BACKYARD SHENANIGANS: Skunk Sweeps Series – Macduff’s defeat “most foul”

summer-2007-2008-009_2.jpg ……VS……skunk1.jpg

At the end of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the king is presented as a tormented soul looking to muster up some courage as his life falls apart. A victim of his own ‘vaulting ambition,’ Macbeth sees his reign as king disintegrate as a series of prophecies come true. In his final act, Macbeth, cornered by the noble Macduff, implores his opponent to fight. “Lay on, Macduff,” Macbeth says, “And be damned he that cries, ‘Hold, enough!’” This is Shakespeare’s fancy way of saying, “We’re gonna fight and one of us is gonna die!” In this case, Macbeth is slain by Macduff as the king’s murderous era comes to a close.


Macduff emerges as the hero. Courageous and victorious, he is the promise of renewed hope in a fractured kingdom.


I can’t help but think of my own backyard as a fractured kingdom. On two occasions the rambunctious Reilly was felled by the spray of a skunk. Twice I was forced to clean and deodorize my poor little Westie. We needed a hero – a Macduff – to come and restore hope to the kingdom.


So we invited our friend Linda over, whose dog happens to be named Macduff.


A BBQ and a Campfire


Linda and Macduff arrived at our house along with our friends Sandy and Rob one beautiful August evening (both Sandy and Rob are humans in case you were wondering). It was one of those summer nights where everything just came together: the weather was great, the food was delicious, and the company – both human and canine – was most enjoyable.


We had dinner outside and, as the sun started to set, we decided a little campfire might add to the ambience of the evening. As the skies grew darker, we shared stories and jokes as the wine flowed and the night grew cooler – making the fire that much more soothing.


Lay on, Macduff!

The dogs were nestled in under our chairs. Reilly was sleeping but Macduff was kind of sitting up looking around. At one point, he went for a little stroll away from us. I was staring intently at the fire when Linda, looking out for her dog, asked, “Is that a skunk?”


Because I’m an optimist, I replied without looking over to where she was pointing, “No, it must be a cat.”


I should have looked because before I knew it Macduff was paying a skunk a visit. Was it the same skunk that had sprayed Reilly? Were there multiple skunks that routinely invade our property? The moment of truth was upon us. Would the courageous Macduff – in keeping with his namesake – emerge as our conquering hero?


Skunk 3, Macduff/Reilly 0

Macduff wasn’t as zealous as Reilly when it came to chasing the rodent (actually a skunk is part of the weasel family so I use this word more as a descriptor) but he got close enough to get sprayed. Fortunately Reilly was asleep under my wife’s chair when Macduff visited the skunk so we were able to hold him back after he woke up and realized what was going on. Linda tried to draw the puppy away from the skunk but her calls were no match for the Westie’s curiosity.


To be fair, Macduff didn’t really deserve to get sprayed. He approached the skunk very cautiously, as if it were another dog, just hoping to get a whiff of the animals scent. Instead he got a face full stink that left him smelling – as the bard might say – ‘most foul.’


The skunk had won again.


While Macduff thought he was being respectful by avoiding a mad charge at the intruder, the skunk let him know that he was a smelly force to be reckoned with. Blinded by his own instincts, the poor white puppy walked headlong into humiliation.


What followed was the embarrassing visit with the laundry tub as I did my level best to get the skunk shampoo to take as much of the smell out of him as possible.  


This marked the third skunk encounter in our backyard. The skunk(s) won all three battles. Outwitted by the intruder, the Westies were forced to retreat, mired in the stench of the attack, unable to live up to the honour and dignity of the soldier Macduff was named after.


This is just my version of events. Sure I’ve peppered the tale with pomposity and drama but, in the end, I never open my back door without worrying about the skunk(s). And hopefully you don’t feel my story is ‘a tale told by idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5, 26-28)




Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on BACKYARD SHENANIGANS: Skunk Sweeps Series – Macduff’s defeat “most foul”

BACKYARD SHENANIGANS: Skunk Stinks Out a Win in Round 2!

summer-2007-2008-010_2.jpg ……VS……skunk-in-grass.jpg


There is nothing more humiliating for a dog than to be stopped in his tracks by the pungent perfume of  a skunk. When a dog runs toward a skunk, the logical assumption is that the dog’s superior physical abilities will force the pest to run for it’s life. Instead, the skunk stops dead in its tracks and lets ‘er rip. The skunk spray might be the best animal defense in the urban jungle – a lesson Reilly was about to learn for the second time in his young life.

