Riley Walter: “Xmas in the Hood”
10/25/03 – 10/18/12
Riley, you came into my life as a non-cat friendly foster dog after a long, quite successful racing career in Florida. Upon your arrival, it was evident that you had some very unique “quirks”. One afternoon, when I went to let the dogs in from the backyard, you did not come in. When I went out back to find you, I was surprised to see you standing face first in a large shrub, the front half of you entirely consumed by the shrub. I assumed you had snagged a rabbit or were fixated on something on the other side of the fence. However, as I approached you, I saw you standing with your eyes closed, swaying back and forth, letting the branches of the shrub brush across your face and back. After some searching on line, I learned that this behavior was called “trancing”. Eventually you began finding other places to trance. I would come downstairs in the morning to find you halfway under the table swaying back and forth under the table cloth, or halfway in the Christmas tree knocking all the ornaments down as you tranced, oblivious to your surroundings. It was amazing all the places you found to do this! A second, slightly more challenging quirk, was your propensity to stop moving when we were out on a walk. There was no rhyme or reason to when or where you would chose to stop walking, you would simply decide you were done walking, and that was it. After a few times of having to carry you back home, I decided we had better shorten our walks. You eventually did this less frequently, but it never did completely go away. Another quirk, one that is more common, was your way of getting attention. You would stand next to anyone you could, and wait for them to pet you. If they didn’t, you would slowly place a paw on their lap. If they continued to ignore you, another paw would be placed on their lap, followed by your entire body. You refused to not be pet when you wanted to be! So many times I would be reading or typing, only to have my arm flung into the air by your nose. You were also known to jump up onto people if they were standing and did not want to pet you. You even gave my mum a black eye when you jumped up on her! Despite these quirks, I loved you and we worked through them.
About 4 months after your arrival, a possible home opened up for you. Although I was sad to see you go, I was hopeful that you had found your forever home. I explained some of your quirks as best as I could, gave you many hugs, and sent you off, excited for you to be an only dog and get all the attention you wanted and deserved. Two days after your placement, I received a call that you were not a good fit for this home. Without hesitation, I went to pick you up, and just like that you were back in my life. When you came back home, you were on your best behavior. The quirks seemed to have disappeared! After having given you up once, I decided I didn’t think I could go through that again, and decided that your forever home would be with me. No sooner had I signed the adoption papers than your quirks suddenly reappeared. However, I knew you were in the right place and you added a whole new element to our family and taught me a lot about myself in the process.
In the end, you left far too quickly. I was utterly unprepared for your departure. We woke up and you were in pain, and less than 12 hours later, the cancer I didn’t even know had been growing on your kidney had wreaked havoc on your body. I had promised you I would never prolong your pain for my own personal desires, so after a beautiful drive down to Cornell, just you and me, I let you go. I would give anything to have one more day with you Riley. Those quirks that seemed so bothersome at the time have left a huge void in my life. I would give anything to have you come knock my arm off the keyboard as I type this memorial. Thunderstorms will never be the same without you incessantly barking at the lightning. I keep hoping to look outside and see you headfirst in a shrub. You were truly a gift Riley. You taught me patience, perseverance, and you showed me love. As I was waiting for your test results in the vet’s office on that horrible last day, I was reading a book and stumbled across the following quote from Raymond Carver: “And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” You gave that to me Riley. I can call myself beloved because you were here, because you let me share my life with you. I love you kid-o and I miss you so. Peace my friend…and if you can, send me a sign you are ok.