My Dog, Riley

When Rudy died, I was an absolute wreck. The tragic, unexpected loss of my baby was almost too much to bear. During that time, I'd replay his little life over and over again in my head… sobbing uncontrollably. I was paralyzed by my pain, by the realization that I came home to find my little boy... dead, at 3 years old. I never even got to say goodbye...

Two days after his death, I logged onto facebook. At the top of my homepage was a dog that looked so much like my Rudy… and I lost it. My heart immediately fell in love with this precious boy, but my head said, “No, Ashley. Absolutely not. It’s too soon.” The dog was later adopted by another family, but even still, I thought about him every day… somehow knowing he was mine, even though he belonged to someone else. I often kicked myself for not immediately saying, “I want him!”
But I just tried to move on…

A couple of months later, fate stepped in. A ridiculous breed ban in his county placed this dog back up for adoption. I could hardly believe it. I contacted my dear friend (his foster mom) and finally said what I’d been waiting to say for months: “I want him.” She said, “Ash, I’ve always wanted you to have him; I was just waiting for you to be ready. He’s your’s. He's always been your’s.”

And so, I adopted Riley... also known as my heart. Riley has brought more joy into my life than I thought possible after Rudy's death. He's simply incredible… he loves everyone and everything… all dogs, all people, and all activities. But most of all, he loves me. He’s just awesome, in every single way. And there's no doubt in my mind --or anyone else's-- that's he's exactly where he was always meant to be.

But Riley’s life began much differently… his early months were a living nightmare… and he honestly shouldn’t be alive today…

Riley’s Story
My Riley was rescued from a dogfighting ring. At 5 months old, some evil dogfighters placed Riley in the ring, and tried to fight him.

But my Riley, the little angel that he is, is not a fighter. He was utterly terrified… and he refused to fight. Instead, he’d just lie there, curled up in the fetal position, as the other dogs attacked him.

While it sickens and pains me beyond words to envision my scared little baby being viciously attacked by others --others who were simply following the rules-- that’s not the most heartbreaking part of this story.

As noble and precious as it is when a dog refuses to harm others in the ring, the consequences are unimaginable…

If you don’t know much about dogfighting, one of two things happens to the dogs like Riley who refuse to fight:

1)     They are used as bait dogs… meaning the “bait” used to train other dogs to fight. Their teeth are filed or pulled out, their mouths are duct taped shut, and their nails are filed down, until there’s nothing left. Then --with no defense mechanisms-- they’re thrown in the ring—often restrained to further impair them—as other dogs are trained to viciously attack…and kill… them.

Bait dog saved byTri-County Animal Rescue
Bait dogs can only hope for death in the ring… because the ones who survive each attack are forced to endure the same baiting torture, day after day, for as long as they live. Following each brutal fight, they are given no vet care for their wounds, and no medication for the severe pain. Often, their faces are torn off; their ears are hanging from their heads; their eyes are swollen shut; their limbs are falling off. They're rarely fed—if ever, they're given zero attention, and they're confined to a tiny, feces-filled cage, or a short chain with no shelter. Bait dogs live the saddest existence I can imagine.

Dogs like Riley aren't the only ones used as bait. Dogfighters scan “FREE TO A GOOD HOME” ads, animal shelters, and Craigslist for bait dogs. They also steal them from your backyard. Training usually begins with small dogs, puppies, cats, or rabbits. Then, as the training progresses, the bait moves up in size.

If you think you could easily identify a dogfighter asking for your “free” dog, THINK AGAIN. Many police officers, athletes, and wealthy individuals are involved in dogfighting. This is a MONEY sport… these people don’t always appear to be the scum they are, and they’ve certainly learned how to play the “I’m a good home” card to get your free dog for bait. 

The life of a bait dog was Riley’s first option.

2)     If option 1 isn’t selected, dogfighters go with option 2: Shoot the dog on-site.
Well, that’s what happens to the lucky ones at least. Some are used for sadistic pleasure before they are killed… subjected to unspeakable torture and abuse. The dogs are body slammed, beaten to death, hung, electrocuted, set on fire, and/or drowned… as the dogfighters laugh at their suffering.

Death was Riley’s second option.

I think about my Riley… my precious little angel… at 5 months old, left with those 2 options: Unimaginable torture every day of his life, or being shot to death. For Riley, they chose Option 2: shoot him.

