On Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, my sister-in-law, Randi Breese, and her husband, Shaun Vahl, had to make a tough decision about their beloved “first born border collie son,” Riley. After a period of declining health due a mass on his spleen, the dog affectionately known as the King of Pop, Rock and Agility “crossed to the bridge,” where he awaits his parents and brother, Parker.
Riley came into the lives of Randi and Shaun at The Flying J truck stop in Delaware, Ohio. That is where my wife, Wendi, and I met them to deliver the new puppy shortly before Christmas 2002.
I don’t remember the details of how Wendi and I came to find Riley in front of our house in Hillsboro, Ohio, 11 years ago, but this is how I remember it: We had come back from Columbus after watching either one of the Broadway Series musicals or a David Copperfield magic show. Wendi had gone into the house and I had to get some things out of the vehicle. As I was making my way to the house from the driveway, I saw something that appeared to be a lop-eared bunny hopping around.
I went in the house and told Wendi of my discovery. However, when she went out to see for herself, she had a different assessment.
“He’s not a bunny,” Wendi informed me. “That’s not a bunny, he’s a puppy.” Then she asked me what we were going to do with him. I said, “Give him food and water.” Our home had seemed to become a stopping place for stray animals, and she thought I meant to put the pup in the kennel in the backyard. That was not the case. “We’re bringing him into the house; he’s not staying outside,” I said.
So this adorable roly-poly puppy came in for the night, much to the chagrin of our five cats. Our dog, Madison, thought it was great to have another dog on the premises. We were faced with a dilemma: What were we going to do with a border collie?
Indeed, that was the question we asked ourselves the next morning. What were we going to do with a border collie? We are not the kind of people who would have made good guardians for such an active breed.
So, Wendi called her sister Randi and said, “Guess what I got you for Christmas? A puppy.”
Randi and Shaun already had two dogs, and they certainly were not looking for a third.
“It looks like springer spaniel or border collie,” Wendi said.
“I always wanted a border collie,” Randi responded.
Wendi asked her the next logical question: “What would you name him if you had a border collie?”
Wendi and I were headed to Boston to see my family, and Randi and Shaun agreed to meet us at The Flying J to pick up Riley and Madison, to “dog sit” while we were gone. They have been watching Riley ever since and were the best parents he could have had. I always felt Wendi and I were just the vehicle for God to get Riley to Randi and Shaun.
While they were great parents, Riley was a great dog. He excelled at agility. Because he did so well, Randi would take him to events around the state and beyond. This meant they needed a camper. So, they got a pop-up camper. Soon they needed something larger, so they got a fifth-wheel camper.
If they did not get Riley, who knows if they ever would have had their second born border collie son, Parker. When Parker came along, they got involved in DockDogs. Riley, though he was the King of Pop, Rock and Agility and not DockDogs, still gave the sport a shot. It was OK, but he left his mark in agility.
Wendi also says without Riley, who knows if Randi’s and Shaun’s competitive natures would have been unleashed. After all, they saw how good Riley did in agility and Parker did in DockDogs. They began competing in 5K runs and all sorts of competitive endeavors.
Riley was a devoted son, and he really loved his mom, Randi. But, he never forgot who found him, well sort of. He always had a special place in his heart for Wendi. He would almost twirl himself around whenever she went to visit. Even in his last few weeks, he showed this love for her by dragging himself off the couch and greeting her at the door.
If only we could be as devoted to God as Riley was to those who loved him there would never have been that problem in the garden, no need for an ark, no wandering in the desert and no exile … at least that is what I would like to think.
So long, for now, King of Pop, Rock and Agility. You have left your mark here; it is time to shine in another place.