Gone to the Rainbow Bridge
March 11, 2014
I knew the contents before I opened the email from my good friend Deb, whose wonderful collie Riley has spent many weeks here over the past few years. The subject line held just one word: Today.
Her Royal Highness Princess Riley passed away today.
I knew it was coming. I saw the change in Riley from her long stay with me just over a year ago to her stay here this winter. A year ago she was still able to climb up on the couch, to prance along the seawalk, to toss toys in the air, to empty my recycling bin and shred all the boxes - oh how she loved to get her teeth into a good piece of cardboard and rip it apart! This winter, she needed help to get up from her mat on the floor, and cookies to coax her to walk round the block, and her favourite pastime was lying on her blanket on a sunny patch of grass, watching the world go by.
And yet… and yet…..even on her last visit here, I received many gentle but firm nudges on my hand to say ‘I’m here, I’d like a cookie please’. I smiled as she leaned into my body, sending a soft message of ‘thank you for looking after me.’ I laughed as she suddenly did a fifteen second bounce around the back yard with tail wagging and head bobbing in a moment of joie de vivre. Surely she could live forever?
Riley was such an easygoing girl. A Princess, for sure, but she ruled with a gentle paw and a regal nod of the head. And patiently, though with resignation, she would join us commoners for a little silliness:
Over the past few months, Riley did the same dance with death that my collie Charley had done – one step forward, two steps back, one step forward, two steps back. Hardly able to stand one day, eyes lighting up with mischief and ready to go for a walk the next. In both their living and their dying, Charley and Riley were so much alike. Their knowing eyes, the way they picked up on and responded to our emotions, their pushy yet quiet way of demanding attention, their personalities, their preferences, even their sensitive tummies.
|Riley and Charley|
at one of our herding dog pawties
When Deb emailed me a few days ago, knowing Riley was taking the final few steps of her earthly journey, hoping for just one more rebound but sensing it was not to be - I thought of those last weeks and days and hours with Charley. And I thought how blessed both Charley and I were to have known Riley.
The joy of living with a dog for many years, of knowing that dog as well as you know yourself, of loving her as deeply as any human child or spouse or friend, has but one fatal flaw: when that life ends, as all lives do, the sense of loss and grief and pain is unbearable. We can never prepare ourselves for that moment.
Even when that dog is not one of your own, but one who has spent weeks in your home, whose name draws forth so many great memories, the feelings of grief are palpable, the sense of loss profound.
My heart breaks knowing the pain my friend Deb is going through and knowing Riley will no longer grace my hand with her sweet nudges, and yet...and yet I smile a wee smile at the thought of Charley and Riley together again, two peas in a pod, two old long-nosed collie girls reunited.
Run free Riley, run free. You will be missed more than words can express. You have been a friend well loved, and a loving friend.
Deb, gentle hugs. Riley has taken a chunk of your heart, and left in its place a lifetime of memories. You gave her a wonderful life, and she is always with you.