My husband and I made the difficult decision to let our boy Riley go. Physically he was healthy. Mentally, we were losing him quickly. I think he just reached the point that whatever war was going on in his head, he was losing it.
Riley came home with us when he was five months old in May 2005. He'd been dumped at the local humane society because he barked. The people who had him before we came to his rescue wanted a guard dog so they shoved him outside with nothing but a dog house and locked in a kennel. We knew even before bringing him home that he had some problems but we were willing to try. After he turned two, we started to notice a change in him. We managed him effectively and did what we knew would reduce his stress and anxiety. He was fine with OUR dogs in the family but other dogs on walks, he would become aggressive. Can't say I blame him any after he was nearly killed by a Saint Bernard years ago. He was content to stay home with us and hang out.
He may not have spent much time around children but when my daughter was born, she grew on him. Riley became her dog in a sense. Then our son was born. He and Riley have never been close but they obviously loved each other.
This last year to year and a half, something clicked and Riley started slipping further and further away from us. Our big barking black beastie couldn't relax. He started to act unpredictably with any number of things and beings when he'd been fine before. He reached the point where he had more bad days than good days. We'd lost him. His health had checked out several times. Riley wasn't Riley anymore.
Today was the day we said goodbye. It hurt watching him as his fears would get the better of him. Today was also the day he's been more himself than he has in weeks; months even. I think he knew. He helped me eat some beef jerky. He got a cheeseburger and he got to spend some time at our favorite park. He was Riley. When it came time to go to the vets office, he didn't react the way he usually did. There was no fear aggression. He just stayed close to me and hid his face when he could.
This was my first dog. I'd had a dog here and there for a few weeks at a time growing up but Riley was my first dog that my parents couldnt give away or get rid of. He helped me feel safer in my apartment when my husband was at work. He alerted us to potential dangers as we traveled across country or between duty stations. He helped raise two very young kittens. He's always been in Shasta's life since I brought her home. My kids don't know a time that Riley hasn't been with us.
Like I said, physically he was healthy. Mentally, he'd always been a little off but recently, he was a completely different dog. He was no longer the happy go lucky love everybody he met dog. No more tail wags, no silly body wiggle dances when you talked to him. Riley was locked in his own head and there was this other dog in his place that looked like him. I may not have always liked him but I always loved him. He was my dorky boy.
Riley passed away this afternoon with his head in my lap and my arms wrapped around him as best I could. Today, he was himself. Today was one of his rare good days. Today, he was Riley. He was my puppy boy. Before they came in with the medicines that would send him to a forever sleep, he relaxed. For the first time in a very long time, he was completely relaxed. He left us as the dog he once was. It was like he knew why we were there and was relieved that he would finally be able to rest without fear getting him. As he went to sleep, I told him how sorry I was that I couldn't do more to help him and that now he didn't have to be afraid. No more fears, no more stress. He was okay to sleep. As I told him that we would be okay without him, that's when he went. My big boy went to heaven knowing how much we love him and how much we're going to miss him. I know that as hard as this has been, it's what he needed to be at peace finally. No more demons for my boy. He can wait for us at the bridge. He's free to be a puppy again; to chase bubbles and snowflakes and maybe even a cat or two since I don't think anyone will tell him not to anymore. There's a hole right now.
I know he and my cat Princess have probably met by now and are making plans on how to scare my husband in the middle of the night when he returns home.
RIP my sweet silly sometimes aggravating boy. You were my handful puppy. You fit right in with us because you were just as hard headed and stubborn as we were at times. Love you knucklehead.
Here are some pictures I took today while he was himself. His last day with us.
My kids saying goodbye to him, their first dog.
RIP Riley. My handsome pain in the butt. We love you and we'll see you again someday.