I still remember when my youngest daughter talked me into stopping at the corner of Big Bear Boulevard and Fox Farm Road one afternoon. It was a Friday, I’m pretty sure because we were going to cover a Big Bear High School football game that night.

We stopped because Jason and Jennifer Hall were at the corner with a litter of golden retriever puppies. Kelsey had decided she wanted one, and to her credit as a high school sophomore, she paid for the newest addition to our family — Riley. That was almost 16 years ago. We lost our Riley on June 26.

The Halls were kind enough to keep Riley overnight that first Friday since we had to travel off the mountain to the football game. My husband was on duty at Big Bear City Fire Department. We didn’t exactly tell him about the newest addition to the family.

We picked Riley up and told Rick to check the pantry room when he got home. Luckily, Rick is a sucker for a cute puppy, especially a golden retriever puppy. Riley became a member of our family immediately. She slept in Kelsey’s room and was so loved and loved us with all her heart and soul. She had two litters of puppies, also delivered in Kelsey’s bedroom — well most of them. She had some trouble with the second litter, and she delivered several at VCA.

Riley outlived many of her puppies. She was full of life and energy right until the end. No one who didn’t know wouldn’t guess she was just shy of 16 years old.

She was protective of her herd, as we call them. They aren’t all her brood, but she always acted like the mother hen to all the Bowers dogs. We have what we call a dog condo in the backyard so they have plenty of shelter from the weather. It didn’t matter to Riley. It could be raining, snowing, wind howling, and the other dogs would be inside the shelter. She would be curled up just outside the condo like she was on guard.

When Kelsey grew up and moved out, we didn’t let her take Riley to live in an apartment. Riley would have missed her gang and the huge yard. She moved her sleeping quarters to the floor beside my bed. But she was always Kelsey’s dog, even though we joked that she was half mine.

The last week of June, the family, minus my husband, traveled to Raymond to visit my oldest daughter on her 40 acre ranch. God had a reason why Rick couldn’t go with us. He needed to be here for Riley, although we didn’t know it at the time. On

June 25, when Rick got home from work, he texted me to call away from everyone. Riley had had a stroke. He didn’t want to tell Kelsey the following day, which was her birthday. I held on to the news until after dinner when I gathered all three girls for a walk to watch the sunset. It was a sunset for Riley. We cried and laughed at stories and toasted our golden love. She left us the next day to join the pups who went before her and our other furbabies in heaven.

RIP Riley.

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