The Life of Riley

On June 19, 2006 I met Riley for the first time. He arrived at our cabin riding on my husband’s shoulder, looking out the truck window at me as they came up the driveway. He was my husband’s 30th anniversary gift to me, and no matter how many more years together we have, he will always be the best one.

A little black lab puppy who loved to romp in the hostas and hide under things like porches and beds. That first night I had to take him outside several times. We lived in the woods with no city lights around, and it was a dark night. I made the mistake of not putting him on a leash, and within a heartbeat he was off the porch and outside the circle of light. It took me a few panicked minutes to roust him back toward the porch, and I learned never to put my little black puppy out at night without a leash to keep him from disappearing.

He was an adventurous puppy, and very soon at home out in the woods and running free on our 14 acres. Our spoiled rotten Golden Retriever Katy grudgingly welcomed him into the family and took him along on what we called her patrols, going down the driveway and circling around the property almost like she knew the boundaries.

Riley became fast friends with my grandpupply, Clyde, another Golden, who was only months older than him and came to visit and stay a few days or a week quite frequently. They would take to the woods early in the morning and come dragging back down the ridge about sunset, usually either covered in mud or beggar’s lice, but both happy and wearing puppy grins.

Bo came along a year or two after Riley, a chocolate lab this time, a rescue dog who was a year older than Riley, and a dopey, strange dog. Katy, Riley, Clyde, and Bo, along with my younger son’s dog Jack, and eventually Yona, Clyde’s German Shepherd sister (who thought she was also a Golden Retriever), they made up the menagerie that would become my Treehouse name.

Years passed, the dogs roamed and played, grew older, and one by one they left us, starting with Jack just after we started the blog here, and continuing through Yona, who left us just a few weeks ago.

Today I take Riley in to the vet and the last of the menagerie will be gone.

Thanks for taking a moment to help me celebrate the life and love of my best friend. I love you always Riley. Put in a good word for me, and tell the menagerie how much they are missed by all who loved them.

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392 Responses to The Life of Riley

  1. Joyce M says:

    How beautifully written, Menagerie! I wept as I read it and I pray comfort for you and your husband. What joyous memories you have of your wornderful companions!

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Irish19Kilo says:

    It’s never gets any easier with each one you give a home to, but I am a firm believer that there is a reason that dog spelled backwards I’d God. Might have something to do with their unconditional love they afford us as well as the lack of judgement they hold when they are loved as they should be. Either way they are your best friend to the end of their days. I am the type who only adopts these gracious creatures and when one comes to their end of the road I mourn for a week and head to the shelter to provide the next one a warm and loving home. I feel it’s my duty for I myself was a stray that was taken in and raised with love and understanding, for that I am grateful to this day at the age of 49 come April. My deepest sympathies to you for your loss, but now it’s time to go out and give another one the opportunity to be loved and adorned. Blessings to all those who can relate to the gift of loyalty and love, this world could use a whole lot more of it for sure!!

    Liked by 13 people

    • John W says:

      Beautiful story about a precious pet and companion. I have read many here saying another pet is out of the question, due to their age.
      To those and others, I would implore you to seek out older pets in shelters and rescue groups. There are countless older, or maybe sick animals, needing an excellent home in their final moments.
      My wife and I rescued an older cat with cancer thinking she had just months of life left. Not true. She lived almost 2 years with us, was a great lap cat, and I still have her collar in my car to remind me of the love shared between us during her life.
      Our remaining cats are younger and may outlive us. Thankfully they come with money, so we have been successful in finding them homes, if they survive us.
      Whatever flavor you like, dogs, cats, etc, they will enrich your life as much as you enrich theirs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Orville R. Bacher says:

      My wife was stuck on Rottweilers, so I accommodated her for 20 years. Finally, about 4 years ago, I told her I wanted to get a Black Lab. Now, I can’t get her away from my Black Lab Mutt.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hyacinthclare says:

    There’s a frame for sale in some catalogs that says, “Thanks for everything. I had a great time.” The picture in it is a dog. I’m a cat lady but I can never see that frame without wanting to cry. I’m crying now for your Riley and for you.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. James W Crawford says:


    I have had my own menagerie over the years.

