It is with great sadness that we here at Dogster offer our condolences to Wil and Anne Wheaton on the recent death of their dog Riley, after she spent 13 years as a member of their family.
As a science fiction and gaming geek, Wil Wheaton has been on my radar for years — from his breakthrough role on Star Trek: The Next Generation to his current webseries Tabletop. To most people, this is the sort of thing he’s recognized for: He is the media archetype of the white male geek — in the good sense. To his credit, Wheaton lacks the vicious misogyny and bigotry that groups like Gamergate have made synonymous with the geek label.
But Wil and his wife Anne Wheaton are also passionate animal enthusiasts. They’ve put a lot of time and love and energy not only into their own dogs and cats, but into advocating for animal rescue. Anne serves on the board of the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, and for the last two years, she’s produced a Celebrity Pet Adoption Calendar that raises money for the PHS.
Both have written very eloquently about Riley’s life and death on their blogs, and I highly recommend that everyone take time out to read them. The very first line of Wil’s remembrance of Riley is filled with an ache that anyone who has ever loved a pet knows very well:
Thirteen years is a long time to spend with any living thing, and losing a companion that loved unconditionally and as enthusiastically as my little white dog did is tearing holes in my heart.
Thirteen years is a long time, and based on what Wil and Anne say, it was a good 13 years. Riley’s life didn’t start out that way, though. She was originally found locked in a closet in a hotel that was going to be torn down, and if not for one person’s vigilance, her life could have ended right there. In an email correspondence, Anne told me about Riley’s early life:
We adopted Riley because a woman who did private cat rescue was at that building after people knew it was to be torn down and reached out to her because they’d seen several cats there. She heard a scratching noise coming from a closet and opened the door to find Riley, then three months old, dirty, malnourished, and with an injured foot. She kept her for six months to get her healthy and then posted a sign at a nearby PetCo that she was up for adoption. That’s how we got her.
Anne also writes in her own blog that Riley never quite got over that early experience in the closet. “[S]he was anxious as hell about everything but boy, did she love people.”
That love is evident in their pictures of her. Riley’s enthusiastically goofy face was a familiar sight to readers of Wil and Anne’s social media feeds and their blogs. It became known as her “I’m a Dog!” face, and that practically became her nickname. She constantly looks like she has just discovered the fact that she’s a dog, and is absolutely gleeful about it.
Riley had been in poor health for a long time. She suffered from severe osteoarthritis, had become almost completely deaf, and had been diagnosed with growths in her abdomen and near her heart. The end came during a small fight between Riley and one of their other dogs. Riley dislocated her hip, and the veterinarian said that they could push it back, but because of her osteoarthritis she would most likely be in horrible pain and it would continue to dislocate. Wil and Anne didn’t want their dog to spend her last days in excruciating pain, so they made that final choice that so many dog owners face.
For people who want to make donations in Riley’s name, Anne Wheaton says, “I haven’t told anyone to donate anything anywhere. People are just doing that on their own. If anything, I would just want people to support rescue animals in general, whether it’s financially or by volunteering at their local shelter or adopting or fostering a rescue.”
Wil Wheaton has asked that people offering condolences online not bring up the Rainbow Bridge. “I know you mean well,” he writes on his blog, “but it has always made me uncomfortable.”
Once again, our condolences to the Wheatons and their family, and congratulations on 13 years with a wonderful dog.
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