Riley

By Denisse Perez

“I think I need to consider my options first.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you’re cute. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t know if I can take you home with me.”

“And why not?”

“Because it would be extremely irresponsible.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Because my bed, honestly, isn’t big enough for both of us. And because I’m at a really shitty place in my life and bringing you home would be me not dealing with the problem.”

“Susan - “

“How do you know my name?”

“Susan, I think you need to realize that bringing me home would actually make your shit life a million times better. Scott was an asshole. So was Andy and Will. They didn’t get it. But what’s worse is that you didn’t get it either. You just kept dating them because in some self-deprecating way you wanted to be used and ridiculed. Let’s face it, Susan, you just want an excuse to feel like shit. But guess what? Bringing me home would be different. You’d need me as much as I need you, and trust me when I say that life will finally make some sense.”

“It will?”

“Yeah, it will. Because what more do you have to do with yourself than to stop crying and feeling sorry for yourself? Stop being so pathetic and pitiful and finally just get me out of here and take me home.”

“I guess you’re right. Even the tears have stopped rolling.”

“See, I told you life would get better.”

“Okay, you win. This may be a huge mistake, but it certainly won’t be the dumbest thing I do in my life. So tell me, what’s your name?”

“Not sure, really. Some people have called me Max but others have been calling me Buddy. I guess you’ll decide what my new, and hopefully final, name is.”

“You look like a Riley.”

“I feel like a Riley.”


“Excuse me miss?”

“Huh?” Behind Susan stood one of the volunteers. She had let Susan spend an hour at the shelter on account of the state she had come in: crying, soaked, and generally very miserable-looking.

“Well, I see you made a friend.” She pointed towards Riley. “His name is Buddy.”

“No, his name is Riley now. And I’m taking him home.”

“Oh, are you sure about that? Adopting a dog is a huge responsibility and -“

“You don’t understand. This dog needs me, almost as much as I need him. He’s the one I’ve been looking for. So I have to take him home with me. He told me so.”

The volunteer woman smiled. “Okay, I understand. I guess let’s fill out some paperwork then. Finally someone is taking that boy home.”

“Yeah, imagine if it hadn’t started raining.”

“Oh you would have found your way to him no doubt!” The volunteer lady walked rapidly toward the desk with the adoption papers. “One always finds their soulmates in the most unexpected ways.”

“I guess he is my soulmate in many ways. After all, he really did just save me.”

“And you have returned the favor by saving him.”

“How long has he been here?”

“Not as long as others, but definitely too long.”

“I hope they all find homes.”

“Yes, I hope so too. I hope everyone finds a home. It’s sad to think that some people don’t have a home to go to and the warmth and love they need to get though the next day.” She frowned. But just as suddenly the volunteer woman smiled again. “But you know what? I think something I’ve learned from these animals is that even when you’ve been abandoned and forgotten, you have to continue loving. I don’t know, these guys are so kind. They’ve been through a lot. But when you go to pet them and feed them, they’re so full of joy and gratefulness. As if they are constantly savoring every moment of joy they have. That’s what’s wrong with people. We never enjoy the happy moments, and we just drown in the bad.”

“Like what I was doing.”

“Sure. But you found happiness. I bet Riley will teach you far more tricks about living than you can teach him about siting or rolling over.”

“You’re right about that.” And Susan smiled, for the first time in days, wholeheartedly.

“Well, the paperwork is complete. Let me get him.”

 

After a few minutes, the volunteer woman appeared from behind the doors with Riley on a leash. He seemed so happy to see Susan, with his tail wagging at mock speed.

“Ready to go home Riley?”

“Yup bet, Susan!” his eyes and tail seemed to say. Susan took the leash from the woman and went to leave before turning around.

“I’m sorry, but I forgot your name. What was it again?”

The volunteer woman smiled. “Esperanza. Nice to meet you, Susan.”

“Nice to meet you, too.”