Tag Archives: Riley

Dogs of the Past – Riley

Riley sitting in a chair

Riley sitting in a chair

Before we moved to Atlanta in 1996, Andy and I had adopted a lovely chocolate lab while I volunteered at Bergen Animal shelter.  Because I was the “boss” at my job in New Jersey, she came to work with me every day.  But when we moved to Atlanta and I got a job with IBM, all of a sudden she was home alone…and she did not like it!  So we decided she needed a companion and we needed another dog!

Anyone who has been at an animal shelter knows it isn’t really a pleasant experience.  The noise level almost bursts your ear drums, and no matter how clean you keep it, there is an offensive smell that hangs in the air.  We were going through the labyrinth of cages looking for another lab of similar age to Murphy.  Murphy had the easy job – she got loving from the AC staff in the front office while we looked for her brother or sister.

Riley was in a corner cage in a dark portion of the shelter.  I walked by him and didn’t even notice him.  I had seen a nice young black lab that I thought would be good for Murphy.  Andy called me back to his cage and said, “What about him?  He seems pretty low-key.”

I looked in the cage and saw a giant lab with one of the biggest jar heads, ever!  His face looked so sad and his tail hung down between his back legs.  Andy said according to his paperwork, today is his last chance to find a home because he’s on the euthanasia list for tonight. I didn’t really think he was interested in us.  He showed no excitement.  We motioned for the attendant to take him out of the run and we went into the visitor dog room.  It was there that we noticed his tail hung like that because it was broken at the base.  The attendant took him off the leash and he ran over to where Andy and I were sitting and laid his giant head on my lap and looked up at me as if he was asking me if I was taking him home.  I was immediately smitten but he had to pass the Murphy Test.

We had the OK from the Animal Control staff to try the two dogs together in one of the exercise yards.  We took this giant chocolate dog to meet the miniature choco dog and it was like they were in a love story commercial.  They ran across the yard to each other and immediately began to play.  We knew we had a winning combination.  We named him Riley on the spot.  For some reason we had taken two cars to the pound so Murphy went home with Andy and I took Riley off to the vet to be checked out.  We stopped at McDonalds and I gave him a hamburger.  To this day, Andy is bitter because he believes that hamburger is what forged the stronger bond between Riley and I.

At the vet, she confirmed his tail had been broken but it felt healed and should not give him any issues other than not being able to wag it.  He was emaciated slightly so we would have to help him gain some weight but even at this weight he was 87 lbs.  She estimated he was about 9 months old based on his teeth and that he was probably a pure bred Labrador.  We also discovered that he already knew a variety of obedience commands like sit, down, and stay.

The night we adopted him, we had a Halloween party in our apartment.  Riley lay in the middle of the festivities like a throw rug.  He was so laid back to the party and the strangers coming in and out that people were asking if he was sick!  Nope he wasn’t sick – this is what a well-behaved dog acts like!  Of course, I couldn’t take any credit for it.

To accommodate for his broken tail, Riley would swing his hips more to cause a wagging motion of the tail.  We used to joke and ask him if he’s like some fries with that shake.  Every time I think he would open his mouth and respond to me in English.  His eyes told me he understood what I said and I truly believed he understood human language unlike any other dog I have ever had.

One night we had a dinner party.  We’ve always had boundaries for the dogs when it came to human food and eating and they were not allowed in the dining room during meals.  We have a glass top table and there is nothing worse than having a good meal to look down and see a face looking up at you through the glass so we exiled them.  After the meal was eaten and the table was cleared, some people went into the living room to continue conversations but some people stayed in the dining room including me.  Little by little, Riley inched his way into the room.  There was an empty chair at the table and I saw Riley move closer to it.  Then I saw one paw on it and then he was sitting in the chair.  He made no attempt to nibble at crumbs leftover from whomever was sitting there.  He just followed the conversation.  The man on the end would say something, Riley would look at him while he was speaking.  The woman to my right would reply and Riley would turn his full attention onto her.  As the conversation jumped around the table, Riley acted like he was following it and looked at everyone who spoke when they spoke.

tail always hanging!

Tail always hanging!

Riley was our gentle giant.  We lost him to complications from a disorder he had called Mega-esophagus causing him to have chronic pneumonia.

I Want It Now Daddy!

Sometimes I feel like Veruca Salt from the movie Willie Wonka when I get around our rescue animals at Mostly Mutts (www.mostlymutts.org) when she sees the Oompa Loompas and she wants one.  I see our dogs and puppies we have rescued at Mostly Mutts and I want them now!  So instead of becoming a horrible pet hoarder, I became a foster parent.  I thought about this long and hard.  When my husband Andy and I first lived together we rescued a lovely chocolate lab girl named Duchess and we renamed Murphy.  Murphy loved other dogs and she especially loved kittens and cats.  We fostered many kittens for Murphy and were able to get them adopted.  This was when we lived in New Jersey.

