...choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua 24:25

The whole fabric of society rests upon the home.
-Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goodbye Riley-boy

I had hoped our next post would be something a little more cheerful, and to be sure, there are so many things we'd like to share with you about our summer, but they'll just have to wait. You really don't have to read this...if you just want to scroll through and see the pictures and remember him, that's fine. It just helped me to write it all out, I guess.

This morning, we had our beloved dog Riley Samson Koziol put "to sleep". Last weekend, he suffered another "vestibular event" but this time, he didn't get back up.

Riley was born on February 1, 1998...probably the only reason I remember the date is because he shares his birthday with Grandpa! His mama was a gorgeous, sleek, 120 lb purebred black lab. His papa, well, no one really knows...he was conceived in Alaska, shortly before her family PCS'd to Virginia, where I met the owner at work. He was one of 13 pups, some white like him, others black, some brindle, some with shepard/rottie markings. With his thick "waterproof" fur, his curled tail, his amber ears, his purple spotted tongue, and his wavy undercoat, we figure he had quite a bit of husky and some chow in him.

Our engagement portrait, circa 1998

As a puppy, he was, well, a typical puppy. He chased the cat (and quickly learned not to). He chewed my shoes. He completely devoured the unity candle from our wedding.  Like any husky worth his salt, he hated water and refused to go in (even after a ball!), something the lab in him could never overcome. He loved to play ball and was fiercely possessive over his rawhides. He would howl mournfully every time a police car or fire truck drove by with its siren on. We learned very quickly that wearing anything black, navy, or dark colored and expecting it to stay fur-free was hopeless. We learned never to give him more bone than he could chew in one day, unless we enjoyed filling holes in the backyard.

As a big "brother", he was gentle as could be to our girls.

Emma, he regarded with caution and curiosity,

She was less than 3 weeks old here and he hadn't yet dared to come so close when she was out of our arms.

...Maya with interest and affection,

There was ALWAYS something tasty to lick off of her face!

...and Kyra, with bored tolerance.

He only looks miserable...
... I think he was just plotting his revenge!

He loved to lick the girls' faces after they had eaten, and always stood guard over them at bathtime...gingerly licking the bubbles off the edge of the tub and sneaking a lick from the bathwater as soon as I reached for a towel. He would have made a great sled dog; we used to tie his leash to Emma's stroller and he would pull her home from the park. He always did like to be in front, and though he could "sit", "lie down", "fetch", and "drop it"  like a champ, we never could train him to "heel"...something in him just had to lead the "pack".

He traveled well...always loved a ride in the car and he tolerated the long trip to Texas in 2000 exceptionally well. We soon learned how careful we had to be with him in the heat. No amount of shedding and brushing would keep him cool enough. How he loved it when we tiled the downstairs floor! He had funny little quirks--like fly-catching. He's sit and listen to one buzzing around the house, muscles tensed, ears perked, his head jerking around as he followed it's flight, and then when it flew too close to him, fast-as-lightning he'd snatch it out of the air and swallow it. Even funnier was how he'd dance and beg when we had swatted one ourselves! He had this thing for squeaky toys and even the toughest materials couldn't stop him from tearing them to shreds, just so he could put an end to that squeaker. He could hear Steven's car from around the corner, before it was even in sight, and would make a mad dash to the door, prancing and pawing at the door to greet him!

His years in Texas were largely uneventful. His semiannual molt gave us the only "snow" we ever saw for 10 years, and provided many a bird with fluff for its nest.

He loved to lick (Cooper's ears, Nonny's feet and Grandma's face were favorites) He loved anyone who would give him a scratch, a snuggle, a treat, or a few tosses of the ball. He "talked", as huskies are said to do, but only to Tran and Auntie Helen.

He camped with us...once.

Five minutes later he was trying to get into the sleeping bag!

And he kept out of trouble...mostly. He was a shameless thief, with an incredible ear for the sound of even the smallest morsel hitting the floor and an uncanny knowledge of when we had left things just a little too close to the edge of the counter or table.

You snooze, you lose! Thankfully everyone had already been served.

Ah...burnt toast...my favorite!

Can't quite reach...

Maybe from this side?

So close, yet so far...

One last try from the other side again...