Game 2: Skunk 2, Reilly 0

A year almost to the day after Reilly was sprayed by a skunk for the first time, he had an unfortunate second encounter with this distinguished member of the weasel family in the same backyard where the original “attack” took place. The pattern was much the same as the first spraying: garbage night, a skunk trolling for refuse, our backyard used as a transit route from the garbage on one street to the garbage on the next street.

I had just returned from running an errand and entered the house. Reilly greeted me with his usual enthusiasm and, as I was hanging my jacket in the closet, he was at the back door whining to get out. This isn’t uncommon – he’ll often let out a little wimper to let us know he wants to go out.

I guess I let my guard down. After all, what are the chances of my dog getting sprayed again? Not a chance it was going to happen again. My dog was too smart to walk into the skunk’s trap a second time.

Clearly, I hadn’t thought this one through because out he went. Within about ten seconds he found the skunk and just like that he was at the back door blinking wildly.

Lessons Learned

Reilly and I were pretty soundly defeated by the skunk in Round 1. It was our hope to take the lessons learned in that humiliating pounding and turn them into a more productive outcome if such circumstances were to present themselves again. Unlucky for us, those circumstances presented themselves, but this time we were ready.

For my part, when I saw my blinking dog at the back door hoping to come into the house, I made sure I didn’t let him in. That’s right – I left in the wild with the skunk that just attacked him. Of course, I’m not really sure where the skunk went. He probably just left our backyard in disgust. All that I do know is that I had to get some stuff together so that I could deodorize my dog.

For his part, Reilly learned not to attack the skunk full on. While he made a run at him, he didn’t bark like a mad dog and stayed a distance away from the skunks rear. I know this because he didn’t reek nearly as badly as he did after the first attack. I guess a gently mist rained down on my poor puppy instead of the power-washing he got last time.

Once the deed was done – and the skunk had moved our yard and onto the street to go after everyone’s garbage – I went to the basement and grabbed the skunk shampoo. I went into the backyard, turned on the hose, and started scrubbing. It was disgusting for me, and cold for Reilly, but the shampoo did help. I left him outside to dry off a bit before letting him into the house. In the meantime, we rushed upstairs and made sure all the windows were closed (no residual skunk spray was going to waft in our windows this time) and that the doors to our bedrooms were shut (to keep smelly Reilly out).

When we let Reilly in, he stunk but not as badly as the first time. The episode was exhausting but not nearly as over-the-top as the first encounter.

It was a moral victory for Reilly and I. Certainly the skunk had won another round, establishing his supremacy in our backyard, but Reilly had learned how to dodge the stinky skunk mist and I had learned to clean him outside in an effort to avoid turning our home into The House of Pungent Stinkery.

Now when Reilly wimpers at the back door I do two things: I click on the light and I look for skunks. There is no way I want to lose a third round to our stinky foe.

Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on BACKYARD SHENANIGANS: Skunk Stinks Out a Win in Round 2!




Spring is a time of great anticipation. People look forward to seeing the snow melt away, the birds return to their perches, the trees burst with leaves, and the grass poke its way up through the ground. And spring also signals the resurrection of any number of animals from their winter slumber.


As you know from what I have written previously, my dog has a delightful demeanor to complement his incredible cuteness. However, when spring comes, and all manner of wildlife re-enter their natural habitat, Reilly becomes a crazed canine eager to protect his turf. When he is patrolling our backyard compound, he surveys every inch of land looking for any hint of intruders. He does not permit any creature to encroach on our property. It’s as if by osmosis that he’s picked up the mantra that I, as boy of seven or eight, would utter to unwanted guests (mostly bullies) who dared to tread on my lawn: “Hey, get off my property!”