Before attempting to kill him, they first tortured Riley by shooting him repeatedly with a BB gun, as he cried out in agony. My vet would later find the BBs lodged throughout his body. I can only imagine his terror and pain, as he was shot over and over again. He probably wished for death… which was just the plan they had for him…

But my Riley is one of the luckiest pups alive. On this particular day—the day meant to be Riley’s last—an undercover informant was present at the dogfight. And while the other dogfighters were distracted, the informant risked his own life to save Riley’s. He snuck Riley out the side door and got him to safety…

Photo by Wayne Rawson Photography

I will forever be indebted to the courageous hero who saved my baby’s life. Riley was set to die that day, but instead… my Riley lives.

And he lives... with me.

I was broken, and Riley saved me… in every way that a person can be saved. To put it quite simply: I was dead, and Riley brought me back to life…


  1. You are two amazing souls and you rightly deserve each other. I love you both.

  2. Ok I have to wipe the tears out of my eyes so I can write! I am so sorry that this beautiful soul had to suffer at the hands of those horrible people...I am also sorry that there are many more still out there suffering in the same way....I am however so happy that he has come into your life and you have given him as much love and healing as he has to you! God bless you both!

  3. while I'm so grateful for a happy ending, I am tormented by the reality with which the vulnerable have to suffer at human hands.

  4. Another amazing post. Thanks for helping to bring awareness to this sickening profit sport. Riley is a true miracle!

  5. not all angels have wings...some have four legs and a wagging tail.

  6. Those....things....I'll not call them 'humans', because they're not even that....what I would do to them if I could. Putting them in a small cement cell, dousing them with gasoline and throwing a match in would be where I'd start, then I'd use a fire hose to put them out, and start over again. No amount of torture would be enough to pay for what they did to Riley, and for what other inhuman monsters do to countless other precious animals in pursuit of their sick, perverted, sadistic 'sport'.

    Thank goodness there are people like you, Ashley, who are out there to pick up the pieces and give these dogs the life they deserve. You're an inspiration beyond anything, and give me some small hope that not all humans are a parasitic scourge upon this planet.

  7. I am so happy that he was saved that day but saddened still that so many are not. We have a very sweet and gentle pittbull that would never fight either, I couldnt imagine any of those things happening to her.

  8. Thank God for the informant at the dogfight who risked his own life to save poor Riley from such unimagineable pain, horror and death. Thank you for bringing Riley's story to light. I know you two were meant to be together and I am sooooooo happy for both of you. The penalties for dog fighting must be much more severe to stop these sick people from abusint innocent animals.

  9. Sharon Biondi ScottApril 22, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Wow! Talk about a miracle story, you have found the reason for the word. He is a special fur baby. Glad you both found eachother, hope and pray you have many more years together.

  10. Oh god, that is one of the most amazing stories! That's really all I can say, I can bearly see (cause of me crying).

  11. God Bless you and his hero that saved him,and i hope the 2 of you live Long and happy lives forever !!!!!!!You and reily ROCK !!!

  12. This is a beautiful story! God has placed you two together!

  13. i love you both and i've never met either of you!!

  14. Well there is a Place called Hell for People that do that Sick Crap! Dog spelled backwards is God and I am reminded of the last verse in the Old Testament that reads For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. So those sick individuals may get away with sick crap like dog fighting for a bit, but they will be Judged and I do not Pity those Fools!

  15. Ashley thank you for writing this post. You have a huge heart and it is awesome that you have devoted your life to animals. I just wanted to say that you are an awesome writer as well. The posts that I have read of yours are easy to read and develop beautifully.

