Home Night Light by Jamie Miller Requiem for Riley: a farewell to my furry four-legged brother

Requiem for Riley: a farewell to my furry four-legged brother

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A column straight from the unorthodox mind of Jamie Miller. Often written during the middle of the night, Miller provides reviews of TV shows and movies, books, and details life through from his perspective (artwork by Abby Haywood/The Collegiate).

By Jamie Miller – 12:25 a.m.

Hello dear readers, it’s me, the night dweller Jamie Miller. I am here to bring you another issue of Night Light. However, unlike usual, I am not bouncing up and down at my computer happy as a hound dog running home. No, tonight I write with a heavy heart, as one of my main inspirations and best friends is no longer with me. Tuesday we had to put down my dog – no, my brother – Riley. And as a result this Night Light is going to be a little different. It will not be as “goofy” as I’m sure you’ve all come to expect from this column. So please, read on.

What can I say about Riley? We’ve had him since I was in about… sixth or seventh grade. I have trouble remembering as he’s been a member of my family for so long I am hard-pressed to remember a time I didn’t know him. If I’m being honest, I have no interest in remembering that time. You see Riley was a black ball of sunshine. I have trouble remembering a moment he wasn’t smiling, his big tongue hanging out. Whenever he sensed you were upset there he’d be, his head on your leg, just looking at you with his big bronze eyes so full of love. And you always felt at least a little better. Every time.

Riley was willing to do anything and everything for a treat (Jamie Miller/The Collegiate)

There was more to Riley than just his sunny disposition: he was a very smart dog. We put a bell that you’d hang as a Christmas decoration on our sliding door, and whenever Riley had to go out to use the bathroom he’d ring the bell. Relentlessly. It’s funny, I used to find that so annoying that he’d do it constantly as he loved being outside, but now I’d give anything to hear that bell ring again. Riley could also balance a treat on his nose and hold it there until you said… Spartan. Then with a quick flip of his head he’d be chopping on that treat happy as a lark. Not to mention his ability to shake, sit, lay down, play dead, or stay.  But he never quite mastered that last one. You see, Riley always liked to be in on the adventure. I remember when I was younger during the winter me and Riley would just run right through the snow banks. If I happened to trip and fall in the heavy snow, he’d stop and wait for me to get up before resuming our fun.

However, the one thing Riley loved even more than playing… was food. All kinds, whenever I was eating Bugles there he’d be lined up with our other two dogs, oddly enough, in order of biggest to smallest. Never quite figured out how they managed to do that. But every time I’d be eating something they’d all walk away with something, Riley often with multiple mouthfuls as he would eat his bounty in the kitchen then look at me asking for more. Not to mention his love of putting his big black head on your plate. Or the time I lost focus and he slowly pulled a sandwich out of my hand while I was busy texting and by the time I realized… my sandwich was gone, it was in his belly.

He was also the kindest dog you’d ever see. Riley despised violence, if one of our smaller dogs wanted something Riley had, often he’d just let them take it. He was the bigger dog, both figuratively and literally. I just remember he’d often lay for hours chewing on his Kong, or Kongy as we called it, working the pieces of the treats out. Our other dog Siggy would often reap the fruits of his labor, but Riley didn’t usually seem to care. There were times I often wondered if he just enjoyed the challenge of it. 

A part of me seemed to think Riley would be here forever. But alas, that was not the case. His whole life Riley had health issues, namely seizures. They were some of the most heartbreaking and frightening things I ever saw. We had him on medicine for the seizures, which helped him in the short term, but may have hurt in the long term. For the last few weeks of his life, Riley was acting strange. No longer was he running around with a big smile on his face. He wasn’t eating, or wanting to go outside. He wasn’t even barking at my mom while she slept in the chair as he always did. I kept telling myself it was nothing, he’d be better the next day. But he wasn’t and one day turned into two, then three. So my mom called the vet on Tuesday morning and scheduled an appointment for later that day. I remember the car ride over there, and suspect I will for a very long time. He seemed happy, better. Somehow I convinced myself and possibly even my mom it was nothing, maybe a blockage. Which while not good is at least treatable. I was wrong. They had taken him in about a half hour before the vet called us. We had to wait in the truck due to the pandemic. On that call she said the words that hit me in the gut like a jackhammer. Liver failure. His life was at an end. We all responded differently. My mom started to sob. My step dad seemed to keep his feelings bottled up. I felt a rage, a possibly unjustified rage, but a rage nonetheless. In my head I blamed everyone I could think of. I blamed the people who made the anti-seizure medicine: “How dare they not warn us that it could kill him?” I blamed the vet: “It’s their job, how could they not save him?” I even blamed God: “ If you’re so all-powerful why did he have to die, why did he have to have these health problems, why couldn’t we have more time with him?” Illogical, I know, but then again when you’re grieving you aren’t logical.

We went in, and they brought him to us. My mom and step dad seemed to think he was unaware, but privately I suspect he knew something was wrong. We must have been in there for an hour. But to me at least, it felt like the blink of an eye, not nearly long enough. The whole time I was laying on the floor with him, my head nestled right by his neck as I often did on the carpet, but this time I heard no complaints from my mom about laying on the dirty ground. They came in, and by that point Riley was breathing very heavily due to a combination of the sedative they gave him and the fluid caused by the bad liver. They gave him the fatal shot. I heard his breathing slow, then stop. He was gone, my “Herbivore” was gone. The car ride home was silent, I don’t think I uttered a single word for most of that day afterwards. I just clutched his collar.

Let this be a lesson to you readers: let your family and friends know you love them, especially your furry four-legged ones. 

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