The final swim

Over the course of Riley’s life, I’ve shared quite a bit about our adventures. By nature, he and I have been explorers, so it’s only natural we’ve had a fun journey along the way: particularly in finding new running routes, swimming holes and the nuances of life.

So I imagine some people may question my openness about his health and my ongoing struggle – in what turns out to be a pretty grey area – in his battle with leukemia.

But because so many people have read and shared in our adventurous life together, I also feel it important to share the difficulties along the way. Not for empathy or sympathy. The raw emotion and the ups and downs are part of life. So many people have contributed to Riley living a full, adventurous life.

It might be difficult but sharing the tough times, I hope, also give others a chance to learn from the experience: not just grieving the struggles of a beloved pet, but cherishing a life well-lived and the impact so many people played in making Riley’s life special and meaningful. Others who grieve for a pet might be helped by reading suggestions and tips, or perhaps even this blog.

On Sunday, I made a drive to Lake Melissa so Riley could visit his dog-sitting parents, a couple who have been so gracious to look after him on several occasions and taken him to the lake. And if Riley has a favorite place, it is the lake.

He is a water dog.

Until recently, he and I spent so much time at the lakes, and it was there he appeared the happiest, although running trails, gravel roads and back streets often provided a similar thrill. But nothing compares to time spent in the water, and those weekend trips in which we’d head to Leech Lake, run the bike paths and then take a boat ride out to a beach so he could frolic with other people and dogs.

We’ve run thousands of miles, and swam together many times, to pack in a lot of life. Our trip to the lake Sunday was special because of our history in the water. It appears this is his final swim. But there’s some sense of relief and satisfaction that we spent a terrific afternoon together with friends and he had one last chance to chase a ball, splash around with a few dogs, swim after me and nibble on a few Cheetos.

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