  16. I am just discovering your site today. Already I have cried twice...wait make that three times. I was moved to tears reading your beautifully written why I love pitt bulls. How could I not be, I would find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn't be moved. I am crying now having just read about Riley. I can relate so much. A year ago this past march I lost my sweet bully baby Neaera. She was my whole world and I thought it not possible for my heart to ever heal. I felt lost in my world. Then in November a friend took me to a backyard breeder to look at pitty puppies. I hate these breeders but I went to be polite to her. There I saw this adorable little face and when I held her she had sass and attitude, but she at three weeks old also kissed me right on my nose. I didn't want to pick a puppy from this place but this little rolly poly pup wouldn't stop following me. She was letting me know that she had picked me. I started asking questions and the mother was emaciated when she got pregnant and while getting more than normal was still in poor shape. From what I understood from piecing together several stoies mom was suposed to be a bait dog and now they were going to have these tiny puppies. Come to find out this baby that was trying with all her might to make me fall in love could be subjected to this awful life and the breeder wanted to keep her. I noticed mom wasn't nursing she was drying out so I convienced them to let me take a pup that day, I also talked them into that precosious lil pup. I feel head over heels for this baby and now I could imagine life without her. She helped to mend my very broken soul we saved each other. I also cried reading about Lucky. How any Human could do such monsterous things to these wonderful animals is mind boggling. Thank you for all you are doing for this beautiful breed. I would like to know if lucky found a home yet as well. Thanks

  17. Ashley, what an amazing soul you are. I don't know who is luckier, you or Riley. Thank you for lifting my spirit with your posts and for sharing and educating all of us.

  18. I ended up with a boxer "Khalad" that my cousin rescued from dog fighting. I had him for 2 years and ended u breeding him with my ptents boxer. I always thought his ceasers were due to the prior abuse. Come to find out, my husband was secretly abusing our dogs. 3 1/2 years later, I'm still struggling to deal with this! I had saved Khalad and helped create another wonderful boxer just to put them in harms way! We had extreme behavior issues at the last and couldn't get them into a rescue. Day before my birthday I had to put my precious dogs to sleep because I couldn't have them near my. daughter any longer. My heart still aches for the two I didn't protect!

  19. What a great story!!! You were meant to be together!!!!!!

  20. If you don't mind, I would like to share your blog on my blog. is that allowed? I just link it?

  21. Elizabeth, that would be awesome if you could link my blog to your's! That's awesome! Can you send me the link when you do so I can share it :)

  22. What you are doing is incredible! I'm an animal lover myself!I have five cats and a dog. I rescued all of them over the years I wish I could have even more however I know for their well being I have to have a limit! I also help ferrel cats in my neighborhood even though I have to fight my HOA. however what I do is nothing compare to what you do!My daughter just rescued a puppy pit bull from the humane society in my home town,we didn't know he what he was and really it does not matter he is so sweet and fun how can anybody hurt them ! I think pit bull are wonderful dogs, humans are the mean and evil one!I pray for them and hope very soon they win the battle against evil humans!

  23. I try not to be too vicious but when I think about people doing this to any dog I want to return the favor and torture them. I do not understand how people can take pleasure in being so cruel to an innocent. Ashley keep up the good work, your efforts truly make a difference and have saved so many dogs. And even when your blogs make me sad, they also bring me hope because you and other animal lovers expose the plight of these babies and someday I have faith we will stop this needless torture! Hugs and prayers for you and your furry children.

  24. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You are an angel, Ashley. Thank God for that courageous person who saved Riley. And thank God for you and what you do - and for all those who work to rescue animals. Your story made me cry but in the end, happy tears. Give Riley a big hug from me!

  25. Ive cried so many tears from thinking about the abuse these poor angels suffer. I have a pitt of my own and couldnt imagine my life without him, hes my best friend! I cant believe the evil in this world, and how these so called people can look themselves in the mirror. There is a special place in Hell for them and they will pay! Im so glad they have you Ashley, and you have them. If we had more people like you in the world It would be a Better place.

  26. This made me cry and gave me goosebumps at the same time. I knew about dog fighting, but not about bait dogs. I know thats the catagory my loving Chloe would be in as well. It sickens and infuriates me to think what would happen to her if she got caught by one of these heartless evil individuals. We have to join together to stop this madness! GOD BLESS ALL LOVING PITBULLS!!

  27. This is a really heartfelt story. I am very happy Riley was saved and he is a lucky dog to have you!

  28. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing Riley's story, and thank you for educating us (me) on yet one more aspect of how evil man"kind" can be. I will definitely pass this info on in hopes of protecting another cat or dog from this fate. Thank you for all of your hard work!!!

  29. A very touching story... so happy for both of you~!

  30. God Bless you and Riley! I never understood what "bait dogs" were. This sickens me beyond belief. Thank God for Angels like you and Riley.

