I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face, wondering how on earth I’m going to get through writing this post.
It has, in fact, taken me all week to get it written. I’ve come to write it nearly every day and just found it too hard.
You may have seen on my Instagram that on Thursday of last week we said goodbye to our beloved lurcher Riley as he was put peacefully to sleep in his bed at home with Keith and I holding him. It’s taken me till now to summon up the strength to write this post.
I’ve struggled writing this, and it’s now over a week since we said goodbye to our boy and to be honest the pain isn’t any less than what it was last week… in fact it’s increased somewhat.
I’ll apologise now for no link ups or other posts this week, for any errors and grammatical mistakes I might make, and for the deluge of photos in this post (it’s photo-heavy). It’s my tribute to our gorgeous, gentle boy and all the love that he brought into our lives.
I know it’s very self-indulgent of me, but it’s one I want to write now to then look back on in the future when it hopefully doesn’t hurt as much.
These are all the things I want to remember about Riley. This is what he meant to me… to us.
The impact Riley had on our lives
Riley was my/our first and only pet as an adult (we had a family dog when I was young, but other than that I’ve not personally owned a dog before, and neither has Keith). As parents of a dog and no children, he really did make us a family and was absolutely part of the extended family. We were a solid threesome, and I’d often talk about “my boys”.
My parents loved him. Kids loved him. He was the sweetest, most gentle soul I have ever known in my life, and I miss him with all my heart.
Despite his ageing years, we adopted him at the beginning of 2017. I fell in love with him hook, line and sinker because he was, effectively, a canine version of Keith. Silver-haired, long-legged, slept at every opportunity, and the most relaxed, chilled character ever. The two of them were two peas in a pod and absolutely inseparable.
Riley turned Keith – a self-confessed Cat Person – into the biggest dog lover you’ve ever known. That’s the effect he had on people. Keith even started Riley’s own Instagram account.
What happened was that Riley decided we came as a set. He didn’t favour one of us over the other, and he wasn’t completely settled and content unless we were both with him, whether that was out walking or just pottering about at home. If one of us was giving him strokes and attention in the evening, he’d still woof at the other one if they were upstairs doing something.
It had to be both of us. Every time.
But at the beginning of 2018 the unthinkable happened: Riley was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and we had to decide what to do. We decided he was too old to be operated on – he might not pull through at his age (12 by that point) – so we kept him as well and pain-free as we could on painkillers and lots of love.
In the end, he effectively beat cancer for a total of 16 months (or more, depending on how long the tumour had been there before it was discovered). We took him for regular checkups and although it was still there, it never really got that much bigger or affected him too badly.
The vet called him her “miracle boy”.
However, due to his age he had bad arthritis in his legs as well as cataracts and although he relished his long, slow walks and loved his food, it was clear in the last few weeks he was really slowing down. In the days running up to us deciding that it wasn’t fair to keep him going any longer, you could tell he’d decided he’d had enough. He couldn’t have left us any more peacefully and the vet and the nurse came to our house and were absolutely wonderful and truly compassionate.
The grief of losing a pet
The first few days were incredibly hard. And they just got harder as the week went on: yesterday (Thursday) was a week after we lost him, and I had my worst day. Working from home and being alone (though I didn’t do any actual work), I spent the day curled up on the sofa in tears. I only found comfort in looking at pictures of him and watching videos: I couldn’t help but smile at him, and it eased the pain a little.
It’s hard to break the habits you develop when owning a pet. We both still quickly go to turn the volume down on the TV when a loud bit comes on. I still find it hard to stay upstairs too long without feeling I need to go down and give the boy some love. I still pop to the shops and feel like I’ve left him alone too long and need to get back as soon as possible. I still look at my watch and think I need to get his lunch if it’s near that time of day. I still put the clean plates away from the dishwasher as quietly as possible so as not to wake him.
When you do those things you forget for a split second that they’re no longer with you.
I just can’t break these habits, and neither can Keith. I just can’t get used to him not being around. The sadness I feel all the time is overwhelming.
But this morning I went for my daily walk up the hill, and this time I sat at the top and listened to the birds singing and the wind in the trees and gave myself a quiet talking to. I decided that yesterday was my bad day, and I wasn’t going to have any more bad days if I can help it. We’ve already said that we’re going to honour him (I know it sounds weird but I’m sure you’ll get what I mean) by getting lots of sleep (that we weren’t getting before because of his unsettled nights), doing lots of exercise and eating lots of healthy food because we can.
We put so much on hold before – and were more than happy and willing to do so for our lovely boy – but now we have to look after ourselves and look after our health.
So my thought today was, No more bad days – just sad days.
I’ll sign this off by listing all the things I miss about our beautiful boy. I never want to forget ANY of these things, because in time you forget the small things. Even if you don’t blog, if you lose a pet I can thoroughly recommend writing this list because it’s those small things that make your boy or girl utterly unique.
Thanks for reading this post… I’ll hopefully have happier things to share next week.
Love forever to you Riley, your mum (and of course dad too)
I’ll miss you, Riley
The dog that wasn’t like other dogs…
I’ll miss your big, expressive eyes.
I’ll miss you standing across our legs and leaning against us with your whole weight while we petted you.
I’ll miss the feel of your white chest hair.
I’ll miss you barking impatiently at Keith while he’s getting your dinner.
I’ll miss being fascinated by your white eyelashes.
I’ll miss you rolling around on your back in the garden and woofing because you were loving life.
