gratitude-a-thon day 573: the life of riley: how i became a dog person

Riley and Tiger, a toy that he’s had since birth (you should see him now). We got him when he was four months because another family was allergic to him. I feel like they got him for us. He was always supposed to be ours.


I didn’t used to be a dog person.

I never liked barking, or stupid dog tricks, or people who talked about pooches like they were real live people. I never thought pictures of dogs were cute, or funny, or stories about dogs were cute or funny, or the dogs themselves were cute or funny. I didn’t understand the concept of a dog being like  a child, or a companion, or a best friend. I didn’t get people who went on exotic vacations and missed their dogs, or people at work, who wanted to know what their dog was doing, I wasn’t moved by sappy dog food commercials, or cute patterned leashes, or the full range of fashion items available for puppies.


I didn’t get it. None of it. Not one thing.

And then I met Riley.

And everything changed. In fact, I seriously will say that my whole life changed. For the better. Because I became a dog person. I will come out and say this silly thing, which is that I love Riley in the same way I love my kids. I would do almost anything, hell, I’m going to go ahead and say ANYTHING for him. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Riley is the best person I know.

Today is his seventh birthday. He’ll get a big, fat bone that will make him super happy. And in turn, that will make me super happy. Because damn, I love that guy. So much. More than you’re thinking. And more than I can even believe.

gratitude-a-thon day 422: when a moment is just the rightest



Could there be a better pillow? This morning, Riley cuddled up to me, and plopped himself down in the little hollow close to my chest. He’s pretty affectionate, but he isn’t always the one to initiate a cuddle, so I wanted to freeze the moment, because it felt like a perfect sliver of time, like when you’re holding a sleeping baby, or kissing the love of your life after a long absence, or slipping into a warm bed when you are shivering to the bone. You breathe in deeply, you stop the clock, because you know it will be gone in a number of minutes, so you try to memorize it, add it to the section of your brain that still has some room, so you can pull it out when you need it, when it’s freezing in the middle of winter, and you think you’ll have to wear your comforter to go grocery shopping. Mmmmm, it was that kind of moment. That kind of perfect moment.

gratitude-a-thon day 396: by any other name

Vacation Riley with his beloved Tiger, who came with him to our house when he was only four months old.
After the beach Vineyard Riley.
Beachy keen Riley.


Things I call my dog:

Noodle (Absolutely no idea why.)

Nu (short for Noodle, which I still don’t why I call him to begin with.)

Boodle (a play on Noodle, which, well, you know.)

Boo Boo (This has been going on for a long while. Again, the origins of this name are unknown.)

Cuteness (this is obvious)

Lovey, Loviness (Because.)

Buddy. High in the ranking. Often when walking. BECAUSE HE IS.)

Malou (Good GOD, this comes from I don’t know where, but it is possible I am mentally ill.)

Rue (Also another very frequent moniker. No rhyme. No reason.)

Mr. Adorable (Self-explanatory.)

Mr. Poo poo (Also self explanatory.)


God, I love my dog.


gratitude-a-thon day 273: a little healing here (i mean, if it’s not too much)


Dear Whoever is in charge, (God, Lord, Allah, Krishna, Jehovah, Oprah, the Bread at Clear Flour Bakery)

I know you are busy. This is your job to be busy. And that typhoon in the Philippines, well you’ve got your work cut out for you. But I have a little something. And I couldn’t sleep last night because of it, so I thought I’d ask, because when I’m tired, well, you do not want to know about me when I’m tired.

It’s Riley, my dog, (which by the way is God backwards, just saying).

