Riley March 1, 2005-October 29, 2021
Riley was born on March 1, 2005. I first met Riley in 2007, which will always make those first two years a mystery.
I had just advanced to candidacy in the history Ph.D. program at UC Riverside, and I had just bought my house, which seemed daunting, at the time.
I was volunteering at the Riverside Humane Society (now the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center) when I saw this big fluffy orange cat staring at me from his cage with the light reflecting from his eyes, which kept following me wherever I went. I just had to say hello to him. I was hooked.
After spending time getting to know Riley, I had to take him home. He was already two years old at the time, so, not a kitten anymore, which would have decreased his chances to be adopted, as he got older. Secondly, his story also grabbed my attention. His previous human, who had declawed him, moved away and gave him to a neighbor "to put him down, if necessary."
I adopted Riley on September 7, 2007, and he immediately made my house a home. Every morning, I woke up to give him his breakfast before getting ready for the day.
When I came home after teaching an evening class, he was always there to greet me, which made me forget how long my day had been. He was my "furry shadow" who followed me throughout the house. When I was writing my dissertation, he was at my side from the first to the final word.
He was also my "furry desk" when I graded piles of exams from my history classes. He was always content just to sit by my side or on my lap at night when watching television.
Riley was a patient and polite audience who listened to me butcher notes on the piano, and sometimes I would find him right by the pedals.
Riley also had his wild side. He sharpened his hunting skills by jumping on counters, cabinets, bookshelves, and dressers, dispatching his "prey" of picture frames, watches, or anything small enough to fit his paws.
He made mad dashes throughout the house, especially in the elusive hunt for the red dot that came from my laser pointer. Life with Riley was never a dull moment.
Another pleasant surprise I discovered about Riley was his sociability, compared
to other cats, an observation repeated by people who have visited us. Over the years, Riley had a series of roommates and always counted them as part of his pride.
On get-togethers and game nights, Riley played the part of the gracious host for us, graduate students and other guests. He was always part of the activity and was content to listen to the conversation. Most importantly, Riley opened his heart to Sandra after we got married. After years as a bachelor, Riley experienced family life with Sandra as his "hu-mom" for the last five years.
Alas, even the purest of souls is still subject to the ravages of age. Though his health had been robust for as long as I've known him, making him a marvel to his expensive "girlfriends" at the veterinarian's office, Riley faced some medical challenges, and trips to the vet became more frequent.
Riley overcame them all, until two months ago, when it seemed as though a switch suddenly went off, and he went from a dynamo to a frail creature. In spite of his diagnosis of lung cancer, Riley still persevered with each breath and carried on with his routine, still staying by our side. He never lost his sweet nature, even until the very end when his heart gave out.
Riley passed away on October 29, 2021 at around 2:25 pm after a two-month-long battle with lung cancer. He spent his last days at home with the people who loved him.
Even though I had previously lived with dogs and a cat, Riley was the first pet who was my sole responsibility, which I took very seriously when I brought him home.
He never reproached me when I sometimes came home late from teaching at night to keep a roof over our heads. We survived the Great Recession and saw through three presidents together.
After spending almost a third of my life with him, Riley has become part of me, down to his hairs that are part of my wardrobe. Seeing him in the morning was like Christmas and my birthday everyday.
In the days and weeks I will be reckoning the incalculable ways he has enriched my life, which will thereafter be only a memory. For those who have known him, I hope that in some small way, Riley has brightened your life, as he has brightened ours.