Last night, our dog, Riley, died. Today would have been her thirteenth birthday.
Riley had a long and wonderful life. She lived much longer than the person who locked her in a closet at a motel that was being torn down thought she would, and though she could be a huge pain in the ass, she was an important part of our family.
Riley was anxious and nervous to the point of being neurotic. She was terrified of the garden hose, had terrible arthritis in all of her joints, and was almost completely deaf. Still, she was happy these last few months, getting to sleep on a the couch whenever she wanted, or sleeping at my feet while I worked in my office. She didn’t want to play very much, but when she did I’d swear she was ten years younger. She still liked to take walks, but she was slow and stayed so close to Anne and me, she hadn’t needed a leash for almost a year.
She wasn’t crazy about Marlowe, and I think Marlowe knew it. Marlowe has so much energy, I think she sort of scared Riley, who was brittle and nervous as a result of it. But Marlowe always tried to help calm Riley down. She would lick her face and nuzzle her all the time, and she stayed out of Riley’s way the rest of the time.
Riley was the last direct connection we had to Ryan and Nolan’s childhoods. She has been part of their lives for so long, through so much and so many things, they lost a member of their family even more intensely than I did, and I have a huge IMADOG hole in my heart right now.
I want to take a second and share a moment Riley and I had several years ago, right after our dog Ferris had died. I was alone in our house because Anne was out of town, Ryan was in college, and Nolan was busy being a teenager. Ferris had died the day before, practically in my arms, in the lobby of the vet:
I saw Ferris’ empty dish last night when I fed Riley, and it unleashed an agonizing wave of sadness so overwhelming, I dropped to the floor in our living room and cried as hard and as long as I ever have in my life.
After she was finished eating, Riley came over to me and sniffed at my face. Through my tears and gasping sobs, I told her it was okay, I just missed Ferris a lot and I was sad.
She rubbed her face against my cheek and trotted into the family room. A moment later, she returned with her soggy tennis ball, which she gently put into my lap. She looked up at me, and then walked into the corner of the family room, where she picked up her rope – her favorite toy, which she brings with her to the front door whenever we come home – and brought it over to me. She set it on the ground next to me, and then laid down and put her head in my lap. I cried for a good long time, but I was comforted by Riley’s actions, even if I’m projecting my own feelings onto her. I felt like she could tell I was grieving, so she brought me the things that make her happy, before letting me cry on her until the fur on her neck was soaked with my tears. When I finally stopped, mostly because I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I felt a tiny bit better.
Riley was a pain in the ass sometimes. She was complicated, damaged, and difficult, but she was ultimately a sweet and loving member of our family.
I really miss her, and her terrible breath, and that wonderfully derpy look on her face that always said “IMADOG!”
Bye bye, piles. I love you.
A small request: if you choose to comment, please don’t post that Rainbow Bridge thing. I know you mean well, but it has always made me uncomfortable.