Today is Riley's seventh anniversary with us. You all know the story of how we got him, but it bears re-telling, in honor of the day. It's the story that Riley plans to tell to his children and his grand-children. Oh, wait, he's been neutered. Never mind. Well, then, I'll just tell it to you.
In late January of 2002, we went up to the pound in Forest Lake to look at border collie puppies. Toby had died three months before, and Boscoe had grown depressed. He didn't play. He dutifully went on walks, trotting obediently alongside me as we went around the lake in the evenings after work, but his heart wasn't in it; his old spark was missing. We needed something to rile up the house.
Even though we weren't entirely sure we were ready for a new puppy--we were grieving Toby, too--we figured we needed one, for Boscoe. We poked around on the Web and found border collie puppies--eight of them!--on petfinder.org, so we got in the Jeep and headed north.
When we pulled into the snowy parking lot in Forest Lake, I noticed a puppy sitting politely in the snow by someone's side. He wore a red collar and had slightly bowed speckled legs, and when I slammed the Jeep door, he looked at me. He kept looking at me while I crossed the parking lot and went into the office.
He did not wag his tail. He did not smile. He just watched me, impassively and intently. What a strange dog, I thought. That dog is going to be a lot of trouble for someone.
We told the receptionist that we were looking for a puppy, that we'd heard about the eight-week-old border collies and we were interested. She directed us to the puppy room, a long echoing gray room lined with big wire kennels. Cages, really. The concrete floors were wet, the dogs were barking, yipping, yapping, it was a cacaphony of ear-splitting sound.
The border collies were there, four to a kennel, rolling around and nipping each other's ears and sleeping on top of each other in soft little heaps, as puppies will do.
The speckle-legged dog was there, too, alone in his cage, in his waiter-like red collar, sitting straight up, toes together, legs slightly bowed. He stared at me.
That stare was unnerving. It felt like he already knew who I was, and he was measuring me up, and there was a good chance that I was going to fall short.
We borrowed a border collie pup and played with it in the little carpeted get-to-know-you room, and then Doug waited while I brought it back and got another one. We did this several times. The puppies were interchangeable; none of them particularly spoke to me; none of them had any defined personality. They seemed protoplasm-like, unformed, just little squirmy lumps. Normally that's what's appealing about puppies--that newness, that sweetness, those round little tummies and those eager bodies.
But my heart was already elsewhere.
Doug never said a word, but he told me later that he knew exactly how the afternoon was going to play out, and when he heard me giggling on the other side of the door, he knew exactly what had happened, and which dog I had.
In the playroom, the speckle-legged dog didn't really play with us. He backed up against the door and stared. This dog is going to be a lot of trouble. But there was really nothing I could do. I had no choice in the matter. It was total mind control. We signed the papers, and the dog was ours. We changed his name from Miller to Riley.
We couldn't bring him home right away because he had to be neutered, so we drove back to Forest Lake the next day with Boscoe, so the two dogs could meet. Boscoe was delighted--dropped immediately into a play bow (see top picture). Riley was not delighted. He hid behind me and barked.
Two days later, we brought him home. As we walked him through the pound after signing the papers, he marched up to a kennel that held a big noisy yellow Lab and smacked the side of the cage with his front paw. TAKE THAT! I'M OUTTA HERE, SUCKA! (You got the feeling that that Lab had been bugging him for quite a while) and then he followed us out the door.
He hopped up into the Jeep, and his new life began. Ours, too.
As you can see, he never really lost the impassive look.
Even when he's getting a belly rub, he looks like, I don't care what you do, I can take it or leave it, belly rubs mean nothing to me.
But I think he knows he's got a pretty good life.