Thursday, August 22, 2013

Goodbye Riley

I didn't think I could ever hurt over a dog as bad as I did on February 24, 2010, but I was wrong. That was the day that Tucker left me. Tucker had taught me more about being a good dog man in thirteen years than I learned in my previous 46 years. He showed me the rewards that loving a dog can bring. But he couldn't tell me how big of a hole would be left in my heart when he left. Luckily, he left his son Dakota and a young dog named Riley from Oklahoma to help me get through my loss and back on the hill.
The past two weeks my heart was torn apart once again. Riley, who toughed through an operation on his right knee and then his left knee last summer and three operations on his right front leg this summer, finally lost his strength. He had some minor seizures and strokes and each one showed more pain for Riley and less emotions. With pain medication he would come around and every so often show enough excitement that I was sure we could find a solution for him to at least live a good life in the living room.
On Monday we took Riley down to Dr. Koob, a good friend and great dvm, to have him put down. By the time we had got there, Riley was having one of those good moments and we decided against saying goodbye. The pain pills had done there job for one more night. Tuesday was back to 15 minutes of good time followed by a half hour of pain and then 10 hours of tossing and turning trying to get comfortable. I was hoping and waiting on one more test that could possibly help Riley live. The call came and it was confirmed that it would be unfair to Riley to keep putting him through his suffering. The test showed there was no chance of improvement.
So Wednesday night, Riley was helped up on the bed, to his normal sleeping spot between Barb and I, so we could have our last night together. Jake and Dakota joined us for a while but were soon let out because Jake wanted Riley to play and Dakota had no clue at what was going on being that he has doggie dimensia. Although Barb and I have been shedding tears for the last two weeks over Riley we still had plenty left for the night.
At about noon today, August 22, 2013 Dr. Koob helped Barb and I with our final goodbyes to Riley and he is now with Tucker scouting the area for when I join them. I am forever going to wonder if I should have taken Riley on the mountain as often as I did, him being so tall. Then I think about how I hope I depart from this world. Man, how Riley lived. Man. how he lived.

