Five years ago we made another office visit together, but this time only I walked out.
Riley was not my first pet. There had been Patsy, the tiger cat who was a present for my seventh birthday. Patsy, also grey, was a friendly but independent feline. He loved to rub up against my leg, and his purrrrrrrr went on forever, but he was also a hunter and not infrequently he showed up at the front door with the present of a chipmunk in his teeth. We were together until I started college, and he chose the wrong time to cross the street.
I was sad when Patsy died, but it was different with Riley. Riley and I were a team. So much as we could do things together, we did. Not only did we explore the trails and paths of Forest Park, but he went with me to the Cape where he got to run on the beach (off season) and explore wooded trails near cranberry bogs.
Almost immediately friends started to ask if I were going to get another dog. I thought about it, even explored some shelters online, but I kept coming back to this: I didn’t want another dog; I wanted Riley.
In the meantime, my friend Angie became ill. Angie had a chihuahua named Kat to whom she was devoted, and every time she had to go into the hospital, she would call and ask if I would take care of Kat until she got home, and each time before she left the hospital, she would call me to be sure Kat was home when she got there. She didn't want to be away from her more than she had to. Then one day she didn’t come home, and Kat remained with me.
Kat is a lovely dog. Unlike many chihuahuas, she is not yippy, but extremely affectionate. She likes nothing better than to climb on me, nuzzle into my neck, and lick me. She demands little except attention and affection. She only barks to tell me that there’s someone at the door whom she welcomes with a wild wag of the tail once she sees who it is. But, she isn’t Riley.
So in those early days after Angie died, I asked around for another home for Kat. I even visited one place that seemed a good fit, but it didn’t work out. So days went by. Every day I would put out her food in the morning, then sit down to eat my oatmeal by the window, and after she had eaten, she would come and look up at me expectantly, and I would pick her up, and she would lick my face. Every day I would take her out for a walk around the block, and neighbors began to know her name and talk to her. Every day as I filled the bird feeders, she would follow me outside and chase any squirrels who happened to be nearby. Every day I came to understand that Kat was Kat, different from Riley, but special in her own way.
I think our relationship must be like a second marriage after a long and happy first marriage. It will never be the same or as sweet as that first, young love, but it is rich in the way that age gives us perspective to see what’s important and what’s not.
Recently another mammogram and another biopsy has again delivered bad news, and tomorrow I will begin chemotherapy. I don’t know where this will lead, but I do know that when I return home, this tiny tan soul will greet me with unlimited love and loyalty, and what better medicine is there than that?