It really is something to watch. Reilly will eagerly wait at our back door. He might even wimper a bit. One of us will open the door and he charges out into the backyard. For the most part he is chasing ghost because there is nothing out there. But on some occasions, Reilly the hunter sees a squirrel and chases it up a tree or, when a neighbourhood cat cruises along our fence, he throws his body furiously against the fence and barks his fierce command, “Get off my property!” Of course both efforts are futile. The squirrels always outrun Reilly so he just pees in protest at the bottom of the tree they ran up. And the cats are just too smart to let him catch them. The one or two times Reilly has cornered a cat, a quick swipe to the nose has been enough to send him scrambling.


There is one backyard critter that Reilly has gotten up close and personal with on two spring nights in back to back years: the urban skunk. The urban skunk is an independent animal that has adapted to city life by turning the narrow gap underneath people’s decks into their homes and making neighbourhood garbage into their gourmet meals.



When Reilly was two (just a pup don’t you know) he found out about skunks the hard way. I had just returned from an evening function at work and decided to put the garbage to the curb the night before instead of waiting until the morning (mistake #1). Reilly usually helps me take the garbage out so I opened the door and he joined me (not a mistake, he usually stays out of trouble when he joins me for this chore). While I was dragging the trash to the curb, he started crying at the gate going into the backyard. I hate crying so I opened the gate and let him tear off into the yard (mistake #2). I made a couple of trips back and fourth, finishing up the weekly garbage chore, when Reilly ran into the front yard and starting rubbing his face in the grass, looking up at me and blinking desperately. I went to help him (mistake #3) and caught a wiff of the most putrid smell you could imagine. Most people know the smell of skunk from a distance but anyone who has smelt it up close knows why few predators want to sink their teeth into the rodent. The odour is so strong it permeates every pore of your body and might leave your nostrils in a few hours if you’re lucky or in a few days if you’re not so lucky. 


I knew I had to act fast if I hoped to help the little dog free himself of the stench so I ran him into the house (mistake #4) and down to the laundry tub. I had a container of anti-skunk shampoo (I must have anticipated this event) and started scrubbing. It didn’t really work. By this time I stunk, Reilly stunk, and my whole house stunk because I had carried the puppy into the house. Seeing that my efforts were ineffective, I ran upstairs, threw the dog into the backyard – desperately hoping that the odourous culprit wasn’t waiting to strike again – and made my way to the grocery store and bought a bunch of tomato juice.


Upon my return I dumped the juice on the dog and left it to dry (just like the internet told me to). It still reeked. We couldn’t leave the dog outside for the night so we brought him in and took him to our spare bedroom. Meanwhile, the skunk, probably a little pissed that his garbage night rounds were disrupted by my dog, pranced up and down our street and let random malicious spurts of disgusting odour off as he made his way along. Of course the windows were open at this point (mistake #5) and the crippling stench was now penetrating every corner of our house. To make matters worse, the poor dog had taken it face first: the skunk sprayed him when he had his mouth open so every time he burped he let out a fresh blast of the awful perfume.


It was a long night and we never really did get rid of the smell. I had to take the next day off work to do battle with the stench. I aired the house out, put some weird internet concoction on the dog, and prayed for relief from the smell. The scent never really left but it did fade. Even Reilly started to smell a little less gross as the days and weeks rolled on. However, for at least six months after the skunk attack, if Reilly was out in the rain, he would come back in the house stinking like he was just sprayed.


If our backyard is Reilly’s kingdom, the skunk showed us who reigned supreme that night. In our neighbourhood, the skunks rule the night – especially garbage night; a message that the canine population better honour – or else!


See how Reilly faired in his next encounter with a skunk in the next post.




Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on BACKYARD SHENANIGANS: Skunk Takes Round 1!

The Guardian


img_0002.jpgReilly the Guardian: Watching out for his brother’s Adam (reading) and Liam (smiling)

People always find it comforting to think that someone is looking out for them. Whether it’s a parent or a spouse or a friend, the idea that someone has taken your best interests to heart is a real source of gratification. Some folks even like the idea of a guardian angel.

