Riley (2000-2011)

It all began with Riley…

Neither Donna nor I recognized a shared desire to bring a dog into our lives, lying dormant, obscured by other responsibilities. However, that desire was inflamed after a friend brought a puppy into his life. We knew it was time to bring a dog into our life too. I researched breeds and breeders, attending local dog shows to see how they behaved in person. After concluding that Flat-coated retrievers possessed all the attributes we sought in a dog, we decided upon a breeder. In short, we wanted this dog. Then, we met him.

Riley was an energetic, independent, strong-willed puppy with stubby sausage legs and a cute pot belly that I couldn’t resist patting. As with most puppies, his tail constantly wagged to and fro, like a metronome stuck at its fastest setting. Before he was old enough to bring home, I visited several times so we could become acquainted with one another. During my first visit, the breeder allowed me to take him to a nearby park to play. Instinctively he already knew how to walk on a leash, offering an early glimpse of his remarkable intelligence. After meandering aimlessly and pausing midway up a hill, I could see he was growing fatigued. Sitting on a large rock it was time to give the little guy a chance to rest. I picked him up and sat him on my lap—it’s as if this happened yesterday—and he laid there, gazing attentively at the passers by roaming around us. In that instant, during that very first visit, we bonded, deeply. I loved Riley, and he loved me.

He grew to be large, for a flat-coat. Weighing in at 95 pounds and taller than most males of the breed, he was a big boy. As he transitioned from puppy to adult, we continued to enjoy the times he would lay in my lap, or perch over my shoulder. This became more complicated as he approached full size! I still treasure those lazy Saturday mornings where we all hung out, listening to music and Riley sprawled out on top of me. Possessing all the characteristics unique to Flat-coated retrievers, he always had a toy in in mouth, ready to fetch in an instant.

Despite his size, he was remarkably gentle and patient. I’ll never forget how he was able to convert my niece from being deeply fearful of dogs to longing for their company. He implicitly knew to be careful with her and would drop down to the ground allowing her to approach first. This would not be the last person Riley won over throughout his eleven incandescent years.