Ben joined our family on December 7, 2005. He was just over seven weeks old having been born on October 18th. His father was pure bred golden retriever who lived a couple doors down from his mom who was half yellow lab and half golden. I picked him out from a litter of eight adorable puppies, mainly due to his big feet and soft warm eyes. I just new he was my Ben, a name that had come to me in a dream, weeks before I met him. Kate had just given me the greatest Christmas gift ever.
We first brought him to Kate’s home in Colfax where he was introduced to Biggs, our one year old Maltese, who at 14 lbs and short legged, was taller and heavier than Ben, at 12. In Biggs’ eyes Ben would always be the youngster that he would be boss over, and gentle Ben did nothing to shake Biggs’ belief. They were true buddies and grew up together.
Little Ben was rather tentative arriving at a strange place and quickly found comfort under the Christmas tree, where he also found fun things to chew on. All his life he had favored hidey holes, somewhat enclosed spaces to rest in. Like partially under the drivers side of my car when in the carport, or always next to the bed, Kate’s side, where his head would be under it, or in the area between the couch and the coffee table, or in the motor home in the narrow walkway between the bed and closet.
I often remember how baby Ben would cry a bit at night from the floor next to my bed and I would reach down and pick him up to cuddle with me. One of my favorite things in life is sleeping next to my pup and hearing his sleepy noises. Typically as an adult dog, he would sleep in his bed or on the rug next to Kate’s side of our bed until cold weather, when he would jump in with us in the early mornings. But its interesting that when Ben was probably around 10 yrs old he began doing the same thing he did as a puppy. Kind of whine a bit next to the bed waiting for me to give him the ok to jump up. Maybe because in his senior years he wasn’t as confident he could do it as before and needed the encouragement.
His first year and a half he lived out with me in Penn Valley on the ranch. Kate worked so I would have Biggs with me too. Ben and Biggs had full freedom to roam and explore. Along with meeting horses and cows he met my white cat Jelli, a black barn cat, and Zadeck, the owners’ German Shepherd who would often bully little Ben until I shagged him away.
He always loved water and once I found him swimming in the horse trough at the ranch. Maybe that was his first water experience. But his first real experience truly swimming was at Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir. I would throw sticks or stones into the water to lure him in. He was tentative at first but kept walking in further and further until he was actually swimming. Being in a lake or river turned out being Ben’s favorite thing in life (other than food). Whenever we took him to the Bear River near our home we would always refer to it as going to the “R” place otherwise he knew the word and would be excited beyond belief. For some strange reason he loved for me to throw rocks just out of his reach and he would swim to the spot they landed. He was fanatic about this game. In his later years his hearing was mostly gone so he couldn’t hear the splashes therefore I needed to land the rocks only within his view. His eyesight wasn’t what it used to be either … but that nose of his could smell a tiny branch and know if a deer had brushed up against it a day ago, or smell the toast I was making while he was outside and all the windows were closed.
Kate and I moved in together and bought our present house in Colfax in March of 2007. Ben was a year and a half old and Biggs was 2-1/2. I remember showing the dogs our place prior to moving in. Both of them just ran up and down the main hallway, so excited for their new place. This was to be their last home and couldn’t be more perfect. Biggs was more of a home body but Ben just loved being out doors. The forest around us and our dead end road could not have been a better environment for him. He owned this neighborhood. He had his bed on the drive near my car and could watch out over the street. More people new Ben than me. Several times we had to go out looking for him until finally I got a GPS that he wore and I could see that he mostly had specific routes he would take each morning and unless he deviated I didn’t have to worry.
Ben’s best friends, besides Biggs, were Sundance and Otis. Sundance he would see when Chris and Stephen came over or on hikes with them. After Sundance died Ben would see a Subaru Outback drive up and get all excited thinking Sundance was coming to visit which saddened me every time. Otis lived in the neighborhood and would get out now and then, and come over to visit. Or Ben would go over to Otis’ house to visit him. Two buddies who sometimes got into trouble. They apparently got into a neighbor’s chicken coop and Otis killed one of the prize roosters. After that Otis was kept under pretty strict confinement for a year or two, so only saw Ben when Ben went to his house. I heard Otis died about a year or so before Ben.