I suppose a dog is like a guardian angel. Ideally they look to protect a person and, by extension, their family. It’s all part of the pack mentality.

15142-the-guardian-angel-pietro-da-cortona.jpgItalian painter Pietro da Cortona captured the classic idea of the guardian angel in his oil painting aptly called GUARDIAN ANGEL. The painting has angels with wings, puffy clouds, and mysterious skylines. It combines life in the ether with life in the material world as angels, clearly visible to the bewildered child in the painting, pervade human existence. It links the world we see with our eyes with the world that might exist in the spiritual dimension. The second angel, located by the tree at the bottom of the painting, is an interesting thematic addition to the illustration. It’s like he’s being gobbled up by the earth. I can’t quite make it out but there might even be a man with a beard grabbing the angel. This could be suggesting the idea that children accept the concept of a guardian spirit while adults not only reject it: they go out of their way to destroy it.

I’m not trying to argue for or against the existence of guardian angels. I just like the painting and the idea it promotes – mainly the conflict between the tangible and the intangible or the visible and the invisible.

‘Hang on a minute,’ you’re probably saying. ‘I thought this was a dog blog! Dude, ditch the art history crap and tell me some cute dog stories!’

Alright, I see your point so now its time for me to make my point. Have you ever noticed how your dog looks out for you? At bedtime, Reilly always waits for both my wife and I to make our way upstairs – herding us up the stairs in a way. While we get ourselves ready for slumber, he jumps up on a small couch that looks out our bedroom window facing onto the street below. Sure, you might think that Reilly props himself up on the couch so he can look for squirrels, cats, skunks and raccoons. But one night last summer Reilly proved he was a true family guardian.

My wife and I were jarred from our sleep deep into the night by Reilly growling and letting out a few barks. Delirious, I pulled myself out of bed and made my way over to the couch. I looked out the window and saw a person slowly walking down our driveway to a waiting car. Because I was half asleep, I assumed it was the newspaper being delivered. I comforted Reilly and then climbed back into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep I glanced at the clock and thought, ‘Geez, 3:30 is a little early for the paper to come.’

The next morning, we made our way out to the family car. We had inadvertently left it unlocked and the mystery person who Reilly alerted us to had gone in and tossed it for change and whatever else they could find of value. Fortunately all they got was a few dollars in coins.

However, what struck me as curious was Reilly’s nightly position, poised on his perch, sleeping with his eyes half open, looking to see what’s coming up and down our street. Every night he assumes the role of guardian, ready to alert us to threats when they present themselves. Unfortunately we missed his warning the night before.

About a month after the initial incident, Reilly woke us up again. This time we had a plan. As soon as I was awake, I flicked on the hall light so the petty thief knew we were up. Then I charged down the stairs and flicked on the outside lights. I don’t know if this worked or not. All I do know is that, when I looked out the front window, no one was hanging around our house. (What did you think I was going to run outside and tackle the guy?  It also helped that  the car was locked.)

In a sense, Reilly is like the guardian angel in Pietro da Cortona’s painting. He is conscious and alert, ready to protect us from the funny business happening below. Meanwhile, we’re like the little kid – bewildered and wide-eyed – mostly because, when Reilly decides to protect us, we’re usually half asleep.

Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on The Guardian

The Day We Lost Reilly

img_0833.jpg         img_0834.jpg


Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

(Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell)


That’s right, I am drawing inspiration from that chain-smokin’ diva (Joni Mitchell’s a diva to me anyway) who immortalized those words in a song. Of course she was referring to the time they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Instead, I’m just going to talk about the day we lost Reilly.


It was actually a beautiful day in Southampton, Ontario. We had driven up to visit our friends Lola and Claude. The north wind coming off of Lake Huron made for a very comfortable temperature and the sun was shining steadily, except for the odd  interruption by a puffy cloud.


Everyone was feeling great – energized by the late spring day – hopeful for what the day had to offer. But then it happened…


Someone had left the back door open and Reilly, normally a stay-close-to-home-dog, had snuck out and was no doubt peeing on everything in the neighbourhood. We weren’t really sure how long he had been gone when Lola asked, “Where’s the dog?” We all got up and performed a preliminary search of the house only to determine that we were definitely down a canine.


