A History on our Airstream Dog, Riley

A lot of you are big Riley fans. I figured a little history on this pup was long overdue. Jason and I have the most fierce bond imaginable with Riley. Our connection with him is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced with an animal. His intelligence level is unreal. He intently listens to us when we talk and picks words he knows out of our conversations. He understands our body language and reacts to the most subtle signals. It almost feels like he’s some sort of alien sent to earth to spy on us. He’s that smart. We’ve been growing this bond for ten years now. We’ve had him since he was a wee puppy that was so teeny he couldn’t even get on and off curbs. He was also the feistiest puppy I had ever encountered. When he couldn’t figure something out or got frustrated, he’d let out this cute growl. A growl similar to something I would think a squirrel would make. That’s what I remember most about when he was a puppy. His tininess and his feistiness.

Riley came to us by way of this old-fashioned thing called a newspaper. I combed the local rescue groups online and inquired about several small dogs. I only received responses from two groups. One told me that I wasn’t eligible to adopt because I lived in an apartment complex and had no backyard. Another flat out told me I wasn’t eligible because I was a college student and therefore irresponsible. I’m pretty sure that’s what the first rescue group wanted to tell me as well. So that’s where the newspaper came in. I combed through the classifieds and called on an ad for toy poodle puppies. In retrospect, I feel guilty about where Riley came from. But on the other hand, knowing what I know now, I’d do it again in a heartbeat because I know Riley would have been bounced around in shelters his whole life had we not found him. To us, he’s perfect in every way. Our soul dog. But most would have seen him as a very difficult dog. So I know it was all meant to be. And really, in a way, I do feel like I rescued him.

I drove 170 miles all the way to a town called Warner Robins, Georgia to get Riley. I pulled up to a house in the country and was led around to a shed in the backyard. Out stumbled a little half pound ball of fluff that was barely able to see over the blades of grass. I scooped him up, paid the lady $250 and off we went. He was only eight weeks old and was the remaining pup in the litter. It was hard to tell how long he had been away from his littermates and mother. But I didn’t ask questions. It didn’t matter. From the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he was the one.

Riley as a wee puppy, glossy lip and all. We like to think he’s saying, “is this how I smile?”

Riley and I formed a bond immediately. We did everything together. Everywhere I was, Riley was. At night, I’d let him lay on his back between my side and arm until he fell fast asleep. Then I’d carefully place him in his bed on the floor along side my bed. He was too tiny to sleep with me and I was deathly afraid of rolling over on him in the night. When I’d get up at night I would tip-toe to the bathroom to not wake him. If I did, he’d cry until I picked him up to fall asleep in my arms again. During the day, he was glued to me and under my feet everywhere I went. I eventually had to strap him to my chest to keep from worrying about stepping on him.

As Riley grew up, he became extremely protective of me. As much as we socialized him, he still only really likes a handful of people. Besides me, he loves Jason, my mom, my sister and my three grandparents. That’s his short list. Everyone else he’s encountered his whole life get a regular growl when he sees them. And strangers, forget about it. The occasional person we pass on a walk that just comes right up and reaches for him before I can advise against it gets a pet in and goes off on their merry way, never realizing that they just pet Cujo. But anyone that is weary of him or hesitates gets a snarling mohawk-sportin’ attitude-filled dog lunging for them. I know it comes out of a place of fear. He’s just a nervous, anxious dog that has this innate desire to protect us at all costs. I wish I could change that about him. He goes with us everywhere even though it’s often stressful for us to keep him contained. But I know he (and I) stress more just by being apart. And after all of the videos, books and trainers over the years, we just accept him for how he is. That’s Riley. Passionate, fiery Riley.

A bow tie-clad Riley at our wedding. Notice he’s exchanging words with the photographer on the right.

Riley has been all over the country with us – eighteen states so far. Over the last ten years, I can count on one hand how many trips we’ve taken without him. Because all we do is miss him the whole time. Riley’s been all up and down the eastern seaboard from Niagara Falls to New York City to Key West. He’s been to Des Moines, St. Louis, Nashville and everywhere in between. We know his most favorite things in the world are blazing a new trail or running up and down the beach. He’s an adventure dog. There’s nothing poodle about him. We knew Airstream living would be a dream come true for Riley. And it is. He loves going out and exploring during the day and returning to his favorite perch in the trailer – on top of the pillows on the sofa. This experience wouldn’t be the same without him and we are so thankful that he’s here to enjoy it with us. He’s ten years old and really hasn’t changed that much. He still runs like the wind, plays like a puppy and is feisty as can be. We can’t wait to show him the other half of the country. To many more years of exploring with our best friend!


  • He knows dozens of words including the names of his favorite people and dogs.
  • He loves all cats and hates any dog that’s bigger than him.
  • On command, he can dance, play dead, sit, stay, roll over and give high paws.
  • He’s had his signature mohawk for the past five years or so.
  • His favorite treat is cheese.
  • When we leave to go somewhere, he stands with one uncertain paw raised until he’s invited to go along.
  • If he isn’t invited, he will army crawl away from us in disgust. This is why he goes with almost everywhere.
  • When we are headed home to the Airstream, he will start screaming in delight the minute he spots it. He will scratch us silly until the car stops and he’s allowed to get out.
  • If Riley’s water bowl runs out before we notice, he will run to anything he knows water comes out of (water bottle, bathtub, sink, water cooler, etc) and in one motion, growl and slam up against it with his paws. He wants what he wants when he wants it. I love that about him.
  • He gets a supplement every night with cheese and if Jason forgets, he will remind him by staring intently and “talking” until Jason heads to the refrigerator.
  • Riley taught himself to flip hairties when he was a pup. It’s one of his favorite things to do. He flips it and then runs to find where it lands. Often, he smacks us right in the face with them.
  • Riley has his own instagram account where he hides among scenery.

Arlington National Cemetery

Old A1A, St. Augustine, Florida

Niagara Falls, New York

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Georgia

St. Augustine, Florida

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Georgia

Riley with his family and dog friends | Oak Island, North Carolina


Sheena is a free-spirited adventurer who designed and renovated a 1975 Airstream in 2016 and travels the US with her husband and mohawk-sportin’ poodle. She’s a business owner, self-taught carpenter, blogger, yogi, professional photographer and a lover of the outdoors and healthy living.

2 Comment

  1. There is nothing like some bonds we forge with our furry family. I’ve had other doggies in my family and I loved them all with all my heart. But I just feel an even more intense bond with my current dog. I remember distinctly the day I’ve picked him up, as my heart almost ached with love the first moment I saw him, so tiny and afraid (3 years ago). I honestly don’t know how to explain this bond and the amount of unconditional love I have for him 🙂 Plus, he made me go vegetarian, which is of great importance too! 🙂

    1. Ah love this! Yes – I feel like he’s our once in a lifetime pup. 🙂 We feel so lucky to have found him. That’s funny you say that about vegetarianism – Riley is the reason my husband quit eating meat too!

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