Our beloved River has passed. His fifteen years on this earth and in our lives were marked by joy and unconditional love that can only be shared between humans and dogs. River came to our home during a difficult season for our family.
Candy and I were separated and at the time and it was unclear if our marriage was going to survive. Candy and our children had relocated to Louisiana and River was a rescue that our children, Haden and Erin immediately fell in love with. Tiny with a few black curls, River a pug and poodle mix was separated from his equally as cute brother who had even more curls. River’s spirit from the beginning was characterized by excitement for the world around him. He would energetically explore our home, the cabinets that he could access, and on occasion would find his way unaccompanied about the yard and even the neighborhood.
I certainly can’t credit River for keeping our family intact during those difficult months, but I like to think that he helped.
There has been so much grief in our family recently, that we have barely had time to process the loss of River. It is strange to feel such deep and complicated emotions for this creature. River was my boy. My good boy. Even when I was having a bad day, and would say harsh things to him, his tail would still wag with joy.
Candy loved River and even composed a song that she would sing to him. She sang “That’s my little bitty baby boy” in their last moments together. As with all animals, it is impossible to know River’s thoughts and feelings. With our beloved pets we can only project upon them what we are feeling, but if River’s expressions of delight in the wagging tail and happy feet when we were in his presence is any indication, he knew that he was loved.
River never knew a night without a home. River never experienced not having something to eat and drink. He always had a comfortable bed, often sharing a couch or chair with one of us. River always had a toy to play with and enjoyed scuffling with us as we would pull it away. River would growl, pull, and play but he would never bite. He was gentle even as he expressed his “wild side.” River was content.
In some ways, I envy the contentment and simplicity of my River’s life. I would do well to learn a bit more contentment with having my basic needs met. Indeed, I have much more than my basic needs met daily. I have a home, a job, a comfortable bed and plenty to eat, but so often I find myself exhibiting a fraction of the gratitude River showed daily.
I was with River at the Vet’s office, in those last moments when he breathed his last breaths. I carried him into the room in his favorite blanket, he was relaxed and at peace. My hand was upon him as I felt his body expand and relax for the last time. Silently, he departed this world. When you live with the constant presence of a faithful companion for fifteen years, when that loved one departs, he is missed greatly. I keep expecting to walk through the door to find that River has returned from an extended stay at the kennel, but then I remember that River isn’t coming back home.
The morning River left us, I sat in my car and cried. I caught myself, and then laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. River was just a dog after all. But man, what a good dog. The best. I used to think that animals were just soulless creatures that are limited to this time and space. I hope that I was wrong about that. I hope dogs do go to heaven, because I really would like to see River again.
I love you River. You are missed baby boy.