We organized a search party: Claude would establish a wide perimeter on his bike, Sharon would head north, and I would head south. Lola would stay at the house in case Reilly made his way back. We agreed to reconvene on the front steps of the house in about twelve minutes and then re-establish the search if necessary. We all took our searching jobs very seriously and made off in our separate directions.


I can only speak for myself when I say the first wave of the search was a pretty anxious one. With my heart beating rapidly and my mind racing through all kinds of awful scenarios, I went through this foreign neighbourhood shouting the name of my dog, appealing to the odd stranger to let me know if they found him. Those were dark times my friend – dark times indeed.


When we got back to the house, there was a break in the case. While Claude, Sharon and I came up empty, Lola picked up a call on my cell (you know, I like the British expression “mobile” for what we call a cell phone. ‘Call me on my cell’ makes me feel like I’m part of some covert anti-government organization. ‘Call me on my mobile’ means that I’m mobile. See what I’m getting at. But you probably just want me to get back to the story). Fortunately, like many paranoid pet owners, I had my vet insert a tracking chip into Reilly. I also put a tag on his collar that lists an ID number and an 800 number to call if someone were to find my wayward Westie. When my mobile rang (see what I did there. People are going to stop calling it a cell – I swear!), Lola wound up talking to the company whose tracking chip we jammed into my dog’s neck. Apparently, Reilly had been found.


How far had he gotten? The person who found him probably saw my forlorn, lost dog wandering aimlessly, knowing he was detached from his pack. In my mind, Reilly probably listened to the call of nature, fled out the back door of my friend’s house and made his way into the forest. He was reconnecting with his ancestral roots, probably finding some wild wolf pack, establishing himself as the pack leader before finding his way to an isolated hermitage many kilometers away. I pictured a disheveled monk (with a phone) breaking his vow of silence to report that he had found a lost dog.


I quickly learned that this is not what happened. The dispatcher shared the address of the people who found Reilly with Lola. In astonishment, Lola replied, “That’s right next door.” Sure enough, we knocked on the neighbour’s door and a very nice man opened the door. Before we could ask if he found our dog, Reilly came tearing toward us with a dog toy in his mouth. A clearly confused Shih Tzu followed him, stopping at his master’s side, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re gonna let him take my toy?!”


The man explained that he saw Reilly sniffing around on his front lawn. He opened the door to see if there was anyone with the dog. Reilly ran right past him into his house. He started eating out of the Shih Tzu’s bowl and then ran around the house, raiding the dog toy basket enroute. They finally got him to settle down by bribing him with a treat. That’s when they checked the collar, called the 800 number, and reported they had found a West Highland White Terrior. They left out their psychological assessment that the little white dog had some serious boundary issues.


I later determined that the entire episode lasted about twenty minutes. I didn’t reminisce about the silly idea of Reilly escaping into nature and leading a wolf pack. Instead I focused on that Joni Mitchell song, realizing that, for twenty minutes, I thought I had lost my dog. I really didn’t know what I had lost until he was gone. Fortunately we found him pretty quickly.


Then we paved paradise and put up a parking lot.




Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on The Day We Lost Reilly

Reilly’s Going to Miss the Snow. I’m Not!



It’s like he just drank three Red Bulls after someone gave him a shot of adrenaline. For some reason, Reilly went bonkers today at the sight of fresh snow. He kind of reminds me of both our sons before a day of skiing. They could stay up until three in the morning and still be up at six to hit the slopes. Where does that kind of energy and will to live in the snow come from?


We are now in the middle of March and spring is just days away. This doesn’t mean much in Canada because the spring usually doesn’t really present itself until early April – even then we might get hit by a freak snowstorm. But, as the days get longer, my heart races a bit at the idea of shedding the winter gear and welcoming a little warmth into my life. Don’t get me wrong: winter has its place. I like to ski and I even enjoy my long walks with Reilly on cold winter days (not too cold though). However, there is always a point, usually around the first week of March, where I crave a warm front that will hit us hard and fast, wiping out the snow in its wake.


