This week, I have been thinking a lot about our relationships with our pets instead of humans. My love of the last eleven years, Riff, (he's the one in the photo) decided on Friday that he wanted to go to the great hunting grounds in the sky.
Riff and I have always had a somewhat complicated relationship. I wasn't sure I even wanted to get involved with him from the start. My co-workers had picked him up wandering around the state park where I worked, saving him from incarceration in doggie jail. They found his temporary owners, and were told he needed a new home, as he had been abandoned by his original owner. I was still grieving the loss of my last canine love, and was not sure I was ready for a new one. We met, and although we kind of liked each other, weren't sure it would work. As I often did in relationships, I took him home anyway!
From the start there was conflict. He felt he should be the Alpha male, and although he would concede living with me most of the time, he was a wanderer. I tried to keep him at home, but at some point just decided it was up to him and his higher power to take care of him. For those first few years, he stayed with me most of the time, but would occasionally find other families he liked in the neighborhood and he would move in with them for a while. He became the wing man of Looker, the neighborhood Alpha dog, and they kept it safe for all who entered. Riff loved to walk to the beach, and would go on his own, or with many of the neighbors on their daily sojourns. He became rather famous in Irondale where I lived.
Then the trouble started. He loved to chase cars. He got ran over several times, and suffered a broken pelvis. Reluctantly, he began to see that I was the one who took care of him, and he grudgingly let me believe I was his Alpha female, and he quit wandering. When my husband entered the picture about eight years ago, it was clear to Riff that Tom was an Omega like him, and should be treated as an equal. This never changed, he always saw him as a brother, and me the pack leader.
Five years ago, we moved to Discovery Bay, and Riff lost much of the freedom he had known in our old neighborhood. To get to the beach from here meant crossing a busy highway, and we knew he could not resist the temptation. He settled into middle age, and this last year had suddenly seemed much older. It didn't help that I brought home a large bratty one and a half year old female named Opa. When he injured himself jumping a small ditch last week, I knew that he wanted to go. I was with him at the last, and I loved him deeply. I miss him so!