  31. Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to finally read one with a happy ending. It sickens me how "bait dogs" suffer... I pray we end this. God Bless.

  32. I am so happy you two found each other. It brought tears to my eyes to read about what happens to these dogs. I can't even imagine how they feel. All they want is to be loved unconditionally the same way they love.

  33. Those people are going to a special hell and you, my dear, are going to a special place in Heaven. I really believe that when one of our pets die, it is because there is another one out there who is in need of us to save them. I don't like to cry, Ashley, but I had to read this. I will share it too so others can be educated on the horrors of dog fighting. Bless those babies.

  34. I have a wonderful pit,and she is the love of our life,yes we rescued her,and we are getting ready to do it again so that she has a playmate. I don't care who fights these dog's they are sick trash,and money be damned,mess with my dog and you will have a problem. If and when the garbage is caught,don't just slap their hand's and a little fine. Give them so hard time,5 year's,not in jail,thats to easy,prison,where real men love their dog's and will be happy to let them know both day,and "night". If they were truely punished, and not this sissy community service and hit with real fine'it might slow them down,or feed them to the poor animal's they seem to enjoy putting through hell..

  35. Ashley, thanks for speaking out and explaining why "Free Pet" ads are death sentences for animals. I call "free" ads in our local paper and answer the free ads on Craigslist to try and educate people.

    Thanks also for explaining what a bait dog is and how it is used. Sharing.

  36. Bless you Ashley! You have such a good heart = )

  37. why can't they just use people as "BAIT",take one of their sick little friends and toss them in. Soon there would not be any of those people left to "enjoy" this SPORT.All of my dogs hve been rescued from abused pens or just from people being bored with them and dumping them on the street.When a human does this to another human they go to jail,why then can't we do the same for an animal that depends entirely upon us for all its love and needs?One look in their eyes and you know what trust and love looks like.They never even judge you or find a flaw with you..to them you are perfect and if given even half a chance they will love you with their entire soul that GOD gives to them.No one should ever think of them as a toy or a money market, they hurt,cry love,and I think all human animals can take a leson from them.Respect them all..no matter what breed they may be

  38. Bless you, also for getting this story out. These beasts (dog fighters) do not deserve to live. I cannot imagine it. The horrific abuse that goes on in 3rd world countries is mind boggling, but this happened HERE! No, No! Judy Darst


  40. Aww I hate seeing a dog-fighting pic but all your pups so look healthy and happy now.

    Best to you!
    Cally Florence @

  41. This is a horrible reality nation wide. Riley's heart breaking story is the life of so many beautiful loving souls. Read Riley's story, then stand against dog fighting and report any suspicious activity. Even if you think dog fighting may be happening, report it!! You may be that angel God has sent to save these unconditional loving animals he created.

  42. great post! I have a small dog that i almost re-homed (because i have a baby and he bit her) but the thought that even if someone responsible addopted him didn't mean they wouldn't have the same problem and take less care rehoming him made me try my hardest to retrain him... (still working on it =/) people use small dogs as bait dogs as you mentioned and i couldn't immagine anyone loving him as much as i do. Thanks for being the type that cares =)

  43. Recently a woman who works in a great no-kill shelter in NY came up to me & suggested strongly that I never tie my 2 small dogs up outside of a market. She said that there is a dogfighting ring in Queens a ways away from my neighborhood & they do steal dogs off of posts to play bait dog. I don't tie them up anyway, but many, many dogs are left on posts in the city while their owners shop.

    I think if they read your post about your baby Riley, they would think twice. This is a malicious world some times. Bless your heart for finding your new love. I'm so thankful that you have each other. Sarah

  44. Ashley - thank you soo much for speaking for those that haven't a voice..

    I also live in the southern US...MY local "humane society" JUST posted a 'kudo's' and a link to a local pitbull breeder's website...


    This is the same local 'humane society' that refuses to adopt out pibbles, due to 'liability'..

    The FB post was a TY for a donation, but the result is that even they(humane society)are so ignorant that 'we' can never win here...
    I don't think they should have not accepted the donation - but a stamp and a TY note would have been much more appropriate..

    Even though I know I have to keep up the 'good fight' ~ It's seems to be a losing battle...

    Advice regarding how to approach and/or deal with something like this would be more than appreciated...