My sons would consider this blasphemy. They prefer the Rocky Mountain winters where, for most of March, the base is still three metres deep and the snow shows no sign of melting away. They are even comforted by the fact that the snow will never disappear at the top of the mountains.


In a way, Reilly shares this sentiment. The snow evokes a spirit in him that gives him remarkable energy. He runs through the snow; he rolls in the snow; he even eats a bit of snow (which is kind of gross because a snowflake is essentially ice surrounding a piece of dirt – a point that becomes very clear after he’s taken in a mouthful and winds up gagging. All I can do is give him a disapproving look, knowing that he will never learn).




Today, Sharon and I took Reilly through the town of Thornbury, across the bridge by the mill, over to Bayview Park. I let him off the leash (don’t tell the bylaw dudes) and Reilly sniffed and ran and rolled to his heart’s content. The entire walk was a celebration of snow. In fact, it was like we were constantly stopping so he could roll around in the white stuff and then look up at us as if to say, “Do you believe this? This is so cool.” (pun intended)


I am not going to feel sorry for Reilly in a few short weeks when the snow goes away. Like I said, I’ve had enough. I am gearing up for golf season. However, what I am going to miss is that energy. It’s as if he gets me through the late winter blahs by showing me how exciting his life can be.  Instead of getting stuck in the frigid reality of a long winter, I get to see the inherent beauty of a winter’s day through the manic movements of my puppy.


Inherent beauty or not, the snow’s gotta go – not just because I am sick of it, but because the seasons demand it. Spring will usher in colour and smells and sounds that will re-energize me (and you, I hope). And the great thing about Reilly is that he will not mourn the death of winter. Instead he will seamlessly transition into spring.


And I will reward him for getting me through the end of winter with longer walks and, at times, I will look at him amidst the emerging leaves, budding flowers, green grass, and warm sunshine and say, “Do you believe this? This is so cool.”



Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on Reilly’s Going to Miss the Snow. I’m Not!

The Life of Reilly


On the drive home from picking up our puppy, my son Liam and I tossed around a few names for our newest family member. Liam liked the name Einstein and I was partial to some super-macho name that escapes me now (it was probably something like Thor or Spartacus). At one point, I said to Liam, “Mom likes the name Reilly.” The discussion continued for most of the ride home and, the more we talked about it, the more we both felt that the name Reilly fit.

We weren’t really sure why the name fit so well. What we did know was that we were immediately attached to this little puppy. Liam loved the dog instantly. My wife and I had an engagement the day after Reilly came home and Liam agreed to stay with the dog for the day. He dusted off our camera and took about forty pictures of his new puppy that day. Our eldest son Adam thought the dog was sweet at first and then grew to appreciate the dog more and more as the days passed. He liked the way the little puppy would chase a toy, smash into the coffee table, blink in obvious pain, and then recover in time to bring the toy back to him. And Sharon, who kind of dreaded the idea of another dog because of the perpetual fur-ball tumbleweed that rolled through our house from our last dog, took a fairly instant liking to the dog as well. Like Adam, she thought the dog was sweet and, as soon as she could see that this dog was not going to shed, she really gave her affection to the pup.

Thus, the deck was stacked to give Reilly a hell of a good life. In fact, he was in a position to ‘live the life of Reilly.’ What does that mean anyway? Guess what, I’m going to tell you.

Because I’m a nerd (more on that in a future post), I needed to know the significance of the name Reilly and what it actually meant to ‘live the life of Reilly.’ So I did what everybody does when they don’t know something: I GOOGLED IT. Here’s what I discovered.

First of all, the name Reilly* is rooted in Irish ancestry. There are two versions of a famous Irish legend (usually associated with the O’Neil clan but sometimes – probably mistakenly – associated with the O’Reilly clan) that proves relevant to our investigation. The first involves Viking invaders sailing toward Ireland. The Viking leader says to his men, “The first man to touch the land will have his pick of the country.” The men make haste in their boats and one man, probably a guy named O’Neil but maybe a guy named O’Reilly, is pretty sure he is going to lose the race. In desperation, he cuts off his hand and throws it onto the shore ahead of his rivals and wins the race. The second version of the story involves two sons sent by their father from Scotland to Ireland. The same promise is made: the first one there gets their pick of the land. One of the sons falls behind but wins the race by chopping off his hand and throwing it on shore.


