For awhile now, I've been waiting to share this and today seems like a good day...

 For those of you who have followed my blog for the last few years, you would know that our first "baby" was our dog Ryley.  When we were married for about 9 months and living in North Carolina, we took the plunge and brought home the world's cutest puppy, an 8 week old purebred golden retriever.  He was that classic picture of a fluffy, blonde puppy and we fell in love with him in about 30 seconds.  I can honestly tell you that from that first week we got him in June (almost 7 years ago) until today, he has been nothing but wonderful.  Travis spent hours and hours with him while he was in Seminary, training him and playing with him during a season with a very flexible schedule.  We rented a little house on an acreage in North Carolina and he had space to run and play and explore and dig one hole after another.  We introduced him to all of our friends, took him on roadtrips to Virginia and Florida and eventually moved him across the country to Minnesota. 

For the last 5 years that we've been here, he's gone back and forth to Iowa with us, dozens of times.  My family has fallen in love with him just like we did and thankfully, they have helped us out a lot over the years, when we've been gone on retreats or at camps.  When we moved into our condo, it was a perfect fit for all three of us.  Ryley had free reign of our (then) guest room and most days I would find him curled up on the bed!  We spent lots of time on walks with him, and even took him to summer camp one year :) He won over our neighbors with his gentle, friendly self and provided the company and companionship that each of us needed when the other was away.  Many, many nights I spent evenings alone while Travis was working, but I never minded it because I always had Ryley to hang out with :) He would curl up next to me, lay his head in my lap and spend as much time by my side as I needed.  For the last 7 years, every tear that has fallen from my eyes, has not gone unnoticed by Ryley.  As most goldens are, he is such a people pleaser with a very tender heart and no matter where I was in the house, as soon as he realized I was crying, he was right there by my side, looking up at me with those big eyes.  It didn't take long for me to pick up on his intuition and to appreciate him in a whole new way. 
We have loved Ryley and have become "those" dog people as a result!
For many years he has spent every holiday with us, opening his own gifts with the rest of the family on Christmas morning :)
He's gone to Canada twice, with Travis and my Dad, on a fishing trip...
...enjoying the great outdoors as dogs are made to do!
He's the most handsome dog and has been a wonderful family dog.
As he was with Ava, he's been perfect and gentle with Carter.
We've never had an issue, never had a really close call or anything that's made us uncomfortable.
And because of that, Ava loves him dearly.  She loves to give him hugs like this and lately loves to chase him around the house with her doll stroller, which of course we don't let her do :)
When Ava was born, I worried about the way Ryley would adjust and then worried about how we'd keep up with his needs too.  We managed, but we did find ourselves feeling guilty for the lack of time we had for him and mostly, for the lack of space.  When we knew we were expecting Carter, I began to worry and pray that the Lord would somehow meet our needs and Ryley's too.  We knew we just couldn't give him away, nor had he done anything to deserve that.  But he's a big dog and our condo only seems to be getting smaller as we add little people to the mix :) In many ways, we were burdened over Ryley and not sure what to do. 

When Carter was born, my sister Jennie and her husband Dave, graciously took Ryley for 2 months and let us get back on our feet and adjust to life with 2 kids.  It was a huge blessing to not have to worry about Ryley and I know he just LOVED all the attention he got from the two of them!  In fact, when Travis picked him up to come home, he didn't want to go :) That was a good thing and probably a little detail that the Lord orchestrated for this next season in our lives. 

A few months ago, Jennie called me and asked us to think about whether or not we would like them to take Ryley, indefinitely.  Not only because it would help us out, but also because they fell in love with him and wanted him to come live with them in their new house. 

I knew the second she offered it, it was the answer we had prayed for.  It took me awhile to get used to the idea, even though it was in so many ways, the perfect circumstance.  I've cried some tears, felt all kinds of guilt and gone through every range of emotion.  Unless you are a dog person, I don't expect you to understand that.
But as we went to Iowa for Easter this weekend, we brought Ryley down with us, to officially move him into his new digs.  It was a good decision, the right decision for us, but mostly for Ryley.  He's got room to breathe and play, a yard to explore and two people who are in the perfect stage for having a "baby" of the canine variety! 
He's happy there and he's wanted and loved.  We'll get to see him a lot and we can sleep at night knowing he's in very good hands.  How could we ask for a better situation??

And so, although it's great and wonderful, we already miss him.  The kids are both napping right now and it's terribly quiet in here.  When Travis comes home, I keep listening for Ryley to get up and meet him at the door.  When we pull in our garage, Ava has asked me several times about going inside to "see Ryley", which is what I always told her we were going home to do :) We'll adjust and get used to it I know and honestly, I feel like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders.  I know he's just a dog, but when he's your dog it's a whole different story.  We love him like crazy and always will.  We're not sure how the next season will play out, but for now we're grateful for my sister and brother in law and we feel like this is one more adventure for Ryley to add to his growing list of accomplishments! 
He's lived quite a life so far and I hope he's got lots of life left in him for the future!

So after a long day yesterday without Ryley around, Travis came home with one of my favorite treats to celebrate my birthday. 
A turtle pie straight from Heaven...
And no, I didn't eat that whole missing section by myself :)
But let me tell you, I could have! 

I realize that in light of tornadoes and earthquakes, crumbling economies and wars; letting go of a dog is not a life changing event. 
 But it's a significant part of our lives that we are letting go of and in our world, it's a big deal. 
Thanks to Jennie and Dave, I'm happy to know that Ryley is enjoying his new home and we'll get to see him in a just over a month. 
He's getting spoiled all over again and I couldn't be happier about it.
The Lord has been good to us again, to faithfully answer a need in a way we couldn't have predicted. 

When I consider how He provided so perfectly for our DOG, why do I ever doubt Him for my own life too??
So there you have it, that's what's been brewing in our world for the last few weeks and I'm grateful to finally be able to share it with you. 
I hope your Tuesday has been sunnier and warmer than mine... 
I think it's about time for another piece of turtle pie!


Rebecca Jo said...

Oh my... I cant imagine how hard that decision was. I know my fur-babies are family, as Ryley has been for you all... but I can understand your decision. Glad that he's at a wonderful home that is full of love & attention...

Jesse and Stacie said...

Ok, that was sad :( That's why Jesse and I can't ever get a dog, haha. At least he's with family and you can still see him. Can you imagine giving him to strangers?! He really is the sweetest, most tenderhearted dog. He just stood there and stared when Tiggy "boxed him" :) Oh and that pie looks heavenly!!!

Holly said...

Rylie is a great dog and so handome! You can have our dog, shadow:) She is a great dog.. just with little kids I feel sorry for her sometimes as well with the lack of attention. I am sooo glad Rylie is with your family!

Darla said...

Okay, Stephanie, I am not really a "dog person" and yet still this post made me wanna cry! Wow. Bittersweet is such a perfect word to title your story. And for someone who isn't all that dog crazy, let me tell you how much I appreciated that Ryley was never one of those dogs who plowed me over as soon as I walked in your door. He really was agreat dog, and I can't imagine how hard that must have been for your family to make that decision.