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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Recently Steeler and I, late as usual, rushed into the hospital lobby where we were greeted buy other therapy dog members with their dogs ready to spend some quality time among the patients. I was grappling to pull my visitation papers out of my pocket to hand to the secretary as Steeler was negotiating with me, on his terms of course, to greet the well behaved dogs that were waiting for the last of the latecomers.

Hmm, something is different. I thought. Someone is missing.

After getting my papers and my dog in order, there was time for a quick chat with club members before visiting with patients and suddenly the thought whacked me in the head like a ton of bricks and I realized who it was that was missing.

Riley, a Golden Retriever, confidant and partner of Dugan the Irish Terrier, and the loyal companion of his owner Connie, was not on this day, at her side.

Connie and I quickly came to a meeting of the minds standing in the lobby as she told me that Riley had to be put down due to illness. It was a painful decision for her and so as not to further her pain in this very public place, I chose just to say, I’m sorry.

It was fast approaching 2 PM, visiting time, which left no time for details  and I knew that if it were me in that position, I could not have uttered a word about the why or the how, nor do I think I could have been so brave as to even show up for a visit having gone through something so recent.
Connie is strong, I thought.

Just before heading down the corridor Connie pulled a picture from her pocket. This was my first glance at her new arrival, another Golden. The picture sported a small pup with a very big bone lying in front of it. This pup could not have come at a better time, a time when one is not really looking, a time to keep you so busy it takes away some of the sorrow. Somehow I think that makes it even more special.

Riley was there from the very moment that I first stepped foot onto that gym floor, the very same gym floor which harbors the Susquehanna Trail Dog Training Club, a club that opened up a whole new world for Chance, Steeler, and I many years ago.

Everyone grieves loss differently, circumstances happen that get us through it, and we move on to love yet another pup that comes our way. Memories always remain and we sometimes find ourselves comparing one dog to another, especially when one is causing trouble where the former one would not have! We are blessed to have had them in our lives and lucky to have shared them with others.

Riley my friend, we will miss your ever presence among us, and we will remember the wonderful way you made people feel as a working therapy dog.

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