I was relieved to note that my research, while revealing a bleeding or blood red hand in the coat of arms of each clan, linked the hand-chopping business to the O’Neil’s. Thank God we didn’t name our puppy after a clan that prided itself on self-mutilation. Though the blood dripping hand from the Reilly coat of arms was still cause for some concern.

As I delved deeper into the Reilly name, I tried to discover the roots of the expression “Living the Life of Reilly.” Most historians say that the expression surfaced among Irish-Americans around 1900. Others claim that the expression goes back much further. The Reilly’s were among the first fifteen Irish clans to emerge on the island. Their prominence grew with one Reilly dynasty minting their own coins. The Reilly coins were so valuable that they were accepted as currency in England and led to the emergence of the expression, “Living on his Reilly’s” and, eventually, “Living the life of Reilly.” Both expressions suggested that someone is living the high life or that their life is very, very, very comfortable.

Over time the expression survived and, at the turn of the last century, became a common way of saying, ‘That person’s got a good life.’ It popped up in a couple of popular songs and  eventually surfaced as a title for a radio series, a couple of TV series, and a movie.

Life of Riley

So what does any of this have to do with my dog? Well, I am not exactly sure. I know that names carry meaning and meaning affects attitudes. Maybe by naming our dog Reilly we were unwittingly tapping into the machismo of the bloody hand myth (even though the story is more rooted in the O’Neil tradition) as well as the enjoyment one gets in watching a dog live life on his own terms. Or maybe the name is a simple expression of our luck in getting a dog that gives us a laugh every day.

Then again, maybe living the life of Reilly is really about how a dog can transform and improve our lives. To highlight this idea, a very recent story springs to mind. Just last week, Sharon came home after a very tough day at work. She was zapped of energy and, head held low, slogged her way upstairs change her clothes. Reilly followed. I was cooking dinner in the kitchen when I heard the ‘thump, thump, thump.’ Sharon was chasing Reilly around upstairs. This went on for a good five minutes before an out-of-breath Sharon said, “Okay, that’s enough.” The two of them trotted downstairs; Reilly very pleased with himself and Sharon, grinning from ear to ear, much less stressed.

Maybe ‘the life of Reilly’ isn’t just about having the easy life. Maybe its about living a better life through the experiences we are lucky enough to have. And maybe a little dog (or a big dog) can help enhance the way we experience life.

Maybe by living our lives with Reilly we are actually ‘living the life of Reilly.’

*The most common spellings of the name Reilly are REILLY and RILEY (the Anglicized version of Reilly). Sometimes you’ll see O’Reilly with the ‘O’ meaning ‘of’ as in ‘of the Reilly clan.’

Posted in Walking With Reilly | Comments Off on The Life of Reilly

Dogs Love to Bond

Any dog owner knows that dogs love to bond with their pack. They are also inclined to select a master to whom they devote most of their trust. Two stories jumped out at me today to remind me of this.

The first involves a British soldier serving in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was assigned to an ordinance disposal unit. His main task was to work with a Springer Spaniel named Theo to sniff out bombs. Take a look at this very sad story:

My uncle shared a story with my mother a few months back that is very similar to the one listed above. He went to a wake for a woman in her forties who had died of cancer. At a gathering back at the house, the dog made his way into the deceased woman’s bedroom. He curled up on her bed and died.The second story involves an orangutan and a hound. Take a look at this story:

Thanks to my “favourite sister-in-law” Donna Bursey for sharing the second story with me.

The bond between a dog and his pack and/or his master is one of a kind.

Here are two more picks – these ones with Reilly – that show some classic bonding. The first is a picture of my mother and Reilly. The second shows Reilly and my stepdad in Reilly’s favourite chair.

fran-and-reilly.jpg img_0286.jpg

Posted in Walking Without Reilly | Comments Off on Dogs Love to Bond