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She had always been terrified of dogs. Her family had always had cats. Growing up in farm country it seemed as though there were big, scary dogs everywhere. There were two German Shepherds that lived next door. They were tied up outside nine months out of the year and were so mean. She mowed that neighbor’s lawn and was terrified every time She had to go there. Her 10-year-old mind decided that if the dogs came after Her, She would just run them over with the riding lawn mower. The only reason She felt safe playing in Her yard was because they lived on 2 acres. There was a lot of space between houses!
She lived out in the country, but She lived on a very busy highway-type road. The speed limit was 50 or 60 miles an hour and many semi-trucks used the road because it was close to a major highway. One particularly scary day, She was riding her bike past the house with the dogs when their chains broke. They came after Her. The dogs’ house was right before the 2-way stop sign that met the highway. The highway road traffic did not have to stop. She would normally turn left towards her house and have to ride on the busy road just for a bit. But the dogs were after Her. So She just kept riding. Straight through the busy road without stopping. She hoped that the dogs would not follow Her. She didn’t even think about that traffic in that split-moment decision. She was across the busy road and a mile down before She stopped and looked to see that the dogs did not follow Her. She was so relieved. But then She started sobbing because She realized She had ridden across that busy road without stopping. She could have been completely taken out by a semi. She stayed there for a while crying and collecting herself before turning around to go home. She was hoping the owners had those mean dogs chained up again.
Twelve years later, They decided to get a dog. They had just bought a house and He was dying to have a dog. He had had dogs his whole life. So She agreed. She was thinking a toy-cup poodle or something less than 5 lbs. and not scary. He was thinking Boxer. The first time He showed Her a boxer, She just started laughing. She was not having a dog that looked that scary. But He really wanted one. So She researched online and found out that the cover did not match the book inside. They were supposed to be really sweet, loving, good family dogs. So She agreed.
Being newlyweds who just bought a house on one income, They didn’t have much money. Buying a Boxer puppy for $1000 was out of the question. So They started researching rescuing one. They found a one-year-old Boxer through a friend of a friend. Within a week, They brought their first baby home. They named her Riley. She was a beautiful brindle Boxer with the sweetest face She had ever seen. She and Riley quickly became best buds.
After Her miscarriage, when She would just sit and sob and sob, Riley would come and put her face on her knee and looked at Her as if to say “You’ll be alright. I’m here.” When they brought Baby Girl home, Riley warmed up to her immediately. She was very protective of her. When She would just sit and sob again over Little Girl’s diagnosis, Riley would come and put her face on her knee and look at Her as if to say “You’ll be alright. I’m here.” It was the same when they brought Little Man home too. The kids loved her too. They would play in the backyard and snuggle when inside. By the time they brought Sweet Pea home, Riley was 9-years-old. That was pretty old for a Boxer. She had slowed down quite a bit. They assumed it was old age. Riley seemed uninterested in Sweet Pea; she seemed resigned to being 4th on the totem pole now. They celebrated Christmas and it was the first time that She forgot to get Riley a present. She always bought her something to tear open on Christmas day along with the kids. But with the stress of having a new baby, She forgot. She swore She could see the disappointment on Riley’s face that morning.
About 2 weeks later, on a Monday night, She was tutoring local high school kids at Her house. It was an extremely busy night because exams were coming up. Before She started tutoring, She let Riley outside. They had a big backyard and She was able to let her out to play. After She let her out, She set to tutoring. He was putting the kids to bed. She totally forgot about the dog. He came down after getting the kids to bed and let Riley in. She collapsed on the floor. He called for Her. She quickly sent the tutoring kids home and went to Her first baby. Riley couldn’t get up. The dog was whimpering and shaking. She felt terrible. It was all Her fault this had happened. She had forgotten to let the dog back in and left her out in the cold.
He put Riley in a blanket and carried her to the car. She had to stay home with the kids. It was very late at night. She sat and sobbed and waited. And waited. And waited.
Then He walked in the door alone. Crying.
Riley was gone. When they got her back to the examining room, they did an x-ray and discovered that she had cancer everywhere. There was really nothing they could do.
They were devastated. She never understood people being upset over losing a pet. She had never had a dog. Now she understood. She wasn’t sure how She was going to function that next day. She had to tell the kids. The house was so, so quiet. She missed Riley. Over and over again, She would be so thankful for that dog. She healed Her of Her fear of dogs. She saw Her through some very difficult times. She was Her buddy through thick and thin. To this day, She still misses her. There will never be another Riley.