What Pets Mean To Us

It has been almost a month since we lost our dear sweet hound dog, Riley, and while this is still difficult to write about I am ready to share and to share why this has illuminated for me why we do this job. Myself and our staff of pet sitters and dog walkers at Stable Hands Pet Care are all pet lovers. I am uncertain if one would start a pet-sitting dog-walking business without being a pet lover because we understand what pets mean to us. Riley was dear to our entire household and his loss has hit us hard.

It was from natural causes but still unexpected. It wasn’t how I wanted to lose him. I wanted that last good day. I wanted to give him a steak breakfast, the chocolate cake he always wanted, and the love of family at home before saying goodbye. Instead, I ended up sitting on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel late at night, stuck in traffic, listening to his labored breaths as I attempted to reach the only emergency vet taking patients.

What has helped me to release the importance of our pets to us isn’t how Riley went out but the after-effects of his loss. I still feel him, see him, sense him. Riley remains a presence in my life. Let’s back up to how Riley came to us. Riley started as my niece’s dog, and when he proved too much for her, he became my sister’s dog. From there Riley got into trouble with the authorities and was banned from Stafford County.

How we met

We met him, loved him, and took him in. The first night he was at my house I had tickets to a concert so I left him at home, and he was less than thrilled. Not only did he whine and cry the entire time, he peed and pooped on the floor and destroyed a few blinds. Riley never fully overcame his separation anxiety but this first episode remains his worst.

I trained Riley, I worked with him for hours each day to help him get over it, I desensitized him to my leaving, and helped him to understand even when we left we’d be back. On the last day of Riley’s life, we left him at home to go to Busch Gardens and had a pet-sitting and dog-walking staff member come by to walk him. Typically this means we’ll be gone for at least a couple of days. Riley was so happy when we came home and he realized we didn’t leave him.

Our pets are so important to us and losing them is tough. I still look up expecting to see Riley running whenever a piece of food accidentally drops on the floor or to be sitting on the couch waiting for attention. In the mornings and evenings, I still think I have to take him out. We never truly let go of the things we love and they never let go of us. Over time they reside in lower and lower chambers of our heart, but they never leave nor do we want them to. Riley was a special dog, and his love for myself and my family demonstrates why our pets are the best of us, and what they mean to us.