Friday 14 March 2014

The trouble with dogs...

... is that their lives are too short. Earlier this week I said goodbye to my dear old dog - my collie Riley who provided me with more than a decade of loving companionship, artistic inspiration, joy and laughter, and now the deepest of sorrow. 

Having animals in my life is, to me, essential. I simply love the presence of a four-legged critter (or two, or three) by my feet, or in my lap, or accompanying me on a walk. Over the years there have been cats, dogs and horses, as well as smaller beings like gerbils, guinea pigs, fish, and even a hermit crab named Buster. Each contributed to my understanding of the ways of their species, their physical nature, and their individual personalities. They have been part of my growth and development as an artist and have shaped me as a person. 

Sadly, I also understand all-too-well the heartache that comes when it's time to say that last goodbye, particularly to an animal who shared my life as intimately as Riley. I've heard people state they won't have a dog out of fear of the emotional pain they know is to come. However, I view it as the price to be paid for a dog's all-too-brief lifetime of love and devotion. At the moment, I'm acutely aware of just how hefty that price is.

The pain of losing Riley is deep. My sorrow is triggered by moments of the day that bear her signature: our before-breakfast walk, the nudge she'd give my arm at lunchtime when she wanted her biscuit, our afternoon rambles around the neighbourhood or through the woods, her sigh of contentment as she settled down to sleep beside my bed. It will take time before my sadness over her death no longer overshadows my happy memories of our life together. I know that eventually the art she inspired me to make will bring smiles instead of tears. The hole she left in my heart will heal but the mark she made on me is indelible.

"I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?" - Sir Walter Scott
Goodbye Riley. Good dog.

I've written about Riley before, most notably The Aging Princess and The Dog Days of Summer. My friend Jean, who cared for Riley during many of my travels, has also blogged about her, including her recent eloquent post Farewell to a Friend Well Loved (I advise having a box of tissues handy).


  1. Despite how painful I know this was to write, you have expressed yourself and your relationship to Riley so beautifully, so perfectly, that it moves me to tears. Riley was a wonderful colliegirl, a delightful guest at my home, and a great friend.

  2. Riley was a beautiful dog, inside and out, and a faithful companion to you. Take good care of your heart, Deb.


  3. Such as wonderful dog Riley was...a royal greeter to all and one amazing dog that will be remembered! I am so blessed to have met her and honored to have shared her presence...and to you my friend ~ hugs and from Oliver Twist ~ a kiss!

  4. Hi Deborah,
    I was clicking around artists websites and saw your blog post. I'm now tearing up remembering my precious Sadie who passed away 3 years ago I still miss her dearly! Thank you for your lovely words expressing the deep companionship and love these cherished friends bring to us. Take Care Caroline Scagel (Mayne Island)

  5. ....."having animals in my life is, to me, essential"............. I could not have put it more clearly. Thank you. And for mentioning that the pain is still worth the years of devotion and loyalty. We have so much to learn about how to treat each other from dogs. From horses. Cats. You are a gift to us all Deborah, for you capture, in words and in art, how animals enrich our lives. I am so glad I met you. The video of Riley was PERFECT. xoxo Cristine

  6. My thoughts are with you deb I am honored to have met riley Take care Heather S

  7. I'm so sorry to hear of Riley's passing. such a lovely dog. My thoughts are with you.