by Mariann Kohnke
When you have loved a dog with all of your heart for almost eighteen years, he is so much a part of you that loving any other dog just doesn't seem possible. Bambi was part of my soul. The dreaded day I couldn't even think about finally came when we knew we had to let our angel go to a pain-free place. It is one of the hardest decisions anyone ever has to make.
Another dog? No, I don't want another dog. What I said was, "Now we will travel." What I meant was "How could I ever love another dog as I had loved my Bambi."
So why did I talk about dogs all the time? Why did I scan the adoption board over and over? Because my heart was breaking and though I didn't know it then, only another furry baby could start the healing.
Then one day there he was. The face I couldn't get past. "Dave come here," I called, "Look at this little guy." I tried to read the bio to him but the tears were streaming down my face. So he began to read and tears were welling in his eyes. Charlie wasn't perfect. How could anyone let a little dog's foot be broken and not have it repaired? How could anyone let a dog be so miserable that he would chew until his teeth were down to nubs? He had not known a safe and loving life, yet his spirit could not be broken. We were told he was sweet and affectionate. We knew then we had to bring him home where he was meant to be.
I gave a lot of thought to his name and decided he needed a new name to start his new life. I also knew he would be our boy forever and from now on he would only know love, attention and care. The name Riley came to me and played in my head like a song that wouldn't leave. Of course, it is perfect. He will be "Living the Life of Riley" from now on.
We had to wait five long weeks before we could pick him up in Biloxi on the way back from a trip. It was almost like a pregnancy, preparing for the baby and dreaming about what he will be like. Then the day finally came. We walked into his foster home and there he was. We were in love. Karen and Bill had spent those long weeks showering him with love, feeding him well and showing him that there are good people in the world who will love him.
Riley Charles Kohnke is his formal name now as he deserved a name with status. But for everyday he is our Riley. Our precious little Riley Boy that fills our hearts and has made our family whole again. Riley is five years old and had to be taught to play with toys, chase a ball, go for a walk, love car rides. We see him blossom everyday. He smiles more, he is so eager to please, his tail is in perpetual motion with happiness. We are a family. He belongs right here and we feel so blessed to have found him.
I am in total awe of these wonderful rescue volunteers who can over and over again take broken little babies and make them whole again then send them on their way with a gentle kiss to forever homes. They must shed buckets of tears when they go but manage to smile and wave as those babies drive away. They are truly angels.
Thank you all for making it possible for Riley to come into our lives.