Finding Comfort With a Furry Friend: Steven Ruble's Story

Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows that there is nothing like the loyalty, love and comfort “man’s best friend” can provide. Steven Ruble’s “best friend” was Snickers, a small Yorkie that brightened his life for 20 years. “We got Snickers when she was 6 months old and we thought the world and all of her,” remembers Steven. “She would lie down with me in the middle of the day to take a nap and snuggle with us.”

Steven and his wife Sue have lived in the same home in Sewal since 1974. Married for 54 years, they never had children, so they thought of Snickers as their child. Her death in July of 2020 hit them very hard.

When Steven was diagnosed with lung cancer and his conditioned worsened, his hospital night nurse told him about EveryStep and suggested he make contact. When Steven started receiving EveryStep Hospice services through the Centerville team on April 2, 2022, he mentioned to his hospice nurse, Kelsey Spicer, that he would really love to have a Yorkie to lay with him in bed, especially since his disease was progressing quickly and he found it more difficult to leave his bed.

Kelsey and the EveryStep Hospice team in Centerville went to work.

“I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a Yorkie puppy for sale. A friend of mine tagged a girl that raised them and I explained that I was a hospice nurse and it was for a patient,” remembers Kelsey. “The girl said she had a female that she had rescued from Ukraine and she would love for [the puppy] to go to a loving home that could give her more attention than she could.”

Enter Furbie, the adorable Yorkie whose arrival was a complete but wonderful surprise.

When Steven was handed a box covered by a towel, he couldn’t guess what was it was — until he looked inside. “It’s just unbelievable. I was very surprised —I wouldn’t have thought this could ever happen. I was just totally shocked!” says Steven.

Steven says he’s been overwhelmed by the kindness and care he has received from EveryStep Hospice’s team in Centerville. “I just can’t believe everything that everybody does for me! We couldn’t ask for more. Everybody is extremely nice.”

Are Furbie and Steven getting along? “Oh yes,” says Steven. “She cuddles and sleeps with me. It’s very nice.”

Steven’s nurse with the EveryStep Hospice team in Centerville, Kelsey Spicer, says as soon as Steven told her how much he missed Snickers she knew she wanted to help. “My husband and I are currently parents to four dogs of our own. I know how much joy comes from having them curl up on your lap and make a rough day melt away,” says Kelsey. “The thought of having Steve be able to enjoy that same feeling again in his last days has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my nursing career in almost 13 years.”

EveryStep Hospice helps patients find quality of life on their terms. Sometimes this means fulfilling wishes and creating lasting memories for patients and their families. “As a hospice nurse, basic care and compassion are the essentials of what we provide,” says Kelsey. “Sometimes it’s the little things that we can do to go the extra mile that mean the most. Making a trip to a local Amish store to bring a patient their favorite fruit pie, or a new shower head to make it easier for the patient to keep their independence, or sitting and listening to them reminisce about good times, bad times or sharing stories about people we know in common since we are such a rural area can all help them feel more comfortable as they approach their final days,” says Kelsey. “It’s really about ensuring they are pain-free and giving them the best end of life that we can. One of my favorite quotes is that ‘hospice is not the fast track to the end of the race — it’s simply choosing a smoother ride for the journey.’”

EveryStep Hospice helps those living with a serious illness make the best out of every day. Most hospice care is provided through in-home hospice services; however, when a patient needs around-the-clock hospice care to manage their pain and symptoms, EveryStep’s hospice houses in Des Moines and Creston are available.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.