Frequent visitors to the Shining Sea Bikeway might have noticed something missing in their routine strolls. Rover, a black Labrador retriever normally stationed between mile 7.2 and 7.3 in the West Falmouth section of the path, is no longer there.
Many cyclists and walkers alike have said that he is an iconic cornerstone of their route. But Rover, whose legs have gone missing as the victim of a recent case of vandalism, has been put on the shelf, his status uncertain as to whether he will be replaced or fixed or gone for good.
In the words of his owner, “Alas, he is no longer.”
Rover is a ceramic black Lab, identical to a full-size, real dog. His appearance is so real that new visitors to the path have been known to slow up when approaching the statue and pause.
“He is so lifelike, before he got banged up, I had never seen anything like him,” said his owner, Ross E. Bluestein of Baker Lane, West Falmouth. “When my father and my stepmother come into town from California, one of his favorite things to do is to set up a couple of chairs out near Rover on a Saturday afternoon and listen to all of the comments.”
Such reactions include puzzled looks or concerned mothers telling their children not to get too close. “They’ll call him, and some people will bark at him,” said Mr. Bluestein.
“Rover lends more interest to what is already a beautiful natural bike path. There are a lot of interesting attractions there,” said Mr. Bluestein. “He is a focal point and conversation piece for entire families. He became sort of a legend.”
The stories about his lifelike appearance are plenty. There are family Christmas photos that had friends calling up surprised that the family had acquired a new dog. Another time, a friend went over to meet Rover, called his name, and nearly fainted when approaching him to give him a pet.
But now, at least on the bike path, that could no longer be the case.
Rover Arrives in Falmouth
Mr. Bluestein acquired Rover while helping his aunt move from her home in Needham into an assisted living arrangement.
“I saw Rover and I stopped in my tracks because he was so lifelike,” Mr. Bluestein said. He took Rover, who he said is pretty heavy, and brought it home with him, to the surprise of his wife, Diane M. Pasquaretta. He told her that he thought he looked great and that “he’ll be the most obedient dog we’ve ever had.”
So the family kept him, and eventually placed Rover on the edge of the bike path, watching bikers and walkers as they made their way by.
His appearance is so real that new visitors to the path have been known to slow up when approaching the statue and pause.
Rover, in the past, has been the cause of mischief. He went missing several times only to be found a couple of days later in different locations. Mr. Bluestein said that although he will not admit it, he believes that his son, Sam Bluestein, 17, and his friends have been involved in the pranks. One time, they found Rover 15 feet up in a tree. Another time, he was at Eulinda’s Ice Cream parlor around the block from their home, wearing the ice cream store’s T-shirt. Mr. Bluestein believes that the ice cream servers may have had something to do with that. All of these incidents were in jest.
About three weeks before the vandalism, Rover had gone missing and turned up around West Falmouth Harbor, and then a couple of days later, outside the Real Estate Associates office on West Falmouth Highway, “obviously waiting to buy real estate,” said Mr. Bluestein. Each time he was brought back to his spot on the bike path.
But then Rover went missing for a longer period of time.
The Search for Rover
“We looked all over for him and we were alarmed,” said Mr. Bluestein. They could not find him. They placed an advertisement in The Falmouth Enterprise classifieds section. The family searched. Ms. Pasquaretta received phone calls from regular bike path users expressing concern for the missing Rover.
Then one night, about a week ago, they received a phone call from friends who had been fishing on Little Island near West Falmouth Harbor. They had found Rover in the water, missing his legs.
While the family sees the humor in the issue, there is also some sadness to see the dog vandalized. “He makes people smile and it does make me sad that he’s not here anymore,” said Ms. Pasquaretta.
There is talk of fixing him, but Mr. Bluestein is unsure it is possible. There was an idea to fit their other dog, Murphy, with molds around his legs and then super glue plaster legs onto Rover, but the logistics of that seemed too daunting. As for replacing him, Mr. Bluestein said that he is not sure where he would get another Rover, or even where to begin.
“They might have thrown away the die after they made him,” he said. “He might be one-of-a-kind.”
And if they did somehow replicate Rover, how would they prevent another, similar situation?
“It’s just too much heartbreak to have him going missing so often,” Mr. Bluestein said.
Such is the fate of Rover, the iconic black Lab on the bike path.
Asked if she was embarrassed that her father had a dog statue on his property, the youngest Bluestein, Mia, 13, responded, “I’m not putting a fake dog on my lawn; it’s my parents.”