Have you ever had a best friend? Many people can never really say that they have. You may have family, friends, acquaintances and a variety of close relationships, but a best friend is something special and elusive. It is an unconditional acceptance of oneself by another and visa versa. A best friend does not need to be another person. It is just an entity that understands you, listens to you, looks forward to being with you and generally gets excited when you are around and conversely is upset when you are not around.
The above is exactly the relationship I have or had with my dog Riley. Riley was born on The 25th of January in 1994. We found him at a store called Jacks Aquarium. Riley is a big boy at 52 pounds and being half chow and half golden retriever looks very much like the lion king. I think Riley picked us more than we picked him. We were a sad family at the time having lost my children’s childhood dog Ishi and then relocating to somewhere my family nor I wanted to move to shortly afterwards. I really think he knew he could help us. So when my oldest daughter Tara picked this little ball of fur up, he pooped on her foot and it was at that minute that I knew he was ours and would become my very best friend. His mom named him on the way home because she wanted him to live the life of Riley for those that remember that TV show. And he did.
Riley really was a wonder dog. He house trained (potty trained) himself in two days and learned very early on that our clawless cat Ginger could box him silly if he messed around with her to much. It was just a pleasure to watch him do what he did as he grew. Riley loved to walk. In many cases he went twice a day about a mile and a half each time regardless of weather. We even made snow angels together and hid under trees during a severe storm one time. I’m sure that the many miles both my wife and I walked with him helped us physically and emotionally. Riley loved to go to the “The Creek” on a car ride every Saturday regardless of the weather. He knew that in addition to the ride and walk that he would get to eat Jack’s Links Beef Jerky on the way home and he still does to this day. No boring biscuits for this boy, he wants his Jerky. At seven years old, Riley lost his eye sight to glaucoma; he had such beautiful golden eyes. I knew he would still want to be good looking for the girls so I had his eyes replaced with fake ones. After all an intact male dog does not need to see to perform at his best, but he does need to be good looking. Several years later Riley lost one of those eyes and has had only one since. The best line we ever hear is from small kids that say something like; “does the other one work” At nine years old, Riley and his mom and Dad (me) moved to Arizona and left his sisters Tara and Meri behind. This was really hard on Riley, but every time he heard their voices on the phone or saw them during a visit he would go crazy because he loved them so.
During his years in Arizona Riley found wonderful places to walk including a big lake he called the fountain. It did take him a while to remember not to stray from the path because of Cacti (ouch). Remember he is blind. During Riley’s life in Arizona he was a victim of the pet food issue that killed thousands of dogs and cats across the country because of melamine. (This actually was one of the motivations for my company SafeSourcing) He lost a lot of weight and we thought we would lose him but this boy is a fighter. He has however never eaten dog food again. He loves tuna, chicken, hamburger, steak and most anything we eat for dinner which he dutifully eats along with us at my feet every night. When Riley was 13 he got to take a car trip across the country to visit his old haunts in Ohio. He absolutely hated the scenery on the car ride and could not wait to get to his hotel room each night for dinner, jerky and some well earned sleep. Riley remained very healthy for most of his life until he turned fifteen. The last year has been tough as he has had a number of issues but has fought his way back each time. In fact he is asleep at my feet as I write this short tribute. He does not know what is going to happen tomorrow, in fact at the moment I’m not sure he is aware of much as the steroids are what keep him with us at this point. He does know that it seems to be raining today which does not happen in the desert very often. I’m glad he can not see because he would know it is my tears that are falling gently on him as we hug for one of the last times.
I’m still praying for a miracle but not holding out much hope. During his last rebound over Thanksgiving we had one last walk to the park where he told off another large dog that thought it was now his park. He had not been able to be there in months. I will miss my walks and rides into the desert with the top down. I will miss him sleeping beside my bed at night. I will miss him sleeping at my feet in my office while I work. I will miss how he intelligently finds his way around the house without eyesight. I will miss how he can find Jerky on the other side of the room. I will miss talking to him when I’m lonely. But most of all I will miss that he misses me when I’m gone whether it is for a minute or a month. That’s because we are best friends and we love each other.
So, good by my dear best friend your mom, sisters Tara and Meri, granddaughter Sammi and brother Ryan all miss you already. I however miss you most of all and always will. You are my best friend and my son. Until we meet again run free you now have you sight back.
Your Dad loves you most of all and will never be the same again.
I know many will not read this. If you do and want to comment, find someone you love and hug them first. I hope you have a best friend like this some day.
Riley on a Car Ride.