Tuesday, October 26, 2010


 On October 23, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Riley.  In just three weeks he would have been 13 years old.

When we first got married we lived in a very small apartment with no yard (and no money), making it completely impractical to have a dog.  When we moved into our larger current house, I asked Shaun if we could "get a big dog that likes to be with me".  I put that in quotes because Shaun repeated it back to me over and over throughout Riley's life in a be-careful-what-you-ask-for-you-just-might-get-it kind of way.

On January 13, 1998, just two days before my birthday and one month after moving, we went to the pet store in the mall and picked out a little yellow fluff ball.  He rode home on my lap and when we got home we made him a bed in the kitchen.  That night he cried and cried so I ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor with him.

Riley was a name I had heard on This Old House.  Shaun used to watch it all the time and one of the sub contractors was named Riley and I liked it. This was before I'd ever heard it used for a little girl.  As he got older we'd run into more and more little girls with that name and I felt bad.

Perhaps because I was the one that fed him he was especially bonded to me.  For the first four years or so he literally followed me around to every room.  If I was vacuuming, he was dutifully right on my heels.  If I was in the kitchen, he was happy to be hanging out there, too.

He had LOTS of energy.  LOTS.  Yeah, I know Labs are know for that, but he had LOTS.  An hour of hard exercise every.single.day. was absolutely mandatory, just to get him so he could focus enough to listen.  I was in charge of his exercise so we'd hit the streets in our town bright and early every morning, rain or shine, warm or freezing.  Often, I would walk him to our local highschool where they have tennis courts.  He'd go fetch a lost tennis ball and I'd throw that to him from the top of a hill for a solid hour.

Shaun estimates that Riley and I ran/walked more than 12,000 miles together.  Other dogs we passed would strain on their lease to cross the street when we passed.  Not Riley.  He held his head high, just as proud and happy as could be to be out walking.

Shaun took care of his training and did a great job.  One of the best things he taught him was to go to the bathroom on command.  He always went before our runs so I didn't have to worry about cleaning up after him ever.  The other kind of fun trick he had was to "go get the paper".  Back in the day (read before kids), the morning paper was delivered to our front porch every morning.  After Riley went out and did his business, he'd run to the front of the house and dash back with the paper in his mouth.  Like clockwork, for years.

He became very in tune with our schedule.  That was back in the day when I was working 9-5 so he'd always go sit out by the driveway when the time got close.  The end of daylight savings would always mess him up, cause it would be dark and I wouldn't be home.

We had him for eight years before we had kids, so he went everywhere with us.  I don't think we really spoiled him, but he sure did get a lot of attention.

Picking out a Christmas tree

Climbing mountains.  He did a ton of hikes with us, but he always like to go ahead.  Then when he couldn't see us he'd come back down, check in with us and then go ahead again.  He'd climb three times to our one.
 Shaun tried various discipline methods with him, one was putting him on a short leash that was tied to the radiator.  One of the very worse things for him was to be alone.

He loved to be sprayed with the hose.  When the nephews got big enough it was hours of entertainment for both of them.

 Snow made him so frisky.  He loved to catch snowballs in his mouth and was really pretty good at it.
He could swim...big time!  This particular day we were out on the Connecticut River so there was no shore to go to.  He swam for eight hours straight that day.  We'd try to keep him on the boat for a few minutes to get a break, but he'd jump right back in.

Speaking of jumping in the water, when we went to the lake he'd full sprint onto the dock and jump right into the water, wasting no time.  Everyone would take turns throwing a stick way out, just to keep him out of the way.

Cold didn't bother him either.  If we went to the lake in the dead of winter, as long as it wasn't totally frozen over, he would jump right in and swim between the ice sheets.

 He loved being at the cabin in Maine.  Its a five+ hour car ride that he'd sleep for.  But as soon as we got off the highway (still 45 minutes away) he'd perk right up and start wagging his tail as if he knew where we were.

 I have hundreds of pictures of Riley.  The tip of his tail, an ear, he was just always up in the action.  Annoyingly so.

