Pioneer's Rugby v Krugerrand, CGC, CD, CDX, NDD, Therapy Dog



I was forced to send Rugby to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday following a fairly brief illness. He had urethral carcinoma. As there were no viable treatment options and his pain was going to worsen, I made the decision to have him euthanized. He placed his head in my arms as he passed on with the dignity that he lived his life.

Rugby spent the first two years of his life in the shadow of my first berner, Rev. Rev was a once in a lifetime dog that was an impossible act to follow. Fortunately for both of us, Rugby chose to not follow in Rev's footsteps but to blaze his own trail. Even though Rev thought of him as 'unbernerly' Rugby did things his way. He was never reserved but always outgoing and friendly. He was rarely serious and almost always playful and a boy/puppy even at age 7.

Even though he was known as 'our goofy boy' he knew when and how to work. He was an outstanding obedience berner. He finished both his titles with all breed placements and many times was noted to be 'that berner that heals like a golden'. We worked for some time to get utility work down but finally realized he wasn't doing hand signals because he could not see me past 7 feet not that he was being disobedient. He could do all the other exercises well but just couldn’t see me.

We switched gears and took up carting. I had never trained a dog in carting and seen very little of it but bought the rulebook, a harness and a cart and we made a go of it. He wasn’t real excited about it until we started walking the kids to the bus in the morning and suddenly it was the best thing outside of greenies. The days we missed he would lie at the door and whine for an hour.

He was most proud of himself last October when the Therapet therapy dog group walked in the local Rose Parade. When he turned the corner onto the parade route pulling his cart, looked up that hill (frankly I wasn’t sure either of us could do that) and heard the crowd clapping he stuck out his chest and pranced the full mile and a half. He was sure every one of the hundreds of people were clapping for him and actually most of them were. I had never seen him so proud.

We went on to get his NDD at the Mesquite Specialty just before his 7th birthday. He was outstanding and exceeded all my expectations. I was quite surprised by the number of people who commented to me about his performance.

He worked as a therapy dog since he was a year of age and touched countless lives. He was popular with both patients and staff and always one of the favorites. His boyish charm reached out to all patients and usually made them smile.

My favorite 'therapy' story and the proudest I could be of him, occurred in my own home. As many of you know we adopted a Russian brother and sister 4 years ago. Haley was two when she came to the US and had never seen the sun, grass or been near a dog. She was terrified of them and would cry when one got with in 10 feet of her. In a house full of dogs this was a nightmare. If that wasn’t enough she contracted the chicken pox from the vaccine itself.

One day she was febrile, covered in pox and sitting on the floor playing when Rugby entered the room. Like a good therapy dog he assumed the down position but 10 feet away just outside crying range. He then proceeded, over the next two hours, to crawl across the floor towards Haley. Every time she looked away he would inch forward never making her cry. Finally, after two hours my wife, who had been watching this from afar, heard giggling. She stepped in to see Rugby licking her face very gently while she giggled. She then spent the rest of the afternoon teaching Rugby how to draw on a Magnedoodle with his paw. From that time on she loved dogs particularly Rugby. Telling her yesterday that he was gone was an incredibly difficult thing.

Years ago Rugby stepped out of Rev's shadow and cast one of his own. He reached the same place in my heart as did Rev but did it in an entirely different way. He attracted many people to him by just being a goofy boy and made them love him by making them smile and showing he cared.

I owe Ruth Reynolds a huge debt of gratitude for allowing me to share my life with not one but two once in a lifetime berners. I can only dream that my next one is as good. For the first time since 1991 I do not share my life with a berner. Even though I am surrounded by a herd of dogs who I love, there is a huge black tan and white void. Quite frankly I am not prepared for it.

Even though Rev probably still thinks Rugby is unbernerly, I am sure he has earned his love and respect. I am not literate enough to express how proud I am of him, how much I love and miss him. He always exceeded my expectations and in the process made me more than I thought I could be. He is buried next to Rev under an oak tree on our ranch. It will be a long time before I pass that tree without a tear in my eye.

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