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A friend who will be missed

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    • A friend who will be missed

      Saturday, September 8, 2018
      One hell of a day between the rain and having to give up my best friend for the last 13 years.

      Years ago, I would stop by the Chester County SPCA on a regular basis, to check out the dogs just waiting for the right one… At the time I was done with small yappy dogs for a while and wanted a large dog that would be trainable. I am not into pit bulls or weird mixes, in fact I am just a little picky. One day I stopped in after work and there was Rugby, at the time he was a “part Husky, Lab” and whatever…. They were so wrong years later I am hiking down a trail with Rugby and someone said “Wow….a Flat Coated Retriever!” Huh?… they were right.

      All dogs out of the SPCA, come home and are frequently barking for no rhyme or reason. But he was house broken and at the time he was 60 pounds. After a month or two we trained him not to bark at all, then to bark to go out, and come in, as there wasn’t a dog door big enough for him. We had a large menagerie of bird feeders out front at the time. And I was tired of some of the consequences of my enjoyment of birds. One of them is the pesky squirrels. The prior year we had Hava-Harted or live trapped out more than 76 squirrels, and dropped them off at a nearby park a few miles away. Rugby quickly learned “Squirrel Left!” & “Squirrel Right” as he ran out the door to teach the remaining squirrels who was large & in charge. Even if they were in the back yard he would run out the front door and curve around the house like a heat seeker missile that engaged in the quarry.

      We brought Rugby home to solve several issues that were frustrating at the time with our one neighbor. Back then it was common practice to dump feral pets on Route Three in the sticks of the woods. She was our public school Psychologist, and it gave her great pleasure of feeding the feral cats all ten at the time. I honestly do not care for cats after some twenty years of growing up with my mother caring for them. They were good experiences, not quite the same investment. I kept finding beheaded song birds in my yard… and Rugby within a month was a game changer. Every time I saw a cat I would say “CAT!” and point. Dogs respond very well to sign language. As I was mowing the lawn I would see one hiding in the bushes and Rugby would chase them off property. The smaller birds came back, and enjoyed the yard. The next summer Rugby decided he was fit to be tied by the cats and found he could corner them in our window wells. He never came in contact but was somehow able to make the cats jump into the window well to take cover. I would retrieve them with special gloves and the SPCA would come and pick them up. They were given shots and neutered and released somewhere else. A few months later – Zero Cats. Rugby had cornered them all.

      Oh he and I love hiking trails together… talk about a quiet partner. Year round too, winter was no big deal. He was trained “out in front” after an incident with a snake years ago. Dogs find snakes fast. He was a great judge of character of other hikers and befriended almost everyone as he is now 80 pounds. As we hit forks in the trail “left” and “right” ended all confusion as at first he would look back at me as if to say “which way” That sign and command was no doubt. While at Ridley Creek State park Rugby would drop everything to meet and greet everyone on the trail. One day a little girl and boy who were afraid of dogs, were surprised as Rugby introduced himself with a paw and licked their faces. They exchanged hugs, and had lots of confusing questions. Rugby has done all the local park trails west of Harrisburg and north of the Poconos, names like Susquehannock Trail, Tuscarora Trail, Horseshoe Trail, Caledonia State Park, Codorus State Park, Evansburg State Park, French Creek State Park, Pine Grove State Park. All of White Clay Preserve (DE). All trails in Alapocas Wilmington De. Large sections in winter of the Wharton State Forest Nj. And of course he went on numerous trips on the Appalachian Trail from MD,PA,NJ. Just to name a few.

      On over nights, I was in the hammock and he would growl at any noise that was unusual while sleeping below on the ground. One night at Wharton NJ proved too cold for Rugby, the clouds above disappeared in the night and the moon was out and wow… it had dropped below freezing. He was whimpering at 2 am under my hammock. I didn’t have enough gear to keep him warm and I had to think about getting him warmed up. I broke camp and hiked back to the car over 9 miles and as long as we moved we were both warm. He never complained on that hike. Under the moonlight we covered the distance and we were back at the car shortly before 6am, my gear and clothes were soaking wet from sweat and covered with frost. We slept an hour after running the heater and engine and then drove home.

      After some time he was getting older and I started to train him to chase geese off of golf courses. I got permission to do trial and error at several courses and learn from the experience… I quickly realized I needed two dogs to do the job. I realized they had to be fast, to frighten the geese into take off. Frequently the flying varmints would land on the ponds and I had to figure out other tactics… It was a good learning lesson.

      One of the best moments with Rugby was the middle of the night, I could hear him “chuff” next to the bed as if he was barking, chasing those dreamy squirrels across the lawn.

      I am going to miss our bond and friendship.

      As I write this we are looking for a break in the rain to make a proper burial
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      Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you! :thumbup: