Riley was an only dog for a long time. Well, when I count, it’s actually only about two years. But still. He was an only dog for the first part of his life. And then his world expanded by three dogs when M. came into the picture. It was a full doghouse. It was also about the time his litttle-dog anxiety grew.
And then, attrition. His favorite of the new dogs died unexpectedly and young just before we moved from Florida to California. Puddin’ was like a mom to Riley. She was a fierce-looking chow, but she had a soft spot for Riley.
It’s a bad picture, but you can see a little of how they mirrored each other. If Pud was curled up one way, so was Riley. And not a care in the world on Riley’s part. She was his protector and his mom; they were very cute together. We thought that it would end up just Riley and Pud in the end, since they were our youngest two. But that’s not how it turned out–she was only five years old when she died of an undetected heart ailment.
That left two dogs, plus Riley. A few years later, we lost our oldest of the dogs M. had rescued, Tinker. M had found her on his lawn, super-tiny, at only six weeks of age. Liver cancer took her at age 14.
Then, it was just Riley and Little He.
Little He. OMG, he was pure love– absolutely the sweetest soul, and a lesson to us all. He loved everyone and was the gentlest of dogs. I loved him. He’s come to me in dreams since his passing, so I think he loved me, too.
He loved Riley a lot.
And although it seemed like Riley ruled Little He with an iron paw, it was a more complicated relationship than that. He counted on Little He to be his protector.
And also to show him the safest places to potty.
Less than a year ago, Little He left us. We were all heartbroken. Riley looked and looked for him and was out of sorts for some weeks.
But there was a bigger issue. Where would he potty?
As an only dog, Riley was more than capable of finding a safe potty spot. But–no more. He simply wouldn’t go out in the yard alone. Going potty became an ordeal.
First, we all had to go outside with Riley. Not just M and not just me. All three of us had to go out with him in what we began calling “The Potty Train.” There was the engine (Riley), a car (M) and the caboose (me). And we all had to go down the potty track.
Riley would search and search for a place to go. There seemed to be no safe place after Little He left us.
When I suggested to M. that he could pee in the yard first so Riley would feel safe, he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I thought it was perfectly reasonable.
I even walked out there and tried to model lifting a leg (clothed, of course.) M. laughed so hard he nearly fell on the grass. I don’t know what was so funny.
We’d beg and plead.
“Come on Riley, go potty. Go potty!”
Of course, M accuses me of being this:
a helicopter dog mom. Guilty as charged! I am completely neurotic about protecting this dog and keeping him safe and comfortable. I wanted him to have a healthy digestive system and that required regular potties. Who could fault that?
So, we begged. Or rather, I begged.
“Come on, Riley, go potty.”
Now, if you know Riley like we do, you know that he can be stubbornly resistant to instruction. So we must repeat our pleas over and over. And now we have new across-the-fence neighbors who can hear everything. They don’t have to beg their dog to potty.
It’s true that he has a perfectly usable potty pad in his room and he can use it if he wants. But we’d rather he go outside. So, we beg.
I”m a little embarrassed. Well, alright, the truth is I am not embarrassed at all. I’ll do whatever it takes.
Because I am madly and passionately attached to this little creature.