The Life of Riley

With great sadness, we said goodbye Tuesday evening to my constant companion of a dozen plus years. Riley had major surgery two months ago after which she was diagnosed with cancer. Recently, it had spread to her brain and we knew it was time. A vet came to our house to help her go and we had the great privilege of being with Riley at the end of her life. She left in a way that was profound and peaceful.

In the way that the karmic world works, I received an e-mail yesterday from Laura Brunow Minor letting me know that a photo essay that I had submitted several months ago on the subject of “what I have learned from my pet” would run in the new Pictory Magazine and it would be launched today–remarkable timing that felt like yet another quiet gift from Riley’s remarkable soul. Here is my essay from Love Without Language–be sure to read all the photos stories as they are wonderful.

Riley was a big part of my photo life. From an early age, she discovered the camera. Whenever I set up my black velvet backdrop, she would simply plop herself in the middle of the fabric, ready to work. I often had to get her out of the frame as she wanted to be part of whatever I was doing. She had the patience of a saint, allowing me to cover her face in masks, wear wigs, be humiliated, and wait quietly for her reward.

Arrangement in Green and Black #20, Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother

Arrangement in Green and Black #11, Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother

Converse, from Self Portraits

The Star, from Hollywood at Home

Most importantly, Riley brought so much joy to our family. She loved my children, always happy to have them return home from school so she could participate in their activities–she attended basketball games, dressed up at Halloween, and joined in on the slumber parties . She also loved anything to do with water–swimming in friend’s pools, running through every sprinkler in the neighborhood, loving our trips to the beach or lake where she could be free to swim and explore. The highlight of one summer at the lake was when Riley emerged from the water with a huge eel and was greeted with screams and fascination.

I can still hear the tinkle of her collar, feel her presence in my house, hear her sigh. I know I am not alone in understanding that our pets are gifts and wonderful teachers, making us better by teaching us how to love, how to be loyal, how to live each day smelling the good smells, being happy to see friends and family, and savoring every last morsel of life. Thank you, Riley, for loving me so completely. I will miss you until the day we meet again.

One thought on “The Life of Riley

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