    Reno, the crazy Cocker Spaniel.

    Laddie, the Collie that howled with Joe when he met new people or old friends. He was most embarrassed the first time that I had the groomer shave him to get the winter mats out.

    Grendel, the Golden Retriever predated the TV show Thirty-something. Although I am well aware of Norse mythology, he was named after the aliens in Legacy of Herot because he would eat anything. He grew to about 125 pounds.

    Skyler the magical German Sheppard did not last long due to chronic disease. She was loving to our first born.

    Ruby Red Heart of Gold was the Rhodesian Ridgeback who pattrolled the perimeter to safeguard our young children and their visiting friends. Along with wiping out all of the opossums and racoon’s on our fenced property, she bagged a deer. She also took a chunk out of an inteuder’s posterior as he was struggling to climb over the gate to escape.

    We had Nikkita the black Cocker Spaniel – Daschund cross along with Zoot, Spaniel X, dog of mystery.

    Hoshi the black Pomeranian was named from another Science Fiction character.

    Maureen and Paprika are seeing eye dog rejects who needed a home. Two labs, one black and none blonde, once tried to steal a Sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car.

    I will meet all of my dogs again when God calls me home.

    Liked by 10 people

    • James W Crawford says:

      I almost forgot Gunther the barbarian lab. He would savor the sight of the sun setting while holding a still wriggling mouse in his mouth until releasing it.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. mdaush says:

    Here’s a little prayer to Our Father who gave us these wonderful companions who take care of us.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. Bob Parker says:

    My wife & I rescue & care for abandoned cats. A manageable # that are fixed, housed, & LOVED. We can see the happiness, love, & yes even the appreciation in their eyes every day that make it an absolute pleasure to have them & care for them.

    And when any 1 of them passes, the sadness & pain is immense.. But at the same time, the rest of the family is there to remind us that they are still with us & that they still need our care, love, & attention.

    A dog or cat’s love is invaluable & I also feel that those rescued pets provide even MORE love back because they know what it is like to be abandoned & appreciate having another family to be a part of.

    My wife & I are always saddened to learn of anyone’s loss of a pet, And thank you & all for sharing your heart-felt stories.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. RobertN321 says:

    Thank you for this post. Our pets are always our children. They depend on us and bring out the best in us. My heart breaks for you but the only way you could have avoided this heart ache is to not know your puppy at all. Thank the Lord for blessing you with the unconditional love of your pet. You are blessed!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Moviegoer says:

    I had to say goodbye to my beloved, sweet dog a few weeks ago, and my heart aches for you as you say goodbye to your own sweet boy. It hurts because we love them so and because they loved us so beautifully and unreservedly. May God bless you and grant you peace.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. chuparosita says:

    Thank you for the many years of joy you brought into our lives. Adios, Riley, until we meet again…

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Ordinaryman says:

    Rest assured I prayed for Riley which my Patchdog (A Black and White dog who thought he was a Walmart greeter that is now greeting all that come through the pearly gates) will pickup on my prayer for Riley and make sure he is well introduced to his new existence until you come to his side again.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Tfields says:

    Animals in heaven and God’s concern for them “Jesus said ‘are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins and not one of them is forgotten by God.’ ”

    All animals belong to God. Psalm 50: 10

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Linda K. says:

    We had a black lab who was rescued by my youngest boy. She came into our family and grew up and exercised with my boys. I miss her still and I miss those years when my boys were small.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Issy says:

    I am so sorry. Your story touches the hearts of all who has lost their beloved friends.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. jumpinjarhead says:

    I am so very sorry to read of this sweet dog’s passing.

    We have taken in 25 abused, abandoned and neglected dogs and 9 cats here at our farm over the last 20 years. None have been “prestigious” enough to be on the vaunted AKC registry but each has been an indescribable blessing.

    Some were so badly traumatized that even after 10 years you could not look them in the eye but if you were patient in the course of an evening they would gradually move ever closer and finally with a great sigh of relaxation settle down at your feet, just wanting to be close to safety and people they had come to trust.

