I love animals. I love all the “things’ they can give to us. Owning a dog or a cat is such a wonderful experience. It is the saying goodbye that is so stinky.
Today I had to say goodbye to my freckled face, catahoula mix, Reilly. It was his time. No regrets. But a very heavy heart.
I adopted Reilly, over 9 years ago from the SPCA of Texas. At the time, I was doing a lot of fostering for them. Besides the fostering program for animals that needed to find their forever home, the SPCA had a program called “Pet Haven”. It was a program for folks that were going into shelters or had other difficulties and needed a helping hand in caring for their pets on a short-term basis. Providing their application was accepted, folks like myself, would take the dog and foster for up to 8 weeks at no charge to the owners. We all know from past experiences with hurricane Katrina, human shelters don’t take animals. Many of these folks were in domestic violent situations and would not leave if they had no place to put their dogs or cats.
Reilly’s story: There was a homeless woman living at a Budget Inn Motel and she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. No one knew she had a dog with her and no one knew what hospital she was in. The hotel didn’t find the dog until 2 days later when they went to clean the room.The SPCA was called and they picked up the dog. It took the investigators two days to find this boys mom.Lots of chats back and forth, lots of paperwork and 3 days later, this lady still had not signed the paperwork to get this dog into the foster program. So he became the property of the SPCA.
Since I was the one that was going to foster him, I thought I would go take a look to check him out. Charlie, who was my only dog at the time, needed a playmate.
Three visits later, I decided he would come home with us. Not only did he get a new forever home, he got a new name. Reilly, or O’Reilly as I called him many times. It is amazing how little I really knew about dog behavior and body language in those early years. Reilly taught me a lot.
Who knew that the behaviors the behaviorist and I witnessed at the shelter, were ones that would create havoc in my home.
It’s because of Reilly that I learned so much about behaviors to look for in a companion. It is because of Reilly that we tried so many dog sports. And it is because of Reilly that I write this message now.
Together, Reilly and I tried l a list of dog activities until we found one that he liked. We tried agility, he only wanted to pee on the agility field; we tried flyball, the box noise scared him to death; we tried tracking, he was great…. I stunk because I couldn’t read my dog; we tried dog modeling, he was so photogenic and loved this; we tried barn hunt, he was ok, i was less than ok, and we tried Dog Scouts. AAwww, finally something we both loved and did well at.
Really, what I think Reilly liked the most, was that we got to spend quality mommy and me time, with none of the other household dogs. Just him and I. Lots of hugs and kisses, many fun activities to do, and we always shared some special treat. An ice cream cone, a sausage roll, and of late, a Starbucks.I started seeing some changes in him a year or more ago. Sometimes they were little things that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, was it behavior, was it physical? Many times I didn’t really know, but somehow the changes got incorporated into our daily lives.
Then a few months ago, things sort of changed. I started wondering at that time if he was telling me he was ready to move on. This is where it gets hard. Making the best possible decision for my boy. Making sure he was not suffering and in pain, but also making sure I was not jumping the gun, Until you have to make these decisions for one of your beloved furry friends, you will never know how hard this decision is to make.
For me, I don’t do well with the “unknown”. I like to know…I like to have all the information I possibly can, so I can make the right choice. I weigh all the facts, I listen to my gut , my head and my heart and most of all, I try to listen to my dog.So, another test was scheduled for Reilly, and it came back with what I feared, liver disease.
In my head I thought, one more Dog scout meeting, let us make it to the one memorial day weekend and then I would decide what needed to be done. One more meeting so we could have some quality mommy and me time. One more meeting so I wouldn’t have to say goodbye just yet.
But Reilly just couldn’t hang on for that “one last meeting”. He was deteriorating pretty rapidly and was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. So today was the day we decided he would fly to the other side to meet all the ones that had passed before him.
I know Reilly was ready to say goodbye. We went for a short walk by ourselves last night. With lots of treats along the way. And we went for one last Starbucks this morning before our appointment. He, with his whipped cream and me, with my drink.
Reilly said goodbye quietly, with wings and a prayer. And as a friend put it, “I pray he had a soft landing on the other side”.
Safe journey my friend. Whiskered kisses and puppy dog hugs. Until we meet again…………