By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – The painted rock at the Marlborough-Hudson border on Route 85 has been a venue for several decades to express various feelings including grief. A painting there this spring helped comfort Richard Riley of Marlborough as he mourned the loss of his dog, Tiki.
Riley posted an obituary on Facebook, which read in part, “She held on long as she could and would have suffered until her final breath just to stay with me, but I had to let her go. I loved her enough to ease her suffering at the expense of my heart, which begged my mind not to do it. I can’t imagine what parents of children feel when they lose a child, but this is as close as I’ll ever get to feeling that as I have no kids. … I may have cremated Tiki’s body, but her love and soul lay buried in my heart.”
Tiki’s image was painted on the rock by Paul Wade, Riley’s tattoo artist and owner of the Tattoo Gallery in Southborough. Others wrote her name, years of birth and death, and names of some local dogs who recently passed away.
Soon after, friends took selfies alongside Tiki’s rock painting and posted them on Facebook. Among them was Bruce Caissie, who befriended Riley in 1978 while in middle school.
“Tiki was one of those special pets that everyone loved when you met her.” Cassie explained. “She was such a constant in Rich’s life and meant the world to him. He’s the type of owner you want a dog to have.”
Caissie began a Facebook group in 2010 that documents the rock paintings. It now has over 4,300 members. He serves as administrator with David and Jim Caissie, Jessica Eve Coppolino, Bridgette Brown Peterson, Carol Confrey Pusateri and Robert Zagwyn.
“Throughout the years, I’ve never seen a painting done on the rock to memorialize a pet,” Caissie noted. “The Tiki painting was there for close to a month – that’s totally unusual. I haven’t seen too many paintings last over three weeks.”
The connection between the rock, Caissie and Riley dates back to 2010. Caissie’s sister, Paula Caissie Babineau, needed treatment for leukemia. Riley joined him and others to paint a message promoting a fundraiser for her. When she passed away in 2011, Riley was among those who helped memorialize her with a rock painting.
“My personal experience with Rich supporting me is what he does with all of his friends,” Caissie shared.
Riley confirms that Tiki was his best friend. He was always willing to give her needed attention. Tiki was deaf and blind in one eye, and had chronic bronchitis.
“Tiki was a great pet and friend,” he said. “We were heading toward another summer and I bought central air conditioning just so she could breathe in the heat. I thought she’d make it through another summer. She lived for 15-and-a-half years with a lot of health problems, but was the happiest pug ever.”
Tiki continues to be remembered with her own Facebook page. She has over 1,300 friends.
“She’s going to keep posting from the grave,” Riley said. “It’s kind of weird, but people want her to be kept alive that way. For some reason, Tiki and her passing really resonated with a lot of people.”
Riley might get another pet, but isn’t feeling rushed. In the meantime, he’s grateful for his friends’ support and many memories of Tiki.
“My favorite time of every day was coming home from work and seeing Tiki,” he said. “Now, it’s the saddest part of my day.”
Photos/Jessica Eve Coppolino