I’ll miss you whining while you were “thinking out loud”.
I’ll miss putting a blanket on you in winter and a fan on you in summer.
I’ll miss the sound of your claws clacking across the floor.
I’ll miss you pawing me and looking at me with daggers when I stopped stroking you, otherwise known as The Paw of More.
I’ll miss you pausing and the face you made before you gave yourself a shake.
I’ll miss you making us laugh every single day despite doing almost nothing at all.
I’ll miss you smiling in your sleep.
I’ll miss the sound of you flapping your ears violently.
I’ll miss your noisy drinking.
I’ll miss you standing right in front of me as soon as Keith started taking my outfit shots.
I’ll miss you insisting on walking between us when we both took you for a walk.
I’ll miss you getting up off your bed excitedly when Keith came in from work every night.
I’ll miss you pretending to ignore me when I returned after days away working.
I’ll miss my daily face sniff.
I’ll miss you barking for me in the evening when I was upstairs even though Keith was right next to you giving you attention.
I’ll miss your “horse dressage” routine when we were getting ready to go for a walk.
I’ll miss your lovely non-doggy smell.
I’ll miss you being so gentlemanly and polite.
I’ll miss you disdainfully ignoring any dog that barked at you.
I’ll miss you impatiently barking at the back door to be let out only to turn around and walk back into the house once the door was opened (and affectionately calling you a little bugger).
I’ll miss the feel of your paws when holding them.
I’ll miss you drooling buckets when you ate treats.
I’ll miss you being so utterly, utterly gentle with children and letting them hug and stroke you.
I’ll miss you getting in the way when I’m trying to put my shoes on before a walk.
I’ll miss the way you’d sleep with your legs in a tangled mess of long limbs.
I’ll miss you stopping to sniff every single clump of grass and weeds when out walking, otherwise known as “going on a sniffari”.
I’ll miss you backing your bum into my face if I was sitting on the floor to tell me to give you a good rub and a scratch.
I’ll miss walking in front of you to shade your eyes from the glaring sun when out for a walk.
I’ll miss your licky-licky-chop-chops.
I’ll miss you enjoying all the attention from me then getting up and walking off as soon as Keith came over to give you love as well.
I’ll miss you thinking that anyone putting their coat on meant you were going for a walk.
I’ll miss just how gently you ate treats from our hands and never once hurting us.
I’ll miss the side-eye and whining you’d give me if I hadn’t petted you in the last 30 minutes.
I’ll miss you lying prostrate on the floor in the most inconvenient, in-the-way spot at other people’s houses or in a café.
I’ll miss brushing your long fluffy tail.
I’ll miss you knowing exactly where and which way you wanted to walk – and for how long – each day.
I’ll miss you dreaming and running in your sleep.
I’ll miss kids pointing at you and saying “Mum, dad, look at that big dog!”.
I’ll miss telling kids that “he’s very, very gentle if you want to pet him”.
I’ll miss you sticking your head through the downstairs loo door and looking at me when I was having a wee just before going for a walk.
I’ll miss you sleeping on your bed with most of your body actually on the floor.
I’ll miss you purposely headbutting me in the bum when I was putting on my shoes for a walk.
I’ll miss lying on your bed next to you and you staring into my eyes.
I’ll miss you insisting on walking down the middle of the road instead of on the pavement.
I’ll miss your funny, quiet “woof woof, woof woof” when you were dreaming.
I’ll miss you dropping a snack only for you to look at it waiting for me to pick it up and feed it to you again.
I’ll miss the excitable teeth chatters before a walk.
I’ll miss giving you a gentle nose boop every day.
I’ll miss the fact that you’d stop in the driveway with Keith and not budge till I joined you if I didn’t have time for a walk with the two of you that day.
I’ll miss your big stretches and being amazed at how long your legs (speed sticks) were.
I’ll miss you gently lying down on the grass or your bed then flopping down on your side very suddenly.
I’ll miss playing ‘Riley tennis’ with you and Keith.
I’ll miss you sticking your head over your car hammock between the car seats so you could be as close as possible to us.
I’ll miss the way you walked like a supermodel with one foot crossing in front of the other.
I’ll miss taking you for a walk and being stopped by several people every time to say how beautiful you were.
I’ll miss you always walking over and standing next to me when I’m on the sofa demanding attention before getting on your bed.
I’ll miss you having a sleep outside on the grass even in the winter.
I’ll miss you ignoring most dogs and going straight up to strangers and demanding attention from them instead.
I’ll miss you sleeping for six hours straight in the day and then getting up for a wee four times in the night.
I’ll miss sleeping downstairs with you through the night to keep you from being lonely.
I’ll miss you totally ignoring every command ever given to you or even your name being called.
I’ll miss the way you were a total food snob and carefully sniffed your food before starting to eat it.
I’ll miss rubbing your head gently when you stood next to us.
I’ll miss you walking up and down the garden 20 times before finally doing a wee at 3 in the morning.
I’ll miss us making contented growls back and forth with each other while you were lying on your bed.
I’ll miss getting excited on the very rare occasion you wagged your tail because you never wagged your tail.
I’ll miss the fact that you were only ever truly happy here at home with the both of us here.
But I can gladly say I’ll never have to miss the fact that we didn’t give you a loving, safe home and every comfort you could have ever wanted. We did all of those things – and more – and loved every single second of it.
Rest in peace, my beautiful boy.