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Loss of Ruben, a four-legged family member, ruins this year's pheasant opener

For What It's Worth
Lead Summary
Rick Peterson, general manager

The opening of the 2022 Minnesota pheasant hunting season will be one I’ll never forget. It wasn’t one of my best openers – it was actually one of the worst.
Our hunting group and our wives were staying at the home of our friends in St. Cloud. We were hunting about six miles north of Richmond, just southwest of St. Cloud.
We were ready to hit the field at the opening bell along with my three dogs, Hazel (age 13), Otis (6) and the newest to the group, Ruben, who is just a year old. This was Ruben’s first real hunt, and I was looking forward to see how the day would play out.
Our first push was through a stand of very thick, waist-high sorghum. About midway through the quarter mile stretch of sorghum, I was happy with the way Ruben was working well with the other two dogs. With maybe 20-30 yards to the end of our first push, two roosters broke cover and took flight. Four shotguns were blazing and two of my dogs were in hot pursuit of the birds.
It took me a minute to realize there was no Ruben taking part in the retrieve. Ruben had vanished – I mean in a flash! There was no sign of him. I called his name, blew the whistle, and once again nothing. I headed back to the vehicle and was pretty sure he would be there, but again no sign of him.
For the rest of the day I walked cornfields, drove around and around the section where he went missing, and again no sign of him.
By mid afternoon we had posters up all over Richmond and darn near every corner post within five miles of where we had last seen Ruben. The local Facebook page was posting the poster, and we went farm to farm handing out posters with a picture of Ruben and our contact information. As the afternoon was turning into evening, our search for Ruben was about to come to a close for the day.
Earlier that morning, as we left the house to go hunting, Mary’s parting words were “Don’t you lose Ruben today.” By late afternoon I hadn’t told Mary that I lost Ruben because I was hopeful we would have found him by then. I called her with the bad news, and as you can imagine, that was an emotional conversation.
Early Sunday morning Mary and I were back out where we lost Ruben, driving the gravel roads in all directions looking and looking for Ruben. We expanded the search area and yet nothing. With broken hearts we finally had to head home, leaving Ruben behind.
Sunday turned to Monday, then Tuesday, and no word from anyone who might have spotted Ruben. Our good friends Leroy and Mindy from St. Cloud drove out to Richmond every day and continued the search.
Leroy had placed a kennel, water dish and my hunting sweatshirt out in the field so if Ruben was in the area, maybe he would come back to where this ordeal all started.
A woman down the road from where Leroy left the kennel walked the area every day keeping an eye out for Ruben. She even put some treats in the kennel just in case. By now four days had passed and no sign of Ruben.
Leroy was making his morning drive by the kennel early on day four shortly after the neighbor lady had put the treats in the kennel. He had to take a second look, and sure enough, Ruben was helping himself to a treat. When Ruben saw Leroy, he took off back into the wildlife management area.
Leroy called me, and in short order Mary and I were headed back up to Richmond. We spent a couple of hours sitting by the kennel with my other two dogs, hoping Ruben would make his way back to us.
Again hope of finding Ruben was starting to fade. Then my phone rang with a call from the El Rancho Manana campground about three miles north of where we were sitting.
The guy on the other end of the call asked if I was Rick Peterson and then said, “I found your dog.” I started to cry then, as I am now as I type this column.
Mary and I were at the campground in no time, and we had a Ruben reunion.
We can’t begin to thank all the people enough that helped in the search for Ruben. The people of Richmond, all the regulars at Corky’s Sports Bar that kind of adopted Ruben and helped spread the word. Family and friends that put together a reward. Leroy and Mindy for their daily searches, the neighborhood woman that searched daily while she was on her walk, to all those that shared the poster on Facebook, to those that sent kind words and prayers our way … and finally to Kevin from the campground who made the call.
A final note – I got a call from Leroy earlier this week. He was telling me about his new German shorthair puppy and about how much of a pain the puppy was being.
I told him, “Have the puppy go missing for four days and you’ll forget all about those pains.”
Trust me … I know.

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