  45. I can only cry. The pain those dog go though it kills me. I think the people should have to go though pain like that and people who love these dog and all animals should get to watch. God forgive me I know the deviel will get them all. So glad you were able to save your dog . Thank you and god bless you.

  46. I should have left the tears from the "Why Do I Love Pit Bulls?" blog... because they just kept on coming as I read this entry.

    I sure am glad that you and Riley found each other, and I'm so thankful for the person that snuck Riley out of that place of torture and impending death.

    As hard as it is to read the nasty details of what happens to these babies, I wish more people would grit their teeth and read about it. So many people just ignore what's happening so they don't have to feel sad. I'd rather know, though, so I can do something about it.

    I've said it once, and I'll say it again... and again... and again. YOU are amazing. You really are my hero!

  47. I'm writing to you as tears roll all over my face...You are not only gorgeous outside (you're a model? :)) but what a heart...

    God is so good, he saw two angels broken hearted and He united you two.

    I read Noah the poor bait dog yesterday and now Ridley's. I can say your blog, your story, your organization and your life is magical. I'm sooo happy for him, I thought this bait was the worst thing I heard about Pitbulls, my God how can humans be so cruel, disgusting as they don't even deserve to live? A puppy? That's just a horror.

    I'm here sending my energy wishing you all all the happiness.

    I rescued 5, 4 cats and one dog, all sick. I would adopt more dogs but my dog gets really sad and she needs attention all the time.

    She was locked in a cage all her life, giving away puppies, suffering from seeing her babies go away and I know Dog moms are like humans, they love their kids!

    Her fur was too long, her nails rounded and too long too, her back paws seemed never touched the floor, she never walked and I always deal with animals from the streets but the smell she had was like nothing I ever saw before, I'm sure she was never bathed.

    For a month she didn't move, didn't look at me, I cried everyday thinking what did they do to her. She didn't had a name.

    I though she wasn't able to like someone, but in one month she gave in. She never barks, she seems to act like she is afraid of bothering me all the time, it's been three years and although everything we do here it's with a song, with funny voices and trying to even make her a little spoiled she stills seems shy but way better than when she came.

    Pain can really break these poor voiceless, helpless souls...We must save them.
    I wish to adopt but one more dog like her I think it would make her depressed, I see the way she reacts when the cats are close. But a dog could be worse. She is really afraid of me being kind to others so I only pet the cats in other room, she hardly never sees it but when she does she suffers.
    She has nightmares like every night.

    There's no legislation in Japan to ensure the rights of puppy mills, when the owner of the petshop that was giving her away like a piece of plastic said she had no name my heart beat so fast, I wanted to rip his head off. I thought to my self that he would pay, nah....there's no laws here. Japanese government don't see animals as living beings and it seems it's tradition. I'm not japanese neither I think all japanese are like this.

    If you could bring awareness, share or post something about the Japan's earthquake it would be great, I want to at least foster some pets in the yard as evacuees in the shelter are afraid of loosing their pets and the government don't allow them to go see them in the 20km region of radiation so thousands of farm animals and companions are left to die in starvation, if you could ask your readers and friends to write to Prime Minister Kan and speak their mind, it would be great.

    Thank you so much.
    You guys deserve the best. I hope you be really happy with Ridley and that you enjoy each other for years and years.

    I can't imagine how painful it was come back home...only 3 years, so sorry.

  48. I just can't see to type this I'm crying so hard...all the poor animals who suffer in mans name all over the world..I am so saddened that people who have written on here..like me..want to do unspeakable things to the perpetrators and I am sure like me also abhor violence of any kind..this sort of thing is making me a bad person..I don't believe now there can be a god of any kind to make such innocent victims suffer so..children as well as animals..

  49. Your story is very sad but interesting. your thinking is very brilliant about adoption of the dog. Thanks for sharing!!!

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  50. So very glad that your Riley got his happy ending. I wish they all had happy endings.

    I used to work with a guy who started breeding pits, and then he started talking about how much fun his dogs had in the ring. I wanted to punch him in the face! He said that the dogs enjoyed it because their tails wagged. I told him that dogs wag their tails for lots of reason, including being scared; but, of course, he refused to see it that way. I regret not contacting the police. Luckily, now he can not afford to breed his dogs anymore. He's now into boxing, which is ironic because now he's the bait!

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