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Living the Life of Riley

In con­text, this state­ment sug­gests an ideal life of pros­per­ity and con­tent­ment, advan­taged in many ways yet always in a pos­i­tive sense. With my almost nine year old Bernese Moun­tain Dog “Riley” by my side, it seems we both live the “best” life.

With the hol­i­days upon us, I always find myself reflect­ing on all the won­der­ful joys that life has brought me through­out the year—companionship, love and loy­alty. As a child, I grew up with a menagerie of rab­bits, tur­tles and birds. Not all at once mind you, but I was always in search of that per­fect alter­na­tive pet since we were unable to have a dog in the house due to allergies.

First there was my pet rab­bit “Tiny,” whom we were con­vinced was a male until I went to camp one sum­mer, only to return and find that “HE” was a new mother with sev­eral smaller clones hop­ping along by her side. You can imag­ine how thrilled my own mother was with that surprise.

I later became enam­ored with turtles—those lit­tle half-dollar sized ones that con­tin­u­ally got lost under the couch or scooted out the door some­how. They were promptly replaced by “Patty,” my glo­ri­ous para­keet, fol­lowed by ger­bils and ham­sters until I left the nest and ven­tured out into the world on my own, college-bound. I knew that one day I would have the prized pup that I’d always dreamed of.

That vision became a real­ity almost nine years ago when I drove for six hours through a bliz­zard to Utica, New York to pick up my new Bernese Moun­tain Dog. I’ll never for­get that day—tired and exhausted after the white-knuckled drive, I was greeted by two of the cutest tri-colored pup­pies I’d ever seen. One of them clearly chose me as her future mother, as she never left my side once I entered into her home. That was it. She sealed the deal. She was mine.

Hav­ing researched many breeds lead­ing up to my deci­sion, I decided a Bernese Moun­tain Dog would be the most suit­able for me. Large and friendly, these dogs are one of four breeds that orig­i­nated in the Swiss Alps. These dogs are extremely calm, patient and affec­tion­ate and enjoy being around adults and chil­dren alike.

At nearly 85 pounds, one would never describe a Bernese as a “lap dog,” but Riley seems not to notice her over­sized frame and is happy to crawl into my lap when I’m relax­ing on the couch. As a puppy and weigh­ing a mere 16 pounds, I adored such affec­tion but as she con­tin­ued to grow, I decided it was time to lit­ter the house with lux­u­ri­ous thrones for her to splay upon. And like most chil­dren, she became obsessed with stuffed toys in all shapes and sizes and enjoys car­ry­ing them in her mouth wher­ever she goes. “Puppy play­group” meets five days a week to burn off some excess energy and she loves the inter­ac­tion with other dogs her size.

What I enjoy most about Riley is our time at home when she’s close by my side. Whether work­ing at the com­puter or cook­ing in the kitchen, I always know that this light in my life is an arm’s reach away. Loy­alty at its finest. With that soft as silk hair rub­bing against my leg and those saucer-sized brown eyes star­ing up at me, I’m filled with hap­pi­ness and am so grate­ful that this crea­ture chose me to become a part of her life. Yes, she lives the “life of Riley,” but I guess it’s mutual.

Whether it’s a dog, a per­son, or any other liv­ing crea­ture, the power of love is altru­is­tic. In this sea­son of joy, hap­pi­ness and reflec­tion, I sin­cerely wish you all a won­der­ful hol­i­day and am so grate­ful to all whom have enriched my life so greatly.




  • Thank you Beth for sharing your life "with Riley", which indeed is a life "of riley." Seasons' Greetings and Best Wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

  • Thanks for the warm reflections on your life with your dog. As I lay here with my nephew--cock-a-poo whom I'm enjoying taking care of for a few days, I feel the love! Happy Holidays and all the best in 2013

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