    Sadly, there are but 3 left, the eldest being 15 years old and totally deaf but she so loves our daily walks to the front pasture. We joke with family and friends that our lives went to the dogs (and cats) and indeed they did as we have never had a vacation or any real time away as it proved impossible to get anyone to come watch over them. In spite of the hardships and dog hair everywhere, our lives have been enriched beyond measure and we feel blessed that God entrusted them to our care.

    Letting each one go when their time came never got easier and we still grieve at their having to leave us. We cling to the hope and belief though that we will be with all of them again.

    My worldly hope is that more people will see the horrific tragedy of almost all animal “shelters” in America that are chronically full such that they kill tens of thousands of wonderful cats and dogs just to make room for more. I have 2 pleas—-(I) that people get their pets spayed or neutered, and chipped and then take proper care of them and (2) that people adopt from shelters and rescues rather than buy from breeders and pet stores.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. CC says:

    Losing a dog is never easy. For a lot of folks, they are a family member, present in the Christmas, Graduation, Baptism, Birthday and many more family photos. They fill our lives and ask for nothing, well, maybe treats. They love us unconditionally. They wait patiently for us to come home from work. Their lives are short, compared to ours.

    We are a huge part of their short lives. We must never forget to give them, to be the ‘owner’ worthy of such loyalty.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. texan59 says:

    So sorry, Menage. Quite a story.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. digforgood says:

    We’re so sorry, can’t even imagine the pain. This was sent to me years ago…

    The Rainbow Bridge
    inspired by a Norse legend
    By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
    Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
    Where the friends of man and woman do run,
    When their time on earth is over and done.

    For here, between this world and the next,
    Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
    On this golden land, they wait and they play,
    Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

    No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
    For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
    Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
    Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

    They romp through the grass, without even a care,
    Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
    All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
    Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

    For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
    Together again, both person and pet.
    So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
    The time of their parting is over at last.

    The sadness they felt while they were apart,
    Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
    They embrace with a love that will last forever,
    And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Lori Egan Hamm says:


    Liked by 3 people

  19. Rix Six says:

    Best article on the internet.
    I miss my two old friends, Sergent Pepper and Major Tom, Chocolate and Yellow Labs. They were with me for 14 and 15 years. We spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, hiking and camping together.

    Lately I’ve been having a strong desire to Lab up again. I need a trail partner.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Ron Jaeger says:

    God Bless !!!! I am tearing up remembering my heeler and boxers LOL !!!! I have not had a dog for 2 years I guess I had to heal a bit . But it is time to get on down to the shelter . Dogs bring out the best in folks.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Ashley says:

    Crying with you. I miss them one and all. Huge love of sweet furr family … and especially of black labs. {{Hugs}} from afar, though we do not know one another.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Retired IG says:

    I am so very sorry for the loss of Riley. I hope your memories of him will bring you comfort and joy. I’d be a dead person walking without my two kits. They rescued ME.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. You have my sincerest sympathy for what you’re going through today. Mark Twain said the only fault of a dog is that they don’t live long enough.

    I’ve trained and trialed dogs for almost 40 years and I know the heartbreak to say goodbye to an old partner with whom you’ve experienced so much together.

    God bless.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Crawler says:

    “One of the greatest curses on a man (or woman) is that they don’t get to grow old with their dog.”
    – Winston Churchill

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Grandma Covfefe says:

    😢…..words cannot show how sorry I am for you all. I cried, reading your article.
    This is the hardest part for all of us animal lovers, knowing our furry family members have a shorter life span than most of us.

    It was just a few years before Donald Trump walked down the escalator, that we had to put down the last of our dear furry family. Donald Trump’s campaign and the Treehouse was the source of distraction and comfort to my still-grieving heart.

    Again…so sorry this had to happen. 😢
    I can imagine our fun, lovable pets romping with your dear Menagerie. But we still miss them.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Hillsdalian says:

    This thread has been both profound and painful. Profound not just for the initial posting, but for all of the accounts I have read, from beginning to end. At least I can admit it privately: I don’t know how much time it took to read everything, but I still can’t breathe easily through my nose and I had to wipe a lot of tears from my beard. The mortality of my best friend, my ~10 year old rescue dog, Louie, is self-evident but seeing all of the remarkable accounts – cats and dogs and others – is the sad, grim reminder, that neither they, nor we, can live forever. Moreover, I cannot believe a freakin’ former confederate senator, of all things, orated the most compelling defense of a dog, ever. Talk about uniting all fronts.

