Friday, October 23, 2015

For the Love of Riley

Despite the deep affection and adoration I have for Riley today . . . . it was not always that way.  In fact, when we first brought him home, I absolutely hated him.  And, I hated Ronnie a little too!  But, let me explain.  I am not a cruel heartless bitch.  On the contrary, my heart was so full of love for our Boxer, Shelby, that I couldn't quite imagine there being enough room in my heart for another.  And, for the longest time, I didn't allow myself to love him and I rarely gave him the chance to love me.

My love affair with Shelby began the day we brought her home.  Ronnie and I were newly married, living in an apartment and we thought - what a great idea to get a dog!  Being in our early 20's with spontaneous energy and little thought for the big picture, we got ourselves a dog that very day.  So, we brought Shelby home and quickly realized that there's more to just getting a dog.  After the first massive shit in our living room, Ronnie quickly volunteered to go out for supplies.  The moment that I held her in my arms, and it was just the two of us, is the very moment I remember falling in love with her.

Shelby and I had a very special bond.  We endured several deployments together and so, depended on each other a lot.  In between deployments and with Shelby aging, Ronnie suggested that we get another dog to help ease the pain of losing Shelby one day.  I remember thinking - what an asshole!  To me, nothing could help ease the pain of losing my Shelby and for him to suggest otherwise, was just preposterous.  So, from the moment we brought little Riley home, I treated him as an outsider.  I wanted to prove that he was not replacing Shelby - not a chance in hell!  And, either Shelby was too old to be bothered with a puppy or she took cues from me but, she also despised Riley.

We lost Shelby in 2010 during the first month of a 10-month deployment.  And while I've never experienced more pain in my life, surprisingly, Riley became my little buddy.  (I hate it when Ronnie's right!)  Riley became the very thing I needed while enduring the loss of Shelby and the many months left to go before Ronnie returning from deployment.

Riley is the exact opposite of Shelby.  And, he never did replace her.  Instead, he has quite succeeded with making us love him more and more every day.  He has been the biggest joy in our life with his goofy, handsome self.  He is quite possibly the most handsome boxer we've ever seen (no bias intended) and the largest boxer, weighing in at a whopping 95 lbs.  While he's loving to us and those closest to us, he pretty much doesn't like any other moving, living thing.  When people ask if they can pet him, I simply say that my dog doesn't get along well with others.  He is fiercely protective and takes his job as full-time security very seriously.

Despite being 95 lbs, he is quite satisfied when he's in someones lap.  He also believes he's human, insisting to sit in chairs just the way we would.  He's quite vocal - loud and obnoxious, actually.  He's bossy when he wants to eat and when he wants a treat.  The cabinet door where we keep his treats is licked clean of any varnish.  Somehow, he thinks licking the cabinet door will make it magically open.  And, I guess in a way it does - Riley assuming that when he licks the cabinet, we'll always open it and give him a biscuit.

Riley's 8 years old now and the older he gets, the more he reminds me of Shelby.  She seemed to be an old lady for a long time before she passed.  Still a puppy most days of the week, he has his moments suffering from arthritis in his hips and knees. Shelby was cremated and sits on my bedside table.  She always slept by me and so, it just felt natural to keep her beside me.  Ronnie says when we lose Riley one day, we'll cremate him and mix his ashes with Shelby's.  Over my dead body!  I may love Riley to the moon and back but Shelby never did.

1 comment:

  1. I just love this so very, very much. It is a perfect description of a "better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all." They're so different, Shelby and Riley. But both so beautiful. Well done, love.