Gunner, Archy, Remington, Ruger, Hunter

First off, I’d like to say that I have never been as touched by a book as I was by “Rescuing Sprite”. I’ve read everything from fantasy to historical non-fiction, and though I will laugh out loud in the middle of the library at the humor, I rarely cry when reading. This story had me in tears, both joyous and sorrowful, almost the entire time. Thank you, Mark, for writing such a beautiful book. I think it reflects the joy, love, devotion, fears, and pain all dog-lovers experience in the short time we are blessed with our furry friends, and for myself in particular it has helped heal my own hurts more than the years have. It’s a comfort to know there are people who feel just as deeply about their dogs, in both having them and losing them.

I have had dogs all my life, from the time I was a blip in my mother’s womb to this very day. The first was Gunner, who I was too young to remember. Archy was the next and the longest, perhaps the most loved in all of my family because my siblings and I grew with him. Of all ours dogs, he was the sweetest and the most human. We had the misfortune of putting him to sleep when he was ten due to stomach cancer, before which he lived three years longer than predicted with no indication of his illness. A year after Archy we bought Remington, the ‘gray dog’ and my ‘moose’ (he happily answers to both), who still lives with my parents today, and two years after Remie we got Ruger. My Ru.

Ruger was my dog. When my father, grandfather and I drove four hours to pick him up and bring him home, it was my lap he slept in the whole ride, and my grandfather on who he vomited minutes after I relinquished him. Albeit gross and funny, I think I always took that as a sign between Ru and I, and he must have too, for I was the one to which he attached himself. Ru was 1½ when I started college four hours away in Ohio. At first, the only sadness came in that I was unable to see my dogs while at school, but after a summer in New York (Buffalonian by birth, my parents now live in WV) and only a short visit to my house before the new fall semester, Ruger began to run away from my mother at night.

One night in January, right after my semester break ended, Ruger ran and did not return. My mother searched up and down the hills of our land and the lands surrounding, but if he heard her calls he never answered. My parents placed an ad in the local paper with a picture and a reward and my mother went house-to-house stuffing flyers in mailboxes. Though we received a few hopeful tips, of those who claimed they saw Ru none ever took the time to check his tags or catch him. My mother continued her search well into the summer, but Ru never came back home.

In early June, a conversation with a neighbor eventually divulged Ruger’s fate: sometime in March (March!), his body had been found beneath a mobile home as it was being torn down just down the road from our house, apparently not long dead. Our neighbors, though surely having seen the flyers and my mother on her endless searches, buried the body and burned Ruger’s chain and tags. Learning this two months later, my father dug up the body and reburied it on our land, the burned tags hanging on a cross above his resting place. To this day, we don’t know what or who might have killed Ruger.

Two weeks after finally burying Ru, my parents rescued a year-old shorthair they named Hunter. He looks frighteningly similar to my little Ru, but his personality is completely different. Where Ru was patient and almost sarcastic in his mannerisms (I swear he used to roll his eyes at Remington’s spastic antics), solemn, stubborn, but ultimately kind, Hunter has no sense of personal space, and is almost annoying in his persistence to please. He has more energy than Remington (an unfathomable feat before his arrival), refuses to listen to commands for prolonged periods of time (if at all), constantly challenges Remie’s dominance, and must do his best to receive any and all attention. Despite the time that has passed, I still find myself resentful of his presence. In every way, he seemed at the time like a replacement of Ru that my parents decided on without ever asking. Although Ru had been missing since January, to me he had not died until June, and so I held out hope. The grief I felt then, and feel even now, is stifling, and Hunter’s adoption only seemed to compound that feeling. Though it has been difficult for me, my heart still hurting with even a fleeting memory of my puppy, day-by-day Hunter endears himself to me a little more. I know he is a good boy, a good dog. He is sweet and wants only to be loved. Despite my reservations and refusal, I cannot help but do so. I wonder sometimes if Ru sent him to us to help heal, if maybe with a little bit of sass on his part. Trial by fire, Ru?

I cannot deny that Ru was my dog through-and-through, my dearest companion. I have and do love all my dogs, even Hunter (though I bitterly refuse to admit as much to my parents), but Ruger will always hold a special place in my heart. In many ways, his life filled a void I did not know existed, and his death left a gaping hole that can never be filled. The memories I have of him are happy, but even these are tinged by the way in which he died. It hurts to not know, more than any thing else. I feel as though I failed my dog. I think back on it, and I wonder if he ran because I had left him behind. If I had been home with him, would he have stayed? Would he even have started running at all? Above all, I feel guilt for the loss of Ru—guilt that I was not there for him, guilt that he died cold and alone, guilt that I did not take more time to look while I was home, guilt that we have a new dog that could very well be his twin, guilt that if he was running maybe it was because we weren’t doing enough for him as a family, guilt that maybe he resented me for leaving him. No matter what, I cannot shake these thoughts, even after so long. This is what hurts the worst: the thought that I failed him where he had never failed me.

I miss my Ru. I miss him so, so badly. He was my baby. Reading “Rescuing Sprite” helped in small ways to heal the pain from Ru’s untimely and mysterious departure, and also in reminding me to love Remington and Hunter as deeply and completely as I can while I have them. Though I have lost my dearest friend, I still have two beautiful, wonderful creatures that wait every day with unconditional love. I think now it will be a little easier to think of Ru and put aside the guilt, because it is a dishonor to him if all I can do is sully his memory was guilt. He deserves more than that. He gave me more than that.

I hope somewhere in doggie heaven your Sprite is with my Ruger. I think they would like each other’s company.

Emily from OH

rem ru