Dogs and BBQ

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I love BBQ like old people love Buicks.

Several years ago, I was traveling through Memphis en route to Fort Carson, Colorado, for some high speed Army training and had a couple of hours built into the itinerary for a pit stop in Memphis.

Renowned for its BBQ, Memphis is on the bucket list for anyone and everyone who loves BBQ. It’s up there with old people going to Branson.

I’d made plans to eat at one of the popular joints that had been featured extensively on the Travel Channel.

Upon arrival at this BBQ Mecca, I was oozing with excitement. I was like a kid at Disney World. No, I was like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. No, I was more like an old person with a brand new shiny Buick. Yes, I was that excited.

I wasn’t sure what to get, so I went with the sampler. One can never go wrong with the sampler.

Boy was I wrong!

I hadn’t been that disappointed since the unveiling of New Coke.

I’d made quite an impression with the staff and didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I politely asked for a carry-out box.

Once outside and around the corner, I dumped it in the nearest garbage can.

The next day, while traveling along Interstate 40, I passed a sign just east of Ozark, Arkansas, for Rivertowne BBQ. I took the corresponding exit and made the short trek to Ozark, a small town beautifully set along the Arkansas River.

Rivertowne BBQ is located just off the square in downtown and is not to be missed. The setting was perfect. The staff was incredibly friendly, and the BBQ was out of this world.

Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

While growing up, the thought of enlisting in the Army never crossed my mind, and I certainly never envisioned getting Chyna, my beloved black lab, within a year of my first separation from the Army.

It’s now been 21 years since I raised my right hand and took that oath of enlistment that changed my life forever; furthermore, I was so incredibly blessed to have Chyna at my side for the bulk of those years.

I reiterate. Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

I had to make every pet owner’s toughest decision on July 30, 2012, but in the end, it was an easy decision because it was the right decision. Chyna was 15 ½ years old and had lived a good life.

Not a week has gone by that someone hasn’t offered me a dog or sent me a link to one needing rescued.

Although many people offered AKC registered pups at no charge, I’d planned on rescuing one from the shelter. At least that was the plan.

But plans don’t always come to fruition. I was never quite ready to make that leap.

The loss of Chyna weighed heavily on my heart, and I was not prepared to put myself in a position to eventually go through such heartbreak again.

That all changed this past Saturday when I received a message on Facebook from a friend I barely knew.

Getting a dog hadn’t crossed my mind at any point throughout that day, but I immediately knew that she was the one, sight unseen.

Oddly enough, I also knew her name. It was Ruby.

It’s a name shared by my late great grandmother, who was a sweet, smart, kind, and caring lady; and by one of our battalion’s great soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during my first tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. Sergeant Rubalcava, known as SGT Ruby by most, was a beautiful, brave, strong, and loyal soldier.

So far, my Ruby embodies each of the character traits of her namesakes and will be a constant reminder of those for whom she is named.

I simply cannot wait to answer the question, “Why did you name her Ruby?”

While it is of the utmost importance that we plan some things out, it’s equally important to remain flexible and to let those plans change when necessary.

I wasn’t planning on getting a puppy this week, but it happened, and she is a blessing in every conceivable way.  I look forward to the journey ahead.

BBQ is one of my greatest loves, but be it Memphis, Carolina, Kansas City or even Chuck’s BBQ, it pales in comparison to the love I have for my dogs, Chyna and Ruby, whose unconditional love for me was and is much like Rivertown BBQ; it’s out of this world.

If and when you lose your beloved pet, take your time in getting a new one.

Don’t rush into it. You’ll know when the time is right.

Others mean well and want to help but it’s ultimately up to you to know when.

By the way, I have it on good authority that Aunt Chyna gives Miss Ruby two dewclaws up. She always was a good judge of character.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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