    I’ve long ago decided that any dogs I own will be cremated upon their departure from this earth. So help me, I will have their ashes accompany mine when it’s my time to enter the furnace.

    Liked by 5 people

  27. thebronze says:

    RIP sweet, sweet, Riley…


    Liked by 3 people

  28. Phil McCoxwell says:

    What a blessing to have had him in your life. I just went through the same heartbreak about 6 months ago. Swore she would be my last one. Well, I have another one. My broken heart has mended somewhat and now I have a new little buddy who is yet another absolute gift. His butt is actually covered with a black patch that looks exactly like he is wearing a pair of shorts. And here we go all over again. I miss my last little buddy, I wish they could all outlive us. I thank God for puppies. They are literally fuzzy sunshine and happiness.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Padric says:

    Oh, Menagerie. I hope this post finds its way to your eyes and that it brings you comfort and solace in your time of pain and mourning. I know all too well the loss of having to make the fateful decision to end one of our furry friends suffering. Just this past July we had to make that decision when Tinkerbell, the older of our two dogs suddenly became ill. She was a smaller breed, a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix known as a “Chiweenie”. My wife and I hated that breed name so instead she became known as our “Mighty Dasch-huahua”.

    My mother never liked animals when I was growing up so we never had a dog. Tink came into our lives 9 years ago when she was already middle aged. She was my wife’s grandmother’s dog and after she passed we decided to take her in. Oh, the love that dog gave us and became a surrogate mama to my best buddy Dobby, a Cirneco dell’etna-Chihuahua mix that we got 5 years ago when he was just a puppy.

    When I went to the vet to pick up her ashes, included in the package was a very sweet sympathy card signed by the veterinary staff and a packet of wildflower seeds to be planted in her memory. I made the decision that because we had already decided on moving from the house we were in that those would not be planted until we found and moved into a new house.

    Today, in just a few hours, we close on that house. I’ll be planting those seeds in just a few weeks.

    Liked by 5 people

  30. margarite1 says:

    “Dogs, lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.” ― Dean Koontz, The Darkest Evening of the Year

    Liked by 3 people

  31. OldParatrooper says:

    Years ago I bought a Golden Retriever puppy for my boys, then 4 and 5. That puppy grew up to be the biggest wuss and the most faithful dog I’ve ever owned. When we lived in the city and he saw me pull a cigar out of the humidor his excitement was almost too much for him to bear. He knew we were going for a long walk. When we moved to the country, and he spent more time outdoors, he still quivered at the sight of a cigar.

    He died on his fifteenth birthday, and is buried here on the lake behind the boathouse. I still miss that dog.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Trump2020 says:

    What a wonderful gift to mankind the dear lord gave us all. We have a 13 year Golden Retriever named Gracie who is on the rebound after taking seven none tumorist bumps off her that were getting infected. Thirty-two stitches later she has great energy for a 13 year old again. We only hope she stays with us a bit longer. When her time is up, we will be getting another golden puppy and start the journey all over again! Great sharing your story with us! Thanks!

    Liked by 4 people

  33. kokopuf says:

