It was like yesterday. I remember it so very well. When I got up in the morning, the first thing I would do is let the dog’s out. Riah and Mackey. Riah, a female Alaskan Malamute, was adopted from the SPCA at the age of two. It had been a few year’s since I had a pet and decided I was ready. Looking at the dogs in the shelter always overwhelms me. All the choices, different breeds. Wanting to rescue them all. Was standing in the walking yard when I looked over and there she was. It stopped me for a moment how big and beautiful she was. Thirty minutes later I was driving her home. Had always had small breed dogs, what was I doing with such a big animal? Fortunately, a large backyard and love is all she needed. The bond was instant. I adored her and she adored me. For eight years that love grew. Her trust in me was nothing I had experienced before. She learned commands easily, and it became her duty to please me. It also was mine to please her. We spoke to each other and communicated through words, but mostly with our eyes. We knew everything about each other. Every second of each others life. Love. So immediately unconditional, accepted, wanted and adored by each.Had shortened her name upon adoption from Miriah to just .. Riah. My beautiful girl. My Riah. It fit her.
It was a beautiful day in Charlotte, NC. The Friday before Martin Luther King Day. As usual, I got up and let both Riah and Mackey out. Grabbed some coffee and sat to watch the news. Strolled into the kitchen, and out the back window Riah was just off the patio. Flat on her side laying on the ground. Mackey was by her side. There had been no alert. No barking. As I went to her side the first thing I noticed was the shock and trauma in her eyes. Her breathing was shallow. She was in great pain. How did this happen?
Running to the phone to call a neighbor, I knew I needed help as the emotion was clouding my thinking. My neighbor came and gently examined her to try to determine where the pain was. What was wrong? Riah started to move, become more oriented to her surroundings. It was her hips. We came to the conclusion she had lost her footing and fell in great pain. She slowly got up, walked into the house and lay next to my bed. Riah fell asleep.
The vet didn’t hesitate to see her that afternoon. Confirming what I already knew. There was not a big exchange of words, there was no need. We had talked of this before.The complications of big dogs, the weight, their spine and hips. I had been aware of this for a year. Watching her closely. I knew. I knew this day would come, but I did not want this day to come. Not ever. How dare this day come! Steroids and pain med were sent home. After a while, she became herself again. But I knew I had to face this. The second dose of medication was not so easy. She accepted the pain med, but refused the steroid. She had never refused anything out of my hand. Not ever. It was perfectly fine. The next time she went into the backyard, I found her laying up next to the side of the house. She felt incomplete. Weakness exposed. No longer able to run without pain through the backyard. I knew there was no fixing this. Sometimes love is so complete, so understanding, so very thorough, the knowledge of what to do was immediate. There was no doubt in my mind that letting this go on, the pain getting worse, was just not an option.
I started to plan out our last weekend together. Her favorite toys. Quiet walks. She adored waiting for the pizza delivery at the front glass door. How very excited she was to come tell me the pizza delivery had just pulled up to the house. I never thought twice about my decision. It was always the right thing to do. Every ounce of my being still believes she knew. It was her acceptance of this, how she communicated with her eyes. How she relaxed after I made the decision. How we loved each other and enjoyed that weekend. Every single moment.
The weather was just as pleasant on that Monday of Martin Luther King Day. I knew I could not hesitate for long. I would break. Driving with Riah on the way to the vet was one the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. It was Riah herself that kept me strong. Enjoying the fresh air out the window. Looking at all the countryside scenery. Being a dog enjoying a car ride. I stared at her. Many times.She was shaking as I was. We both were shaking something awful. She held her head high. She was strength and beauty and was facing this day with such honor.Such strength. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
Many times over the years I still find her beautiful hair. In the car, attached to the end of my slacks after I stand on the rug where she would sleep. Means the world to me. Always will. Humbled. Honored. Blessed.
I love you my dear girl. I love you.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.