Mighty pleased with himself isn't he?

He had a little altercation with a feral cat and had to have his muzzle stapled back together. He and Cooper escaped once and explored the neighborhood, making fast friends with some utility workers who fed them peanuts. He got skunked while we were in a rental house, right before we moved here to Alaska...and because he was not allowed in that house, he ran away during a thunderstorm and was lost...and found...just a few days before we were to begin our drive. I never could keep a rosemary plant alive...he loved to nap on them in my garden. We had six strawberry plants over the years, and never a single berry...he nibbled each one off as soon as they were ripened.

He photographed beautifully...here are some favorites:

A wee pup in Virginia
Enjoying the new sod on a hot Texas evening

A middle aged fellow, keeping cool on the tile floor
Looking exceptionally majestic!

An old guy protecting his favorite "spheres"...we had to use this word when speaking of them or he'd go nuts wanting us to toss them for him...even words that rhymed...mall, tall, small, wall...would get him excited for a game!

We are so thankful that he was such a healthy dog. He didn't have digestive issues (except for that candle-eating episode), or skin trouble, he only got fleas once, and he was usually cooperative when his nails needed clipping. He aged well too...the first sign was some bone spurs that caused his lower back and hips to ache during very cold, humid weather (not something that happens often in Texas!). An x-ray revealed the trouble and the vet pronounced him in good shape for a 4 year old and was astounded to learn that he was actually 8! The first real sign of trouble happened in the spring of 2008, and at the time we thought it was a stroke. We woke up one morning (the day of a Jed & Josie's wedding!) to find him dragging himself across the floor, the entire right half of his body lame, his face sagging, his head tilting to the side. A desperate call to the vet, (thank you, Guilbeau Station Animal Hospital!) who was so gracious to see him on a holiday weekend, some steroids, anti-inflammatories, and some blood thinners quickly put him to rights, and by the next day, he was wobbly but back on his feet, eating, drinking, and eager to play ball (though we wouldn't let him for several weeks!). The feeling and strength gradually returned on his right side, and the only residual effect of the attack was a curious need to lean on things (or people) and that he dragged his front and rear right toes, which meant he could no longer go for walks around the neighborhood...the tops of his feet would be rubbed raw...and he would sometimes trip or stumble while playing ball.

When we moved to Alaska, we left him behind with Cooper, knowing that the drive would be too hard on him; and the poor guy must have thought we had abandoned him for sure. Three months after our departure, Riley and Cooper were flown to Alaska and both seemed delighted with the fresh, cool air and their new surroundings (no fence!)

 We couldn't help but  notice that this last year had aged poor Riley considerably. Frequent accidents in the house, increased clumsiness, weight loss, and his general demeanor...like a stubborn old man who feels he has earned the right to be cantankerous and do whatever he wants just because he's old...indicated a slow but steady ride downhill. Like any dog owner, we've always hoped he'd just die quietly in his sleep so we didn't have to agonize over the "when" decision, so we didn't have to wonder if he was in pain or just plain miserable.

It's been a difficult week...we've been feeding him by hand, and his appetite and interest in food has declined steadily. He only laps a few times at his water before his trembling head goes back to the mat. I've spent hours on the phone, trying to find out if it is legal to bury him in the backyard (nope), trying to find a vet who will make a house-call (Steven is out of town and Riley is too big and too helpless for me to lift him) and a crematory that keeps the ashes of each animal separate. The girls are taking it hard, though thankfully in turns. When Maya was struggling with the pending loss, Emma was her comforter, and vice-versa. Kyra's innocence and joy have been such a blessing. She patted Riley and gave him treats, and wiped our tears many a time. Yesterday, we gave him a bath and though he was not pleased about getting cold and wet, it definitely confirmed  the mercy of our decision. Underneath all the magnificent fur, he was dreadfully thin. His right side was stiff and unresponsive, and his front paw was curled tightly at the "wrist". He had pressure sores on his right side (we tried each day to flip him over...but I think something instinctual made him resist having his "strong" side to the ground and his weak side exposed, so he'd struggle valiantly against us, and somehow manage to flip over on his own if we left him that way).

So I guess that's about it. Our beautiful, sweet dog is gone, and we'll miss him.

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.Psalm 36:6


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.