Along with going to the river Ben loved catching frisbee. He was amazing at it, leaping high in the air with his 80 lb. body. And, when all frisbees were chewed up he was fine with chasing and catching a tennis ball. He also enjoyed going on errands in the car with me, even if just to the post office and back. When we would go hiking or camping in the mountains he would sense it once we were on the highway headed east into the pines, and he would whine and jump around with anxious anticipation in the back of the SUV. Ben loved Autumn when I would rake and burn the leaves. He would roll around in the piles playing with his frisbee or tennis ball. He loved people and would be so excited when the grandkids arrived or when we had guests or a party, his tail would practically fly off with glee.
In June of 2016 Ben’s childhood buddy and little brother, Biggs, died suddenly which broke all our hearts. Around that same time, Ben’s back leg started giving him problems, probably due to the frisbee and tennis ball jumping he had done most of his life. So in May of 2017 when he was 11 he had TPLO surgery on his back right knee. It was successful. However, Ben’s recovery took about two months requiring the poor guy, who loved to be out doors and active, to be essentially under house arrest much of the healing period. Finally in mid July we took our first campout to Loon lake with Ben, using a ramp I had made for him to get in and out of the RV. We all were so glad to see him back in his element. The ramp then became an essential tool for all car rides, which he was always up for but often had to be coaxed. Gentle Ben was always a little spooked by heights and stepping on objects that moved or could move. This fear also carried to going up or down stairs in the house during his last couple years. He just refused to do it so with our multi-level house we had to move him from one to the other by going outside and around the house to the opposite entrance.
In August 2016, a couple months after Biggs died, Kate brought home little Charlie who was just nine months old. Charlie and Ben played together beautifully. Charlie running rings around Ben in the front yard, nipping at his heels. Often times we found Charlie cuddled up to Ben sleeping together. They became best of friends. I have a great video of Charlie’s first snow play with Ben.
In late 2018, early 2019 Ben began slowing down quite a bit and seemed to not be as happy. Possibly due to aches and pains. So we started Ben on Aquapuncture treatments and some Chinese herbs plus painkillers. We also found he had thyroid problems which were bringing on scary seizures and those were resolved through meds. These treatments and meds helped him a great deal for a year and a half, but eventually it got to the point where he was having difficulty at night, causing him to pant extensively. I feel now that he was panting because of pain and discomfort.
We bought our first RV in 2011 and the very first campout was just me and Ben at Jackson Meadows 7/28/2011. He was almost six years old. We had a beautiful meadow right behind our site where I would throw the tennis ball for him. We swam together in the lake, explored Pass Creek and hiked some of Pacific Crest Trail. A great first trip and the prelude to so many more. Ben was truly in his element. Bens last campout was nine years later 9/1/2020 also to Jackson Meadows. I was so happy to see him enjoy a great last swim and to see him relaxing at our favorite campsite, completely at ease staring out over the lake like he had done over all those years. Perhaps he was saying goodbye to it.
Ben passed over to the other side very sweetly on 9/11/2020. He was on his bed outside looking out over the neighborhood and had just met a very sweet vet who had come to assist us. He always loved people and he had gone right up to her wagging his tail, so happy to meet a new person. Kate and I held his head while he drifted off to sleep, completely content knowing we loved him dearly and that he will always be with us.
Run Ben, run. Run through those fields of flowers and butterflies with all your friends on other side of the rainbow bridge. Swim in crystal clear lakes and explore beautiful forests. You are an amazing spiritual being. I think of you and miss you every day and some day we will be together again.
Baby Ben … his first year (some photos for each subsequent year here):
More of Bens life in photos by year click here.