RIP, River

It has been a hard month here. On Feb. 27, we lost our retired mare, Guin. On March 22, we suffered a much more unexpected blow: we lost our precious River, our youngest curly coated retriever, to bloat.

When I woke up in the morning, River would give me kisses, washing the sleep out of my eyes. It’s much harder to get up now, to convince myself to crawl out from under my warm covers. Maybe I just don’t want to.

Then we — I and all the dogs — would go walkabout. Every morning I would have to tell River not to chew on his brother’s ears, not to chew his sister’s face, not to push Pax down the stairs, not to stop in front of me and trip me. Walkabouts are boring now.

Mornings are the hardest.

I occasionally get a bit wrapped up in my computer. (Hard to believe, I know.) River would come over, paw my leg in a most annoying way, and gaze up at me in the most endearing way. He was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Ever. He would persist with this until I got up to feed them.

I was half an hour late feeding Pax and Pflouff this morning. Neither said a word. They might starve to death.

Mealtimes are the hardest.

When he was a puppy, River didn’t nap. He would lie sternal, looking around, for hours, waiting for someoneĀ to get up and entertain him. That is, until I sat on the couch. Then he would throw himself at me, shiver and sigh, and settle close. He would fall asleep almost immediately.

A form of that ritual persisted throughout his life. Someone on the couch was a lap for him. He snuggled close, gave sweet kisses, and then lay down with his head on your thigh. Every moment we sat on the couch, we had a River.

River was an anxious dog, and those moments on the couch were the thing that most soothed him. And me. Now sitting on the couch feels very empty.

Quiet moments on the couch are the hardest.

The very first night River came home, he slept between me and Jay. That was his spotĀ until his legs got too long. That was when we added the dog bed, a twin bed wedged between my side of our king-sized bed and the wall. He slept across the top of that bed with his head on my pillow for a long time. Eventually he moved back between us.

Jason reminded me last night of the time when River had surgery on his hips. He had to be crated for eight weeks. I spent those eight weeks sleeping on the floor next to his crate, my fingers through the bars, stroking him. It was for me as much as for him. I couldn’t bear to be separated.

Most nights, he and I would start the night cheek-to-cheek on my pillow, snuggled as close as we could get. Like when he was a puppy, he would shiver a little and sigh as he settled. Pure contentment. Eventually I would have to turn over, because he kicked in his sleep. It was like sleeping with a jack rabbit.

There’s too much room now.

Night time is the hardest.

2015-04-23 15.12.41

It’s the little things that catch me unaware. Often it’s the things that drove me crazy when he was here.

I miss tripping over his toys and telling him to get out of my kitchen. I miss scratching his riblets. (I really want to scratch his riblets.) I miss the puddle of drool at my feet at the kitchen table. I put away all the drool cloths. I threw away a paper towel tube because he wasn’t here to play with it. I miss his eagerness to be first in line — for anything. Opening the cabinet and seeing his seizure meds brings tears to my eyes.

I talk to him a lot.

Last night I felt a dog settle next to my leg in bed when there was no dog nearby.

Breathing is the hardest.

2015-04-23 15.16.19

I love you, River.


  1. Alice Byrnes March 24, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Your tribute to River touched me deeply. So beautifully said. I, too, know what it’s like to lose a four legged friend that you love so very much. It’s not easy. Tears flow easily as little reminders of his having shared your life pop up daily. You’re in my thoughts. Take care.

    1. Melissa - Site Author March 24, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Thank you, Alice. I really appreciate it.

  2. Kellie March 24, 2016 at 11:05 am


    This tribute is beautiful.

    Your writing is beautiful.

    I’m so sorry.

    There’s nothing else I can say.

    1. Melissa - Site Author March 24, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Thanks, Kellie.

  3. Margot March 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I remember going to sleep in college one night and feeling a cat jump on the bed and settle on the comforter next to my leg. We had no cats in the dorm but I heard from my aunt that their cat (who slept with me every time I stayed with her) had just been run over by a car. I like to think he came to say goodbye.

    River’s waiting for you, like a good boy, at the other side of the bridge.

    1. Melissa - Site Author March 25, 2016 at 6:58 am

      I believe that too. I have to.

  4. LaDonna Thomas March 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    It really is SO hard, I feel the same since loosing Baguette (my doxie). They are such an integral part of life and our routines that everything feels empty after such a loss. After many months I can remember fondly without crying (most of the time anyway). I hope that your memories will soon bring a lovely smile of remembrance, rather than the tears they do right now.

    1. Melissa - Site Author March 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you so much. I miss him terribly.

  5. Jennifer Harms March 25, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    So beautifully written and straight from the heart. I never met your sweet River but I understand how deeply loved he was. Knowing Curlies, I assure you that he adored you just as much or more.

    1. Melissa - Site Author March 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Thank you. It’s true. River loved me every bit as much as I loved him. I’ve never had a dog who loved so much, so obviously.

  6. Catherine Vignolini August 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Hey, Melissa, I fell in love with your pic on Janet’s blog and just now saw your comment about losing both of your dogs. Our Missy Kay passed away in December and I still miss her terribly. I haven’t yet put away her beds, her toys, even after all this time. I understand what you’re going through.
    All the best,

  7. Faraz April 17, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    I remember this….how time flies. Love these photos. Beautiful memories


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