August 3, 2021
One of the more difficult transitions to our new house has been our dogs. We have two dogs. The “little” one is a 50-pound Shepherd Husky mix, Bailey, and our other dog is a big Great Pyrenees Lab mix, Lucy. They are very confused about the new surroundings, new smells, and new people. They are both sweet dogs but are scared, and so it is taking them time to adjust.
Pets teach us a tremendous amount about the world, and how to look at it from a new perspective. I had a dog for several years who my parents describe as “the dog I always wanted.” I had pets growing up, but they were always a little quirky. Then, for our first Christmas, my wife gave me Riley.
Riley was a golden retriever mixed with something else. Wherever I went he would always stay with me. Even if we were staying at someone’s house, he would find me and sleep on the floor on that side of the bed. He was tremendously patient and sweet. For example, both my oldest two daughters learned to walk by grabbing onto his fur while he was sitting and would pull up to standing. Then, he would slowly walk around the house as they gained their strength and footing. We did not need a fence around our yard or a leash on walks, because we trusted him.
One day, we were in our backyard and our oldest daughter was toddling around. She was exploring the yard and looking at things while Riley and I were playing with a frisbee. All of a sudden, Riley sprinted straight at our daughter and forcefully knocked her down. She started crying and tried to get up, but Riley stood over her and would not let her stand. I yelled at him and tried to pull him off her, but he would not move.
This was confusing and scary to me. He had never acted with aggression toward her before and had not even accidentally knocked her over as he was always very careful around small children. It was not until I finally got over to them and started looking around that I discovered why he was acting so strangely. Coiled near them ready to strike was a huge black snake, and Riley refused to move because he was going to stand between our child and the danger. Riley had seen or smelled what we could not and had knocked our daughter away from the snake and would not move until she was safe.
That day was a wide pendulum swing of emotion for me and has forever changed my life. From one perspective, Riley was a big dog who had knocked down and stood over a small child. But from the perspective of a loving pet and protector, he was saving her.
I hope your pet is the kind of pet like Riley was. If everyone could have a dog like Riley I believe our patience, love, and care for one another would be exponentially greater. Riley died in 2013 after contracting cancer. I continue to grieve that loss in my life but am forever grateful for his continued presence in it, and definition of worth. Our love and trust for one another is the greatest power in the world. It is not force or coercion, but our love and the lengths we will go to express it. Riley taught me that, and I hope we all have that powerful love in our lives.