    Darn, Menagerie, now I have tears rolling down my cheeks! Great article and I am so sorry for your loss. My wife and I have had our own menagerie over the years, including a raccoon and a flying squirrel that spent most of his daylight hours in my wife’s pockets. But our dogs are the ones that stole our hearts and never let go. We have had a Golden, Ruffles, and a rescue mutt, Ladybird, we found hurt on the side of the highway as a puppy. We planned to find her a good home and I guess, we did since she spent 11 years with us. The others have been Border Collies, starting with Shasta, a red and white. Then there was KoKoPuf, another rescue, who still has my heart although she has been gone for 11 years. I’m pretty sure I paid for a new wing on the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine with her multiple surgeries and treatments. And every penny was worth it! Before her first surgery at two, I asked the Lord to just let me have 5 years with her and he gave me almost 9. She dropped dead of a stroke or heart attack as we were starting our afternoon walk. Then KupKake, a really sweet girl who loved horses. She made friends with a donkey in a pasture on our walking path and they would run and play like kids. She would lie between his legs for long periods just enjoying the company. For the last several years, she spent her nights snuggled against my legs until morning. That’s where she was in September last year when she had a seizure and, although we got her to the vet, she died. We now have ten-year-old KremePuf a truly exceptional companion. We used to refer to her as the “perfect pup” because we spent so much time trying to find the right dog to replace KoKoPuf. I think we did. We also have one and a half-year-old Truffles, who I am pretty sure will be the death of me. High energy doesn’t even come close to describing her and the truth is, I can’t keep up. Purebred or mutt, all of them have uplifted my life and spirit and broken my heart when they passed away. Truth is, I can’t imagine my life without them. Again, I am so sorry for your loss and thank you for allowing me to share some of my memories!

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Ken says:

    Beautiful and Menagerie. If I’m any kind of an indicator, I don’t think any one of us who read your loving tribute got to the end without shedding at least a few tears. I’ve never met you, your husband or Riley, but I can honestly say that in the short couple of minutes it took me read through, I got to fall in love with him and am now experiencing some measure of yours and your husband’s heartbreak. May God bless you both with the strength you can find from each other, and may you both find comfort where it can be found – from friends and loved ones, your “Treeper Family”, from each other and from Riley’s sweet memory.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Bystander says:

    My heart is breaking for you. I’ve traveled that road several times before and it just doesn’t get any easier. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. coldanger says:

    Omgosh you made me bawl my eyes out! What a beautiful tribute to your loving friends.
    We have a menagerie as well, made up of purebreds and rescues. We too have had our black pup (scotty Lily) disappear into the night as a baby. We’ve lost a few, thank G-d mostly to a long happy lifetime, and a couple to more tragic events (heart condition, reaction to anesthesia), and each one broke my heart. I love them all beyond belief, and am happy to say we still have 5 pups, ranging from 5 months to 8 years. Nala, our baby GSD, will most likely be our last due to our aging.

    So, with heart I understand your loss and your love. G-d bless Riley, and you.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. WSB says:

    Menagerie, I was 14 when our shepherd’s cancer had gotten so bad, Dad put her in the car one morning after many hugs and kisses!

    It never fails to bring tears when I hear of this hard life knock.

    Warm wishes and prayers for you and your family.

    While humans can yell and scream, a woman’s best four-legged friend will stay forever in her dreams!

    Liked by 2 people

  38. fuzzi says:

    We had to take our dog-in-a-million for her last ride in January 2019; she was not quite 10 years old, but had several strokes, and our hearts were breaking. But within a couple days we brought home “on trial” a 7yo rescue dog, and she has helped us heal even more than I imagine we’ve helped her. I highly recommend the experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. SteveC says:

    I had to read all the comments, but could handle no more than 2 or 3 at a time – hence the late comment, for which I apologze.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Menagerie, and for everyone else’s, too.
    While all dogs are special, some are definitely more special.

    Dogs don’t live anywhere near long enough, but I’m glad to see that more people than I expected have had dogs survive well into their teens. Sadly, this has not been my experience with our corgis in Kali.

    Spend as much time as you can with your pups, because it is far too fleeting – and wonderful – and you never know what can happen. And please, hug them for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Russ says:

    ‘His dog up and died, he up and died
    After 20 years he still cried
    Mr. Bo Jangles’
    Owch. I can relate and you are not alone
    Hold the memories through the pain. Thankfully, the pain doesn’t go away but the memories get sweeter.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Debra says:

    We have our own menagerie that has ebbed in the recent years. Parting with best friends is always painful, even when we know we are doing the very best for them. I believe that every pup i have said good bye to has taken with him a piece of me. Our much smaller menagerie is made up of elderly girls. They are my tribe.
    Peace and comfort to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. ahem says:

    Dogs are God’s assurance that true love exists.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Forestwood says:

    So sad. they never leave your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. AlexaJade says:

    Oh this really brought me tears. Such beautiful words.
    Rest in peace Riley.

    Love Alexa,

    Liked by 1 person

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