For those animal lovers out there, you know how hard it is to say goodbye to a pet. We had to say goodbye to Riley, our beloved best friend and companion this week.
He was such a trooper through the tests and hand feeding but the stomach cancer had taken too much of a toll on his body.
He came to us 12-1/2 years ago, a black, Labrador-mix pup. He had a little white on his chest and a dab on his front paws – though in later years he had unusual color transformations from black to a perfect white, symmetrical cape on the back of his neck, head and face instead.
It was love at first sight on that first drive home as he laid his head on Jim’s leg. He knew he was in the right place with his new people and we knew from the start this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime bond. Even as a puppy, we could tell he was a gentle, old soul and there was something magical about him.
We got Riley with the hope he would help our other dog, daughter’s German Shepherd, through a grieving process having lost his companion. It took a little while but they became best buddies and our Shepherd soon became his old self.
As the days and months passed, Riley grew and settled into our routines and life at home. So much so he became a true home body. Though he loved to go for hikes and family outings when he had enough he would let us know it was time to go home by running to the car waiting for us to follow.
He loved our mountain backyard with the space to run and wildlife. Every night he would go out and lay by the back door peacefully looking out over his yard as if in silent communion with the deer and rabbits all cohabiting together. In his later years, my husband would walk him around unleashed from the backyard to the front and, if deer were bedded down, Riley would stay close on command and not attempt to chase though hard at times.
He had a game he played with the chipmunks. When they popped up on a boulder, Riley would chase down the hill as hard as his legs would take him only to lose it up a tree or under another rock.
One day, my husband was out working on a fence while Riley was making his rounds in the yard. A chipmunk popped up and Jim noticed Riley took off after it in a cloud of dust.
Jim continued working and later looked over to check on Riley. There he was just standing wagging his tail but his mouth looked funny.
Jim said to him, “Riley, do you have something in your mouth?” Riley stood and looked a little sheepish this time now wagging his tail a little harder. As Jim walked toward him, he noticed Riley’s mouth bulging on both sides with a slight movement.
Jim said, “Riley? What do you have?” Just then, Riley opened his mouth as if to answer and a chipmunk shot out and up the hill over grass and through the fence. The chipmunk jumped up and down atop a boulder looking back at Jim and Riley chattering away as if scolding them.
Now, as we go through the house, we feel his strong presence as if he left in body but stayed in spirit. We can still see the places where he laid and the toys he brought us for love or to show that he missed us.
We have so many memories of a being that passed through our lives in a special way. He taught us how to be sensitive, intuitive, gentle and kind.
Though we’ve had many pets over the years and have loved them all, there will never be another Riley. We have truly been privileged and blessed he chose us on his life’s journey and will always miss and love him.
Do you have any stories of your beloved pets you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
Pat – from the ol’ kitchen table