For almost 13 years, he was my best friend.  He made sure we were “protected” from squirrels.  He was the “dog bell” that let us know when somebody was at the door (or when a dog was within 500 feet of the house).  He was always ready for a snack (or another bowl of food).  He was in absolute bliss when he could roll in the grass, especially if there was something very stinky around. 

Riley had Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).  DM is a fatal, progressive, degenerative disease of the spinal cord. There is no treatment or cure for the disease and in time it leads to complete paralysis.  It is similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease in humans.

For the last two years, Riley was in a dog-wheelchair.  At first he started in a 2-wheeled chair when he lost mobility in his hind legs.  When his back legs became fully paralyzed and his front became weaker, he had a 4-wheeled chair.  With this, he could still go for walks and “read the paper” as dogs do.  The disease also affected his lungs, so his bark was disappearing.  Sometimes, he would bark, but no sound would come out. 

Through it all, he gave us his big smile every day.  His love and devotion never diminished.  His mind was bright and alert, even when his body betrayed him.

Riley was known for his big, happy dog smile.  Sometimes we would let Riley lay out on our front patio, under a big shady umbrella, so he could watch the world.  The UPS guy would come by and talk to him on his route.  Some neighbors would actually pull their car over, lean out the window and talk with him.  At first, I wondered what was going on when I heard these voices, but then my heart swelled with joy knowing that Riley was beaming love to them, and they were giving love to him. 

At times, when people saw Riley in his wheelchair, they would comment about how good it was that we continued to care for him.  For us, there was no question, as we would do anything for him.  He was part of our family and we loved him.  It was worth everything just to see that look in his eyes.

My heart is raw and the light of my soul dimmed with the loss of our little furball.  I try to remind myself he is in heaven, chasing squirrels, eating ice cream, and destroying squeaky toys and is still watching over us as he’s always done before.

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.