Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Saying Goodbye To A Best Friend

 I've written before about how crucial I believe animals are to our emotional well-being, especially those of us coping with chronic illness. They have ways of sensing our pain like many people never could. They have the ability to empathize with us in profound and surprising ways. Suffering doesn't feel so much like suffering when they're beside us.

In this March post, I first introduced my two wonderful pups - Riley and Lily. If you've spent any time with me, you know I can't go very long without mentioning something about them; you know they're on my mind and my heart constantly. It's hard to explain just what they mean to me, but they're my family... and I think that says it all.

Our gorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog, Riley, was diagnosed with  Canine Lymphoma in 2007 - a form of cancer that is all too common in this breed. Although I was starting my senior year of college and couldn't be home during that time, my mom took him for regular chemo treatments (he was such a good patient that he even offered his paw to get the IV!). With fantastic medical care and the love of our family, Riley beat cancer and still managed to remain the goofy, amazing, and affectionate dog he always was. To this day, our vet calls him her "poster  boy." In our hearts, we knew that every day we had with him was a gift, but it was easy to forget about the possibility of his cancer ever returning.

Lately Riley has been unwell - he's had eye infections, an odd cough, and has just seemed sad. We've taken him to the vet several times recently, but there was no definitive answer until last week when his lymphnodes began to swell. On Friday it was confirmed that his cancer had, in fact, returned. We were devastated, but still hopeful that another round of chemo might do the trick. I spent the day with him on Friday and, as the day progressed, he had a harder and harder time breathing. All I could do was talk to him and try to soothe him, but it hurt to watch him suffering. By the time we brought him for his first treatment that same night, his lymphnodes were so swollen that he just couldn't breathe. It all went so terribly fast. As my mom and I watched our sweet bear pass away, it was easily one of the worst nights of my life.  We are all heartbroken.

No matter what else was going on, Riley's sweetness and warmth remained constants in my life. I knew I could always return home to him bounding toward me, overjoyed by the simple fact that I was there. Riley could brighten any moment and had a certain look that made you feel both comforted and adored. He even stood up on his back legs to hug us! He reminded me to enjoy the simple stuff in life. For example, I'll never forget his favorite pastime:  repeatedly barrel rolling down the hill in our backyard just because it filled him with joy. I loved how he fancied himself a lap dog (all 110 pounds of him) and always positioned himself perfectly for back rubs. His passion for food was unparalleled (who else could put away 13 bagels at a time?). Riley was truly one of a kind and anyone who met him knew that.

 Although the void is tremendous and I'm missing my Riley every minute,  I need to focus on what a gift he was. I am so much better for having loved him.


Ps: My blogging will become more regular soon - I'm working hard to get everything back on track...


  1. Oh heck got me sobbing here, I have 2 cats at the moment, have had several previously, but no one who hasn't had and loved an animal can understand the void when they go.

    **hugs** to you

  2. Thanks for sharing with us Maya. What a beautiful gift Riley was.

  3. Oh, Maya, I'm so sorry. Riley sounds like such an amazing dog and a huge support. It sounds like you have so many lovely memories of him.

  4. I am so sorry, I know how much a pet can help. Just last month my cat passed away.

  5. I am so sorry for the loss of your special pet. I know how much it is to love a furry being.

    Also, your blog is amazing. You are a beautiful writer. You are so brave and such an inspiration to live at the fullest-no matter what.

    I am one of those people who are afraid of even going to the doctor. It is so inspiring to see how brave you are very day.

    You will get better-my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. I can't tell you how much these comments helped me - it's nice to share Riley's legacy with people who understand the beauty and importance of an animal's love.

    Anonymous: Your comment made my day - you can't know what it means that my story has somehow inspired you. It makes the pain worthwhile. If you'd like to connect, you can always e-mail me at mklaub@gmail.com
    I'd love to know more about you.

  7. Two yorkies and a dalmatian here. My furbabies manage to brighten even the darkest of days for me, make me laugh when I'm sure that there isn't a thing to smile about. I'm so sorry Riley isn't with you anymore but his love for you will be with you always like a paw print on your heart.

  8. Oh, my goodness, 3 years of lymphoma remission is amazing - but never enough when it is a beloved family member. I am so sorry about Riley. We lost our dog, Belvedere, 5 years ago when our son was a baby. Because of my illness, we have not adopted another dog. Yet, Bob, who was only 8 weeks old when Bel died, knows all about him because he is still an important family member to us. Bel was a dog who made our lives better every minute that he was with us. My heart still jumps every time a see a dog that looks like him. But finally, the grief has mostly passed, and instead, I smile thinking of our lives together. I am thinking of you and Riley. Be well, Jen

  9. AnnEnigma: I'm so glad you have the love of your pups and understand it's power :) There is truly nothing like a dog and I so appreciate your comforting words. Hug your three babies a little tighter tonight for me, okay?

    Jen: You're right, those 3 years were a gift and I have to remember that. Belvedere is the best name ever -hearing about him gave me tremendous smile and it's clear that you understand just what I'm going through. Thank you so much for reaching out and for thinking of me and Riley and during this time xoxo