Eulogy for River

At the shelter, River’s first gesture was to offer me a tennis ball. He walked in — “Diego” on his nameplate — an escape artist and trouble maker. He’d tried families before us to no avail. But it immediately stood out to me that he just wanted to play, and it was clear right away that he was a playful boy at heart.

His free spirit had me convinced he would never be able to roam without a leash. Our first moments with him were on an Oregon beach, pinned between the craggy cliffs and the tide, waves crashing into the sand, finding any way we could to satisfy his desire to run out in the world without him running away. He ran in circles around us, overjoyed. Those moments of freedom are what he lived for.

River received so much of this love in his life, and he made it so easy to give. The second thing River did at the shelter, only after dropping the tennis ball, was roll over for belly rubs. I admire that he knew exactly what he liked and that he would ask for it without hesitation. He could never get enough.

He also knew exactly how to give love. When first I brought Miso here, even before they had met, I took solace in knowing that she would have a friend in River. He was the greatest big brother I could have asked for for her, and it’s clear to me that River lives on through the teachings he passed on to Miso – how to play nicely, even with those that are different than you. How to care for your space and protect those that you love. How to rest and draw boundaries when you need to.

River always intuited exactly what he needed to do, and he let his heart lead him. There’s this quote – “if you live each day as if it was your last, one day, you’ll most certainly be right.” River really did live that way, and we can all learn from the sense of presence that he carried.

He let his heart lead.

I always wondered why River ran away from his previous owners; how a dog whose beauty was only outmatched by his dorkiness came to end up in a shelter. A true rarity. I think he found his way to the shelter because he knew that the search for love continues, even in the face of great odds. I know he felt loved with us. I believe that dogs have very deep feelings, just the way we do. Just the way everybody does. And I think he knew there was someone out there that would love him just the way he way he was.

The love that River received in his life is exemplified by the love that surrounded him in his death. And that is what matters. No one wants to die. And yet death is the destination that we all share – no one has ever escaped it. Those waves on the Oregon beach — you see them rise as the water washes in toward the coast. They build and build until they crest, crashing into the beach before they’re gone.

but the water is still there.
the wave was just a state of being for the water.
so it returns to the ocean,
where it came from,
where it belongs.

River was a free spirit, and he chose to stick with us – what a privilege.

As we grew older together, he really did begin to unleash himself — he gained trust in us, and we gained trust in him. Right to the very end.

So it’s time for him to finally run free; you can only contain a free spirit so long. Now he returns to where he came from – where we all came from – and where we will all return, someday. He was a truly great and loving dog, and he lived a life of love, which I know he valued to no end.

Rest well, River. May you return to the water.

December 10, 2023 · post · life · death · love

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