Anyway, you might think that a dog is not really worthy of your attention when the world is essentially going to hell in hand basket (did you know that this expression is from the Salem witch trial days, when people were beheaded because they were suspected witches, and their heads fell into baskets? Yes, true. But maybe your already knew that, being who you are, the CEO of this whole circus). So, my dog seems to have some sort of back problem. Yes, I know, this is more proof that I really may have, as I’ve always heavily considered, given birth to him, since I have had a bad back since I was 20. He squealed last night and then wouldn’t walk and then we got him to the vet and the vet found a part of his back that made him yowl. He gave us some anti-inflammatories and told us to see how it went for a few weeks before doing an mri. My stomach did a gymnastics floor event that mimiced one of those awesomely flexible and spirited Russian 11 year olds, who always wears her hair so tightly pulled back you think she’s had a bad facelift, and is crushed if she scores a 9.9.

I feel so sad and depressed about this. I have a million questions. But mostly, I cannot stand that my poor little guy is in pain. He couldn’t even get upstairs to go to sleep last night and camped out in the front hallway. Was it something I DID, like pull him away from something he was smelling too long? Did my bad genetics plague him? A mother always blames herself.

Anyway, I barely slept a wink last night. And I still have a nasty feeling in the center of my stomach. So, like, if you could maybe send a little healing light down here, like during your lunch break, or something. Just maybe one minute’s worth. Before you return your phone calls and take a bathroom break. You could even do it when you’re in the bathroom. Especially, if it turns out your a girl, because you know how long that line always is.

Ok, well thanks in advance. We’re going to take our doggy Advil now. Good luck with today’s to-do list, I know it’s really long.

gratitude-a-thon day 256: I LOVE MY DOG


I used to not love dogs. There, I’ve said it. I’m horrified and sad that I lost all those years not having a relationship with the furry guys I now think of as the best people I know, but, well, there it is.

I didn’t exactly hate them. I just wasn’t interested in them. My dad brought a dog home and I wasn’t really prepared for him and he was too big and strong for me to walk, and so he wound up on a long leash in our yard, which wasn’t nearly the kind of exercise he needed. He was sweet, but we didn’t do training classes or pay the kind of attention we pay dogs now, so he one day, straining to get out and run free, squeezed past me out the front door and directly into the street, where he was instantly killed by a car and I was instantly scarred for life. My dad brought home two more dogs, the fate of the next one was exactly the same. The scar grew deeper. The third dog didn’t meet the fate of a car, but I was not able to open myself up to him, for fear he might be gone. So, as I grew up, dogs meant one thing and only one thing to me: pain.

My kids nagged for a long time for a dog. I was at least intelligent enough not to get one until I was ready to take care of one by myself. Because everybody knows even the kid who fervently, passionately wants a puppy, will not take care of one. The hunt for Riley was about six months long with lots of twists and turns. It ended with a casual email about a puppy five minutes from my house, who was flown here from a breeder in Minneapolis, and who was supposed to be hypo-allergenic and was not and now needed a home. It was love at first sight. He was ours within days.

All of this is to say that yesterday when Riley began yelping, and making that “pain” sound that dogs make,  I scooped that boy up and carried him to Angell Memorial, with total and complete terror in my heart. I sat in the waiting room sobbing, because I could see he was hurting, and there was no obvious reason for it. I was stumped. He hadn’t seemed to eat anything. He was just spontaneously in pain. My mind went on a vivid excursion of disease and death. And all I could image was a life without one of the best parts of every single one of my days.

The doctor could find nothing. Finally, we settled on the idea that he may have subluxed his knee and that it popped back in. He’d done this once several years ago. He hopped in the car and came home and promptly fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from his hosptial trip, the stress of having his anal glands expressed, and probably my intense psychic pain.

It’s hard for me to even understand how much my furry little guy means to me. He is the first one up with me in the morning. He practically throws a parade for me, when I even so much as return to the house after emptying the garbage, he is steadfast in his adoration, as he follows me around the park like a shadow. I know that he won’t be around forever, and that fact is as sobering as losing my closest un-furry people. But am I grateful this dog came into my world? Grateful isn’t a big enough word. Grateful doesn’t touch the feeling I have for Riley and how lucky I am that he causes allergies. But grateful will have to do.

this was taken by the fabulously talented rania matar ( i love it almost as much as i love riley.