I am definitely one of those people who says, “I’m his human” rather than “he’s my dog” when referring to Riley.
I’ve mentioned him several times on here but I don’t think I’ve ever gone into too much details about him.
I adopted him from an animal shelter when he was only 7 weeks old. I had just moved to Austin and he was actually meant to be Shemp’s dog.
Shemp had successfully completed an inpatient drug rehab and was doing well in his follow up meetings/therapy sessions. He was staying with me and my kids until he felt comfortable enough to go back to work.
His job at the time was to travel to different refineries all over the U.S. and make any repairs or additions that they needed. He worked long hours and because he needed his own specialty tools, he drove to these locations. That meant upwards of 20 hours driving time to get to some locations.
His therapist suggested he get a pet to take with him. She explained that the worst things a recovering addict can do is get too hungry, too tired or too lonely. Having a pet would not only keep him company, it would force him to be responsible for someone/something else and therefore help him to be less selfish about his own personal need for instant gratification.
I hated Riley. He was undisciplined and destructive. He would dig, bark and tear up just about anything! He had an ability to climb my privacy fence so any time Shemp brought him to my house, he was constantly getting loose!
One time, Shemp brought Riley with him to Thanksgiving. I had suspicions that he had relapsed but not being able to interact with him on a regular basis made it difficult to confirm. Well, that trip confirmed it.
As Riley came into the house I noticed he had a pretty bad limp. I also noticed he hadn’t been neutered yet. I walked over to him and knelt down to check him out. He immediately put his head in my lap and just lay there while I rolled him from one side to the next and checked him over.
“Why is he limping and why hasn’t he been fixed yet? Does he even have his shots?”
Shemp explained that he had jumped out of the back of his truck one night while he was on his way back to his camper. He injured his leg when it happened.
I then asked what the vet said about it.
“I didn’t take him. His ear stopped bleeding so I figured he was ok. He’s just a damn dog!”
I flew into a rage!! Explaining that he was his companion. He depended on Shemp to care for him and in turn he would give him unconditional love and that I was pissed to no end!!
I then put a leash on Riley, loaded him up in the car and drove to the veterinarian that we used for our other dog.
After a lengthy exam, they told me he had a hairline fracture in his leg and a mild concussion. They also informed me he had pin worms. I had them give him all his vaccines, treatment for the parasites and made an appointment to have him neutered. I also made the follow up appointment to have his leg checked in a few weeks to make sure it was healing.
When he and I got home, I took him to the bathroom and gave him a good, long bath. I spoke to him in a gentle tone and rubbed him down so he’d get used to me.
When we were done, I announced to Shemp that “this is now my dog!”
He didn’t argue. He knew better. Even now, he’ll try to say that Riley is actually his dog but backs down pretty quickly.
After Shemp left and it was just me, the girls and now our two dogs, I began to notice behavior issues.
Back then I was a smoker. Each time I’d pull a cigarette out of my pack, Riley would run and hide. He was actually afraid of them. Another issue was his hatred of men.
One time, I purchased a new living room set. When the guys came to deliver it, Riley tore up the back door trying to get into the house to attack them. His aggressiveness towards men made it impossible to take him to parks or on walks.
I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.
As time went by, as I worked with him, he became a member of our pack. I was the alpha dog and he recognized and respected that. He got better.
He had gotten to the point where he was completely house broken, no longer chewed on things that weren’t his and I even noticed that his temperament improved.
One day I ordered pizza for dinner. By this time, Riley was my constant companion. Always following along beside me everywhere I went. He still does.
When the delivery driver rang the doorbell, I walked over, opened the door up pretty wide and as I handed him the money, I took the boxes of pizza.
It hadn’t even dawned on me what had just happened but it didn’t escape Huey. “Mom! Riley just sat there! That was a guy and Riley didn’t bark or anything!”
She was right. From that point on we discovered that we were able to put him in any setting and the gender of those around him didn’t matter.
That was about 10 years ago.
Today, Riley is old. He has cataracts so he’s more cautious due to his limited vision and he has developed arthritis in his hips. He spends most of his days laying on the overstuffed bed that Julie bought for him but still loves to go to the park!
He’s getting along in years and the reality that he may not be with me much longer hits me more often than not.
He went from being a pain in my ass to my best friend..literally overnight.
I’m not sure how big of a mess I’ll be when he dies, but even Julie has said she’s prepared for me to fall apart.
I have always had a theory about new people: If my dog doesn’t like you, neither will I.
I’m not sure how I’ll manage without my shadow to keep me company when the time comes, but I’ll be forever grateful that I was his human.