First of all, I want to thank you guys so much for your kind words. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy, but having the support of my family, friends, readers and fellow bloggers has been incredibly helpful. I can’t thank you enough for your kindness. Reilly, my 13-year-old Black Labrador Retriever, was the best dog I could ever dream of having, and I’m so grateful that she was mine for so long.
Please excuse me while I take a trip down memory lane.
I love the story of how Reilly became part of the family. My parents got her at my high school’s annual auction, back when I was 15 years old. My mother apparently freaked out upon walking into the gymnasium and seeing the little black lab puppy. “I really want her,” she half-jokingly said to my dad. “Oh my God,” my father probably responded. Dogs just weren’t my dad’s thing. It’s not like he hated them or anything; he just wasn’t exactly a huge fan. (My mom, my brothers and I were obsessed, so we made up for him. ;)) But being the awesome husband and father that he’s always been, he walked over to the table where the little puppy was, and put a in bid. And won.
That (school) night, my parents barged into my room (at 11:30 p.m., mind you), shook me awake, and plopped a puppy–completely covered in poop–on my bed. (She’d had a few accidents on the carride home.) I, of course, started screaming–partly out of disgust (I mean, she was quite the smelly mess), partly out of shock, and partly out of complete and utter joy. I couldn’t believe it. My parents tended to really think out their decisions, and they weren’t ones to do something like that on a whim. “I had to have her,” Mom explained. Dad just stood there, laughing. And then everyone hugged. And bathed. And did the laundry.
It really was one of the best days of my childhood.
The family quickly fell in love with Reilly. (Dad included.) How could we not? First of all, she was absolutely hysterical as a puppy. Every time she did something “bad,” it was clear that she did it just so that we’d chase her around the house. She couldn’t get enough of that, haha. She ate my birth certificate and grabbed the turkey off the table at Thanksgiving. She stole countless socks and shredded nearly every magazine my mother brought home. She actually failed out of puppy training school at PetSmart. (Sounds a bit like Marley and Me, huh?) Oh–and I loved this: She was all about doing laps around the inside of the house, but really didn’t like going on walks or runs outside. She would lay down on her belly on the sidewalk (or sometimes in the middle of the street), legs sprawled. Sometimes my mother would have to carry her back to the house.
As Reilly grew up, she maintained a lot of that spunky personality, but we also discovered just how incredibly loveable and kindhearted she was. I never once heard her growl, and she almost never barked. When she wanted to come in from the backyard, she would bark once–and only once–at the window. If no one came, she would simply sit there and patiently wait for us (sometimes for a long time). While she could be quite the beggar, she would lick food out of your hand so as not to hurt you when you’d finally relent. If ever someone was upset, she’d do whatever was necessary in order to lick his or her face. (So sweet, right?) She loved being hugged around the neck, and would happily let you use her as a pillow while watching television. Oh–and she adored belly rubs. She totally knew which people gave the best belly rubs, too. (Grammie and our neighbor, Mrs. Behounek, were her absolute favorites. She would immediately roll on her back upon seeing them.) She was also great with children. We had a lot of them in our neighborhood when we first got her, and every time one would grab her, get a little rough with her, or accidentally hurt her, Reilly would simply wag her tail. Because of her amazing demeanor, my mom eventually got her trained to be a therapy dog, and Reilly frequently visited a local long-term care facility and home for people with developmental, emotional, behavioral, and neurological disorders. She was also the veterinary staff’s favorite visitor. ;)
Reilly loved me unconditionally, and reminded me time and time again of what is most important in life: love. I guess that’s part of the reason it’s so hard to lose her. Throughout the ups and downs of life, she was there waiting for me when I got home–whether it was every day from high school, on breaks from college, or whenever I could get home from New York City as an adult–offering licks, wags of the tail, and hugs. (Anyone else’s dog lean against knees to hug?! So cute.) She was a constant.
I know that Reilly was a dog, but she was truly part of our family. So for now, I’m going to cry. But I’m also going to remember what my mom–and so many of you–reminded me of today: that soon, the sadness will fade, and while we’ll still miss her, we’ll mostly be left with wonderfully happy memories. I love you so much, Rei. Good puppy.