A year in the life of our Miss Riley


We’re coming up on a very tough time of year for me. Three years ago on June 20th, we lost Xander. Riley’s one-year is coming up a month later, July 22nd. It only hurts when I think about them, but I miss them every day, and their loss is a hole in my heart.

I’ve customized my Facebook Memories to not show me anything from June 10th to August 31st. When the Memories first started popping up, they were a mostly nice surprise — a photo of Riley would pop up and I’d remember the circumstances surrounding taking the photo. But recently, it got into posts about Xander not eating, or Riley getting fussy about food. I relive these moments often enough without Facebook reminding me.

Today is World Pet Memorial Day, so I’ll remember them all.

Riley, my Princess Miss. Xander my protective bruiser. Penny, the cat who came to stay for a while. Daisy, my in-laws’ gorgeous Golden. Chase, my dad’s sweet greyhound. Percy, my first escape artist rat. Gryphon, Galileo, and Byron, the inquisitive but more introverted rats who followed. Kerwyn, the mouse who would keep me up at night running in his wheel. Darwin, the frog that came to me in college from a head of lettuce. Tommy & Tuppence, nun finches who cheered me with their songs and died way too soon. My seventh grade science teacher’s menagerie — Tootsie the ferret, who pooped in my desk; Toby the turtle, who also pooped in my desk; Chip and Dale the chipmunks; the tree frogs my mother almost killed the year I was allowed to bring them home over the holidays and had to leave them in her care for 2 days.  Mickey, the hamster who would eat the seeds from my watermelon. Teddy, my childhood poodle to whom my grandfather would sneak beer.

I am grateful to all of these creatures, who brought love and laughter into my life.

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Throwback Thursday: Percy


Meet Percy. He was my first-ever pet rat (I’ve had 5), and I got him under rather unusual circumstances: one of my college roommates had a boa constrictor and Percy (and his littermate Darcy) were actually intended to be snake food. The snake (which for some reason was named Baby even though he was freaking huge) was in a somewhat dormant period and didn’t want to eat. My roommate handed the box of rats to me and said, “You need to keep these in your room, or I’ll never be able to feed them to Baby.”

I have no idea what made her think I would be able to hand over rats I’d met, but the next day, I handed her money and told her to get new rats when Baby wanted to eat and under no circumstances was I to ever meet them.

Darcy, sadly, didn’t last the week. Percy almost didn’t either, but I found a small animal vet who was able to save him: he had pneumonia (Darcy had it too) and would be on tetracycline off and on for all of his life (hence the eye droppers in the shot glass in the photo). But in spite of that, he was a smart and happy rat, the first and finest of the rats I cared for over the years.

He would climb all over my bedroom, then curl up in my lap while I was studying. He wouldn’t run in his wheel; instead he’d lay across it with his food. The routine was go to his bowl, pick out a morsel, then go to the wheel to sit and eat it, repeat. When I wasn’t at college, but I wasn’t with him, he became Houdini. He used to break out of his tank and apparently go looking for me. Once he did it when our house was filled with boxes as we prepared to move, and my mother despaired of ever finding him again, but he came out and sat by his tank, waiting to be given ice water, as if it was perfectly normal for him to go on walkabout.

Apparently I have a history of pets with extremely strong wills!

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Beltane Basking

Happy May Day, everyone! Riley joined me in my sunporch office today to enjoy the sun. She paid no attention to the bluejays on the birdbath right outside the window, but when two deer trotted through the back woods, she went on high alert. Homestead safely defended.


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April 29, 2015

This morning when I took Riley out, I got a bit of a shock from a literal snake in the grass. I was reaching down to examine some violets that are cropping up all over our lawn, and boom, there was a garter snake that I thought was a stick. And Riley had just walked over that same spot. Poor thing probably came out to sun itself and didn’t expect to get stomped by a dog. I poked it with a stick and it took off into the lilies. Better that than have Riley get too interested in it.

Later today there was more excitement. Our energy company was out doing routine safety checks and found a gas leak in our pipeline. Suddenly there were a half-dozen trucks and about 15 dudes swarming in my street. The guys were really nice and the ones who had to come talk to me or check the house were only too happy to give Riley the attention that is her due as a spoiled princess. We’re all safe and happy in our home tonight.