Our next foray into fostering came after we had moved to Georgia.  We worked for a large technology company and they had just built a building in a very undeveloped area just northwest of Atlanta.  It seemed that this was a common dumping ground for dogs when people just didn’t want them anymore.  There were a number of dogs who hung around the building, digging in the garbage looking for foood.  Of course I would bring food and water, along with some other colleagues, and try to catch these poor babies who had forgotten that humans can be kind and caring.  One day I sat on the hot tar road for a good 20-30 minutes trying to coax this black dog to me.  I had water and it was hot.  I had food and she was hungry.  Finally she came to me and collapsed in my lap.  She was a medium build but so skinny I could pick her up with one hand.

We took her to the animal shelter but within a day I got a phone call from them that she would be put down because she tested positive for heart worm.  Of course I could not let that happen so I went to the shelter and collected her with the intention of curing her heart worms and finding her a loving home.  She was like a little stuffed animal.  So darn cute!  But Beatrice was not an overly friendly dog.  We had several inquiries about her but all the families had small children.  I could just see this dog who had been fending for herself for so long resist taking a cookie out of a toddlers hand when the first night we had her she stole chicken right off a dinner plate!

After having Beatrice (who the neighborhood kids called Beastrice and ran screaming if she ever got loose from our yard!) for about six months, I woke up on our Anniversary day and Andy had put a big red bow on Beatrice’s neck.  She was the best anniversary present ever!

Riley, Beatrice and Murphy "behind the line" waiting to be released for dinner

The Wrecking Crew: Riley, Beatrice and Murphy “behind the line” waiting to be released for dinner

So now we are kind of 50/50 on the fostering scale.  We didn’t attempt to foster for quite some time as Beatrice was a bit of a problem child — not people friendly, not dog friendly — really she only liked us and her space on the couch.

Fast forward about eight years and my Wrecking Crew had all gone to Rainbow Bridge within six months of each other.  Beatrice was first with a large, inoperable cancerous tumor on the back of her tongue.  Murphy second after a long bout with diabetes.  She was 14 1/2 when we put her down.  Last my big boy Riley, who we got for Murphy when we moved to Georgia.  He had mega-esophagus that was causing him to have chronic pneumonia as the food and water would get stuck in his esophagus causing the infection.  Riley passed on a Saturday with me holding his his paw.  He could not breath on his own.

After we lost Beatrice I was trolling the animal shelter.  Three was a good number of dogs to have.  I could still walk three.  There was room on the bed.  One day I found a little black puppy that looked like Beatrice.  I took her home that day and named her Bailey.  The chocos, Murphy and Riley were still around when Bailey came home.  Riley was so good with the puppy.  He would lie on his back and let her jump all over him.  So suddenly when Bailey was by herself, and we were down to just one dog, we jumped into the foster arena again.  This time with Mostly Mutts.

Her name was Viola and Andy found her the day that Riley passed.  He took a picture of her on his phone.  He had the duty to go to PetSmart after we put Riley down because we still had Bailey at home and she needed supplies.  He didn’t mention her to me when he came home.  We were heart-broken about Riley.  Then through other strange circumstances we found ourselves with a young yellow lab the same age as Bailey.  Andy then told me about Viola and we took Bailey and Phoebe to see her at the Kennesaw PetSmart.  We agreed to foster her and came home with her that day.  We never brought her back for adoptions and the next week we paid the adoption fee and she was ours.

Now, I’m really not doing well in the fostering area!  I’ve got a 75% failure rate…meaning that we keep!  But three is my comfort number.  I like a three-dog household.

A few years passed and I dodged bringing home any more fosters until my work friend tells me about this little Jackahuahua that her son and his wife had that they don’t want now that they have a baby. I was sure that they would come to their senses and understand that they could have a baby and a dog at the same time so I offered to “hold” the little dog until they could figure things out.  Well for me and my husband it was love at first sight and after a week, Andy said, “We’re not giving her back, are we?”  This moves my failed fostering rate up to about 80% failure!

Roc coming home from meeting potential adopters

Roc coming home from meeting potential adopters

So when I recently talked to Andy about fostering again he was an adamant NO!  And I can’t blame him based on my record but I was determined to make this one a success!  So little Roc (I call him Rocky) came home to Litt’s Puppy Palace of Love.  He has been a joy.  I post many pictures of him on Facebook looking for someone to adopt him.  He hates adoption day at PetSmart.  He’s a chihuahua and doesn’t really like people sticking their face into his crate or sticking their fingers in through the grates.  He likes to be introduced to people.  Since he is so small, our Mostly Mutts volunteers like to hold him.  He tolerates it and goes into what we affectionately call his “dead squirrel” mode with his little legs held out stiffly in front of him.

But today is Adoption Day for Roc and my foster failure rate goes down a little!  His new family asked, “Don’t you want to keep him?”  Well, yes, of course I do!  But if I can see him into a new home, then I can help another dog find a new home. If I just kept this little boy, then Adrienne (my friend) would not find her Rocky!

Don’t get me wrong, foster failure is not a bad thing!  It means that a dog or a cat has found a furever home. I just want to be able to help more animals find that so I’m a reformed failed foster!  So, I get to indulge my Veruca Salt a little bit when I bring home a new foster.  It feels good to want something now because you can help people find their best friends later.