed it too far, and was out of  his home range. When I got home, I had a message on my answering machine that a Border Collie had been seen running toward town. I headed toward town, calling him and thought I could find him easily, but as it grew dark and no dog, I started to panic.
I was distraught. I bounced from wildly hopeful and determined to find him, to the depths of despair, sobbing for hours, sure I would never see him again. I spent my days in the truck, cruising the back roads, calling him and talking to everyone I met. I covered the town with flyers.
One thing I learned is that you never know from where help will come. In my floundering, I sent an email to a group that I’m a member of. Not everyone even lived in my area, but a few did. A woman I had never met, emailed me back and offered to send me some material from a woman in another state who had dedicated herself to helping people find lost dogs. With the help and support of the two of them, and our wonderful local Animal Control Officer, I managed to stay more focused and kept going even when I was in a low point and felt it was hopeless.
On the eighth day, I took out the sled team, since the trail ran right by the road where he had been spotted. I called and whistled the whole way. No sight of him. But when I got home I had a message on my answering machine that someone had just spotted him. I asked them to put out food and I rushed over. There was a dazed, starving, scruffy Border Collie wolfing down what the woman had put out for him. I called him and he slowly came to me. I collapsed in the street, hugging him to me and sobbing. The woman came out with more food that he grabbed from her her hand.
I never would have found him if it hadn’t been for the help I received, from strangers, and the support of our local ACO. 

Part of losing him was the result of his growing separation anxiety. He would bark and howl when I was gone. He would dig in closets and drag everything out. Once he got on my bed and peed. Another time he got a can of paint open. (pictures of this are on Flickr Here) I couldn’t crate him because he would either fight his way out, or rip up his face trying to escape.  Lately, it seemed the episodes were getting worse. We’re back to camper living and I never knew what I was going to be faced with when I got home. I was ready to put him down since he was so obviously miserable. Part of me wished he would get sick so I wouldn’t feel so guilty.

Rueben had a stroke Saturday night that left him unable to stand or walk. I called the vet and will take him this afternoon. I’m so sorry, Rueben. I love you so much.

About ragtimelil

Writer, collie mom and all-around great person.

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