The Life of Riley

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Story as told by Riley's Adopters

The Life of Riley

In March, 2000, I lost Max, my German Shepherd mix. My other companion, Murphy, my Aussie mix whom I had raised from a pup and was totally devoted to me, remained by side. Nevertheless, the house seemed huge and kind of empty after his passing. I had stumbled onto the BC Rescue site a couple of years before and my friend, Inga, had adopted a BC Rescue dog. I started checking out the website daily for just the right guy to join our pack.

One fine day in late March, I saw a picture of a Border Collie wearing sunglasses and a red bandana. I believe he was in his one ear up-one ear down pose-totally irresistible. I corresponded via e-mail with Jennifer Cobb in Portland and made arrangements to meet the wee lad on April 1, 2000. At the time, he seemed more interested in the other dogs than me, but then again I was a virtual stranger to him. The final test was that Murphy, who was 11 years old, had accepted him.

Riley (formerly known as “Mick” on the website) had brought some baggage with him-don’t we all. I stopped at my mom’s house on the way home since I would be leaving the dogs there initially until they got used to one another. My commute at the time was 1½ on a good day. Well, Riley would have nothing to do with “Gramma Noreen” which was quite frustrating to a life-long dog lover. It took a few days, but he realized that no harm would come to him.

No one but Riley knows what his first 2 years were like, but it was clear that it was not so great. To compound that, he was teamed up with an aggressive dog in the shelter due to lack of space. This dog beat the stuffing out of him daily and ate his food. He suffered a wound on his snout which got infected and abscessed and he lost 10 or 12 pounds. Thankfully, Jennifer and her friend showed up to save him, get him the medical treatment he needed, and provide him with the safety, security, and love that he so richly deserved.

When Riley was released by his owners at the shelter, they told the shelter people that he was cat-aggressive, I think dog-aggressive, and he really should be euthanized. WHAT A CROCK!!! I suspect they were just trying to hide their mistakes or possibly relieve their guilt because it is just the furthest thing from the truth.

The obedience training that Riley had must have been accomplished through negative reinforcement because he really did not like obedience at first. I found a positive program which uses reward and consistency rather than violence to achieve results and he has just bloomed!

When I was searching for a dog and when I adopted Riley, I wanted a dog who had the capacity to be a therapy dog. I believed, and Jennifer concurred, that Riley just might be that guy. We took a therapy dog prep class early this spring. On May 15th, just 4 days after I lost my baby girl, Murphy, at age 12½, Riley and I qualified as a Pet Partner team through The Delta Society (located in Renton, WA). My son-THE DOCTOR!!!

We have had three visits to the hospital so far. Last Friday’s visit was totally awesome. It was everything I could have hoped for. Riley was so attentive and empathetic. One patient asked to have Riley on the bed and there he stayed for about half an hour. An older patient was having coughing spells and Riley would go over to her and put his head on her lap and just look at her as if to say “Are you okay?”. My wish is that each visit could be as fantastic as this one. He brought smiles to patient’s faces and he was in seventh heaven.

So Riley the two-time loser, allegedly aggressive dog, left to be euthanized, has proved himself to be a contributing member of society and, in my eyes, more of an asset to society than the fools who abandoned him at the shelter. In a way, I wish they could see what they saw as worthless.

Riley’s kind heart has helped me through the loss of two dogs whom I loved very much and had for about a decade. I am sure he will continue to bring unconditional love to me and to many patients in the hospital.


Riley, The Therapy Dog, and I are in the process of getting him approved to visit the kids at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

I am very excited because this was my long-range goal before I even adopted him.  I know Riley and the kids will have a great time together.

Story from the Rescuer's Side

My former foster dog Riley (aka Mick) passed his therapy dog test Tuesday night and will now be a full fledged therapy dog through the Delta Society--he gets a little badge and everything!

Riley (then Mick) was brought to a Portland shelter to be euthanized by his former owners who claimed he was an aggressive dog.  He was also supposedly cat and dog aggressive.

He sat  for a month and it was during a move to a new shelter and a time when they were severely understaffed and all the dogs were doubled up.  Riley was with a dog that was not allowing him to eat--and no one noticed. 

When I picked him up he had an abscess on his face from the other dog attacking him and he weighed 27lbs.  Today Riley weighs 45lbs.   He was so emaciated he was horrible to even touch.   When I got him home he would cower at everything.  If you raised your arm he was across the room.  He didn't have an aggressive bone in his body but he'd obviously been severely abused. Despite that he still loved people.  After a few weeks he stopped flinching all the time and relaxed.  He started gaining weight and showing his happy personality.  He was also not cat OR dog aggressive.  He did herd cats but he was not aggressive.  He also liked kids a lot too.   The person who turned him in had a two year old he was supposedly biting.  All I can think of (and what the shelter thought too) was that he nipped the child in an attempt to herd him.  The shelter didn't put him down because they too saw no signs of aggression in him.  Nor did I. 

He WAS food aggressive though--but only to other animals--not to people.  That was not surprising as he had been almost starved to death by another dog! Anyway, he was adopted to Sue in the Seattle area, she took him through obedience,  took him for herding lessons, worked him through his food  aggression...and now he's a therapy dog, only a year and a half after his original family wanted him euthanized!   I wish I could go tell them how far the dog they dumped at the shelter has gone.  Anyway, I really, really liked Riley and enjoyed having him here so I'm really happy to hear that he's passed and is now an official therapy dog!   

One up, one down.  
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Riley's friends Kaetlin and Lily
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Page last updated on 09/12/08 08:44 AM