Sun Dog

It turned out to be a beautiful day today, and Princess Miss Riley went on walkabout to survey her land. She graciously let the two deer she spotted graze in her turf, but only after one heck of a staring contest.


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Snow Puppy…Again

All winter, the weather has been crap, but we’ve also mostly escaped the Big Snow that New England has been experiencing. Until today. Last night when I took Riley out, it was raining and foggy. When I took her out at 5.30 this morning (sidebar: she slept through the night without having to go out!!!!!), it was snowing and clearly had been for a while — there was at least an inch on the ground. And it just kept coming — the snow didn’t stop until around 6 pm. I wish I wasn’t so sick of winter — I would be a lot more appreciative of the winter wonderland-ness of it all (though I did squeal with delight to see a fox in the woods today).

On the plus side, all the snow means Riley didn’t have nearly as far to jump off the porch, and though it’s a bit of a slog to walk in, it also seems to keep her upright. And of course, she loves to poke around in it.


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Riley may not have a concept of TGIF, but I sure do. Long, long week with a lot of stuff I classify as “not good” going on, but I’m seeing signs (I hope) that things are looking up. For one thing, I had a very good chat with Riley’s vet today. He considers her officially better from the colitis, and now it’s just the slow trek back to normal food levels and adjusting meds. I am so grateful for that, and I know Riley’s grateful to be eating more food.

Then today I saw the First Sign of Spring, even though it only hit 30 F on the thermometer: a half dozen robins and one Hermit Thrush stalking the exposed bits of ground. To celebrate, I hung my bird feeder for the first time in a long time. Not a lot of customers, but our mated cardinal pair visited, as did a Dark-Eyed Junco, a Tufted Titmouse, and a Song Sparrow.

Riley actually even seemed to take note of the sparrow, who was scurrying along the ground while we were outside. How my almost blind dog saw a tiny brown smudge moving along equally brown ground, I’ve no idea, but her head was definitely tracking the sparrow’s movement.

All in all, a good day for critters, but most especially Riley.



Sniffing Expedition

Today, for the first time since the snow came a few weeks ago, Riley was able to do her normal circuit around the house — poke in the bushes, check her pee-mail, the usual. I was just thrilled she was up to it — though a little leery of the fact that there was a distinct skunk funk around the bush she was really interested in…fortunately, no skunk, but worth keeping an eye on in future.


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Throwback Thursday: Animal Pals

I think this is the Best Commercial Ever:

Riley’s not the cuddle-with-other-animals sort, but we did catch her being friendly a time or two over the years. One of my favorites was in 2003, in our first house, when my in-laws’ cat Penny had come to stay for a while:


In case you’re thinking Riley looks a little guilty but also sorry-not-sorry, it’s because this pre-dates our giving in and just letting her be on the bed. Her stubbornness wore us down!

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The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Seriously, what IS it with dogs and poop? We’ve been walking Riley on a leash in our own yard so that we can make sure she doesn’t get into deer droppings or anything else out there, and doing so, we’ve realized just how much there is out there for her to get into. Today I steered her around two piles of deer droppings and something else I could not identify, except to say it wasn’t deer and it wasn’t hers — this latter one had me jumping quickly because she went from sniffing around it to actively trying to chomp it in seconds. Sure, she was always interested in it and would nibble on deer poop every now and then (in fact, that’s part of why she’s currently in recovery), but not to this degree of zeal.

Honestly, I think now she’s into it because we have her on a restricted diet — she’s had rice in chicken broth for two days now, and only this evening did I add cooked chicken back into the mix (which thrilled her). I hope the return of the chicken means a return to self-restriction on the poop. And if not, well, we’ll stick to keeping her on a leash.


Hmm, which do I like more: chicken or poop?

ETA: the very definition of “spoke too soon.” Not 5 minutes after I hit “post” on this, Riley’s digestive system let the laundry room floor know that it’s still not happy. I can only guess the cooked chicken was the culprit, so now I feel guilty as hell for trying to rush recovery. 😦


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