Riley's obituary:
If there was such a thing as a chukar hunting hall of fame, Riley would definitely belong there. In his six years of hunting chukars and huns he pointed and retrieved 2,690 birds. All wild birds and mostly on tough and steep terrain. Add to that, at least twice that many points where I missed shots or birds flushed for whatever reason, and that is one heck of a lot of fun on the hill produced by one dog. Although we didn't hunt quail much, Riley helped my grandson, Conner with his first limit of quail. Conner was only ten years old and Riley held every bird for Him to get into shooting position.
Riley was often treated as royalty around the campground. I remember one hunting trip when a young couple asked if they could accompany Riley and I while chukar hunting. They brought there pup, Neka along with hopes of getting some pointers. We stopped on a rock outcropping for a drink and to talk a little about chukar hunting with dogs. John and Debbie Carter hadn't seen Riley point yet and were asking questions about what to look for in Neka when we looked down the hill and saw the big guy locked on point. We had no idea how long he had been there while we were talking, but John moved in for the flush while Debbie took some pictures. I don't think we got a kill on the shot but I received a beautiful picture of Riley's point for Christmas that year. The picture of Riley will always be on my wall to remind me of his greatness and of all the good friends he has brought my way through his abilities.
Riley also drew much attention because of his size. In reality, Riley was too tall to be a chukar dog, which might explain his knee injuries and broken front leg over the years. Riley weighed between 85 pounds to 95 pounds depending on how many days in a row we had hunted. At that weight he still had ribs and backbone showing. Riley also had an overbite and had dental work done on his teeth his first year. It was probably a good thing he was never allowed to be a papa.
Riley covered the country like I never saw other dogs do. On a typical day most other dogs might cover twenty miles to Riley's fifteen but he usually found the birds. He knew how to work the wind and I swear at times his long nose scented birds three hundred yards away and he beeline to them for the point.
I have been retired the last three years of Riley's life so we became very attached. He was always there to assist me. We had our routines and knew what the other was going to do at the same time. He knew where I was in the house at all times. I couldn't make a move without him knowing. Whenever I went for a snack he knew it and soon received his portion as well as the other boys got theirs. He was a great traveling companion and we always shared pre hunt and post hunt snacks. One bite for you, one bite for me type stuff. Riley always shared the back seat with other hunting dogs when someone else accompanied us. His half was usually in the middle but a sharp bark usually set the boundaries. There was never a bite.
He was always a gentleman in the camper and not be a pest when visitors came. Although he liked listening to us talking hunting from the luxury of the couch he would retreat to the bed if asked. If we were camping close to other campers he never wandered to their camp, preferring to stay home. That made it easy at night time to just open the camper door and let him outside to relieve himself . He'd get the job done quickly because he'd just as soon be inside cuddling.
Too tall Riley must have had some bad joint problems even when he was young. He never jumped into the vehicles. He always waited for me to lift him. I even had to coax him to get his front paws in so I only had to lift his hind end. It didn't matter if he could step right in, he still waited.
Riley had one annoying fault. He liked rocks. Especially rocks in the pond. He would stick his head under the water and maneuver a rock until he could pick it up with his big mouth and than bring it over to me to see his prize. Sometimes the rocks were close to ten pounds or more. He would continue gathering rocks and before long I had 15 or 20 rocks laying next o me. There were times when he got bored hunting and he'd pick up a rock that went rolling down the hill and pack it around for a few minutes. Somehow he passed that trait on to Jake who is doing the same routine around the house.
You could stop by my house almost any evening that we weren't hunting to find Riley sitting on my lap and watching tv with me. Yes, Riley was also a 90 pound lap dog.
He wasn't your typical GSP. He didn't steal food off the counter and cause much trouble. He didn't chew things up around the house, although it was his custom do go into the bedroom and grab my muffy boots. He'd bring them into the living room and whip them around to get my attention. That was my cue that he was getting bored and needed me to get off my tail. With that being said, I remember coming home to an upset wife one summer afternoon. We owned a large shallow pond that the ducks frequented. Barb explained to me that my dumb dog wouldn't listen to her and come out of the pond. Sure enough, I found Riley standing in about two feet of water and he wouldn't come out even when I called him. Riley was seven months old at the time. I immediately knew what the problem was. He thought he was stuck. I took off my boots, waded out to him, lifted him over about two feet, put him down, and out he ran. Earlier in the summer he performed the same actions when he stepped in the middle of some puncture weeds. He wouldn't move until I moved him from the weeds and pulled them out of his feet. So early in Riley's life I learned how his mind works and tried to always be there when he needed me. I know he was when I needed him.
Only once did I ever see Riley unhappy with humans. That was the day Barb, my daughter Kerri, my grandson Conner and I picked him up at the airport. He had just come in from Oklahoma and somehow they had lost him. An hour and a half after the flight had landed they finally found him and his kennel. Kerri used a few choice words to help motivate peoples search for Riley. As we left the exit door, Conner took Riley out of the crate and onto the grass so he could relieve himself. He peed but held back the poop and walked over to the cement in front of the door and left his sign of disdain for his treatment there. He was already making us smile. By that night Conner had picked Riley's name.
Summer exercising Riley was easy. We'd go down to the deep pond and he'd find a young duck or goose to chase around. They usually wouldn't or couldn't fly so they would let Riley chase them around and then dive as he got to them. he would spin circles in the water until he saw them come up and then the chase was on again. Sometimes he was swimming for over an hour before coming in.
He also loved going with me shooting clay pigeons. He would get almost as excited when I would load the pigeon launcher as he did when I headed towards the door with a shotgun. He would help me get everything set up and then would sit in the truck while I shot at clays. After shooting 20 or so shots I would let him out to help me collect the pigeons I missed. It was amazing how he could find the pigeons I missed and bring them back to me unbroken. I think maybe he was coaching me and letting me know I needed to pick my hitting percentage up some.
I believe dogs can reason more than we give them credit for. I know it hurt Riley to see me leave with Jake. The two of them became great friends. Both at home and on the hill. While at home they wrestled constantly before he broke his leg. After that I had to keep them apart so Riley would heal and things would be back to normal. For three months we just hung around the house doing pretty much nothing so we wouldn't get Riley too excited and reinjure his leg. Jake and I took occasional hikes in chukar country but by far not enough to burn energy from a pup. It's the first time I've got to see what people mean when they say there GSP is hyper. It may be stupid, but I didn't want to hurt Riley's feelings by letting him see me or Jake having fun without him. We had finally gotten to the point where the two of them could spend a little walking time in the yard together when the blood clot must have broke. It was down hill from that day on. Through all of Riley's operations he never showed signs of pain until the stroke or seizures came. We would put him on the pain pills he had for his leg operation and it helped him with the pain. He had so many good moments when he was on pain medication that I knew one more test would reveal a solution. The final test showed that I was being very selfish and that each time he went through these painful episodes they were getting worse and he was slipping further away from me. For that I am very sorry, but I wanted to keep Riley with me so bad. The only thing I ended up accomplishing was making it harder on him and tearing more heart out of Barb and myself.
So, it's with a very heavy heart that Jake and I will continue up the mountains I frequented so often with past dogs. The pain will somehow diminish as Jake excites me on his accomplishments. I will stop by at the rocks Riley and I hid under in a snow squall and cry a little knowing that was the spot Riley and I discussed the fear of this day he would be leaving me. One day Jake and I will be having that same discussion. I won't say never, but Jake will probably be my last dog. Dakota will soon be departing of old age. His departure will hurt but it will be easier because of his long life and he has gotten plenty of couch time and easy living as he deserves.
The day Barb and I picked up Jake, he became family just like Tucker, Dakota, Riley and the dogs before them and he will get the same love and affection as the others. He already has taken a huge place in my heart and will tear it apart one day. I hope it's many years from now. When that day comes my heart will hopefully have enough left in it to dedicate to my human family who has been so patient with me and my dogs over the years. Maybe it will be time for Barb and I too enjoy a simple life together.
Thank you Riley for your dedication. I will forever miss and love you.