Other things he was known for...getting his front paws on the kitchen counters and eating anything he could reach, plastic or paper and all.  He once ate two packages of Double Stuffed Oreos.  They say dogs are not supposed to eat chocolate, but this dog had a stomach of steel.  It wasn't just sweets he liked though.  He would do the same thing with fruit just as quickly.

He smiled.  No kidding.  For people he really loved, he would shake his tail so hard his whole back would shake and he'd smile.
 When Avery came along, it didn't even phase him.  He smelled her and was fine with her being around. Now he stuck close to her, in addition to me.

One spot he loved, and who can blame him, was right by the woodstove in the kitchen.  That's where he spent his nights and parts of his days.
Christmas card attempt with Riley and Avery.
Its possible I have a similar picture of every niece and nephew and some friends, too.  The kids could do anything to him without a worry.  

 For the last year Riley's health had been failing.  We talked on and off about putting him down but we both stalled on making a decision.  He could not hear or see and his hips were bad.  It was getting increasingly difficult for him to walk.  We each nearly hit him a couple times with the car because he would not/could not move out of the way.

Selfishly, God was merciful to us when on Saturday is was obvious that he had to be put down.  Without going into detail, he hadn't been able to walk in two days and a couple other issues to make us know there was just no other choice.

Shaun gave him one last bath and we all spent some time with him as he laid in the sun.  Shaun and I cried and he explained as best he could to the girls what was going to happen.  I'm not sure Avery has ever seen me cry and she cried, mostly for that reason  I think.  Amanda was mainly concerned with what was for lunch and if she really had to take a nap.  Aiden did his usual and was just happy to be held and hanging out with his family.  The girls talk about him everyday and I'm sure we'll be answering questions for weeks to come.

I realize this post is crazy long and there's a good chance no one is even reading anymore, but for every photo here I have one hundred more.  For every memory, I have a thousand more.

We miss him.  When someone lives with you for 13 years and then they go, it leaves a hole, animal or not.  There are so many little reminders of him everywhere and I keep looking out the window to check on him soaking up rays of sun in the yard.

(just to clarify, we don't believe animals have souls)

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens 
to those already dead and buried, we don't want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing 
to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died 
and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life 
those who died in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13-14


Melody said...

I read the whole post and now have tears streaming down my face. We all know Riley and I had our "issues" but this is really touching and reminds me of my love for Taffy. Hugs to all of you.

sara said...

I love this post! this brought so many fun memories of our first dog. we had him for 15 years and so many of your memories and pictures were similar to some I have of Zach. Even in the end.

praying for your family as you miss Riley!

{Thirty} Little Piggies said...

I'm bawling my eyes out now. Your sweet Riley was a great friend to all of you and God surely created that special animal to have a special place in your home. I'm certain he will be missed so much.

It's funny to me how similar our lives are in so many ways. We also have a giant {black} lab named Bentley. He's 115-pounds of muscle and the most gentle dog I've ever known. We have so many pictures just like you do of our dog with the babies and laying around with us. He follows my every move, loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, feeding the kids. I guess labs all have similar characteristics, which makes them so special for families. He's 4 now and has so much energy we can hardly keep up with him. I hope we have many happy years with our dog just like your family had with Riley. :)

I'm praying for joy and comfort for you all this week. I'm sure it'll be a little more lonely without Riley.

PS-We love the name Riley as well, which is why we used it as a middle name for our oldest son! :)

H-Mama said...

It looks like Riley was a wonderful dog... and had a great life. Amazing how those furry babies make their way into our hearts. I'm sure he will be missed.

huge, huge (((((hugs)))))

Andrea said...

Thank you for letting us into your lives for even such a touching piece. Such a well behaved dog, gentle,and sweet. I read every word hoping to be able to be an ear to listen as you opened your heart. May you cherish those memories of a beloved pet that the Lord has made for you to love.

Lori said...

Oh, he looks like such a special, sweet, and loving member of the family!! So sorry for you all! (Hugs)

Vanessa/Chelsea said...