Yesterday was a day that I have been dreading for a very long time. Maybe even for 15 years. The day I would have to say goodbye to Riley. His death was not a big shock for me, as his health has deteriorated a lot in the past few months, but I was not prepared for the depth of the grief I would feel when the end actually came.
Riley came to live with me, back on a September day in 1997. He was one among a litter of puppies, left at the Bangor Humane Society in Maine. He weighed barely six pounds, and I could carry him in one hand. I had a boyfriend at the time, and we thought it would be a good idea to have a dog. The boyfriend didn't last, and thank goodness I got Riley in the break-up.
Riley and I have been through so much together over the past 15 years. When I was certain my heart was broken, Riley was there for me, always concerned and willing to cuddle. When life didn't seem to be going the way I'd hoped, I knew I had my pup. It is hard to explain, unless you have experienced it yourself - - the extreme bond that is possible to have with a furry creature. I know there are "animal people" and "non-animal people" in this world, but it has always boggled my mind how a human being can deny the sweetness and innocence of an animal whose only goal in life it to love and be loved.
Yesterday was a hard day. Riley died in my lap, snoring loudly as I stroked his sweet face. Riley's vet, Dr. Howlett, came to our house so Riley could be spared the stress of the vet's office, and was able to pass on my bedroom floor, one of his most favorite places to sleep. When it was over, Steve carried him out to Dr. Howlett's truck for me. I did not feel comfortable having the boys here, or knowing that he had to be euthanized. They were out spending time with my parents, and when they returned, we told them that Riley had died. That was the hardest part of the whole experience. I have known and loved that dog for 15 years, but my boys don't know life without him. They are obviously heartbroken, and Camden is taking it especially hard.
I think the above picture is one of my all-time favorite pictures of Riley, with his best buddy, Roy. A few months after Sadie died, five years ago, we brought Roy home. Riley was a little lost without Sadie, and I thought maybe a kitty would perk him up. I've always suspected that Roy is actually Sadie, reincarnated, because he basically picked up where Sadie left off. I think Roy realized that Riley wasn't here last night. He usually likes to stay outside at night, but he came in and proceeded to meow a lot in the hallway and do some wandering around. Then, he came into our bedroom and spent the night on our bed, something else he rarely does. He is going to miss his pup.
This morning, I got up, made myself a cup of coffee, and started poking around on my blog for pictures of Riley. There are so many, posed pictures as well as glimpses of his tail, or head, or whatever, lurking in the background of so many pictures over the years. He was always there, and that will be the part that will be hard to get use to. I caught myself so many times yesterday, going down the hall to my bedroom to check on Riley. I am just so conditioned to do that - - find where he is in the house and check to make sure he is okay.
I also came across so many Riley Stories on my blog, and I am so thankful to have them! He was such a big part of our lives - - the big things and the everyday things. Oh, how I am going to miss that sweet, sweet dog!
I'm really glad that my parents are in Idaho right now, and that they got to have lots of quality time with Riley this summer. Next to my own family, my mom and dad are the two people in this world who loved Riley the most, and he loved them right back.
Riley was a sweet, simple soul. He loved me unconditionally, he loved and protected his boys, and he loved his Roy. He loved to beg for food, and I think in the past year he got a lot of mileage out of the fact that he was stone deaf and could play the "I can't hear you telling me to quit begging" card. He loved to sniff the air and roll in the grass. He loved peanut butter, and he loved to search in his Nana and Papa's suitcase for presents. He loved to ride in the car, and he loved to go for a walk. He brought a lot of joy to my life, and I will miss him forever.