Riley’s Dish Garden

This was Riley’s dish. That boy loved to eat and this battered, not-very-attractive dish was his version of a plate. When he was able to navigate easily, I would fill it with food and place it on the rug by the kitchen sink. It was easier for him to stand there. When he couldn’t get up and down quite as easily in the last month or so of his life, I would take the dish to him and he would chow down right there from his perch on the rug.

I can’t throw it away. It’s my boy’s dish. Just as I saved some locks of his hair and his collar, I am hanging on to his dish.

But what to do with it other than storing it in a cupboard?

I had an idea. It reminds me of a planting dish, so off I went to a local nursery. I bought some succulents and some special potting soil.

Each of the plants came in a terra cotta pot with little rocks on top of the soil. I shook out all the rocks and added them to the bottom of the bowl for drainage.

Then I filled the bowl with plants and soil.

While I was doing all of this, Don and Scout were out on the porch with me. Ever the blogger, I picked up the bowl to find the place to photograph it. As I set it down on the bench, this happened:

Immediately. Our girl misses her brother.

Riley’s Dish Garden

Yes, there are prettier planting dishes – I have several McCoy planting dishes right here in the cottage. But this may be the most loved planting dish to be found anywhere.

It helps a great deal. Creating this garden is a fitting tribute to my Riley.

Miss you, my dear, sweet boy. With all my heart.


Happy Monday.

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  1. Just Cats says

    This touched my heart. I understand fully how you want to hang on to everything that was precious to Riley. It is beautiful. Deb

  2. says

    That’s a perfect use for Riley’s dish, Claudia. It makes a great container for the succulents, too. I still have Kessie’s dishes. In fact, I still have Bryn’s (my FIRST labrador who died in 1998) dishes, too. They always leave something tangible behind. Did you know that you could have a bead made that encases some of Riley’s fur? You could hang it from a pendant and wear it if you’d like. I’ve seen beads made with some of the ashes, too. It actually looks like stars twinkling in the sky. I’m going to do that with a little of Fez and Kes’ ashes for my Troll (like Pandora) bracelet.
    Have a great week, my friend.
    Hugs to you and Scout.
    Donna and Tag

  3. Rita says

    What a wonderful way to use Riley’s dish. I have several dishes from my dog friends past. Lady was a white shepherd she died over 20 years ago. I still have her dish and will always keep it and remember her fondly. Do you know my step dad was staying in my mother’s house before they married? Mother was at my house for the night. A fire started in the garage where Lady was staying and she rang the door bell and saved my step dad’s life. We love our dogs. We still have Misty’s toys and bowl. She did not need many toys because she spent so much time just being with us and preferred it that way. We felt like her love saved our lives at the time of the divorce. Where sometimes people have failed us our dogs have loved us through it all. Hugs to you, Riley & Scout today.

  4. says

    What a perfect dog dish garden!!
    So sorry to hear about what your father is going through. My husband’s father was part of the Bataan Death march and a 3 yr. POW. When he came home — he became an alcoholic and passed when my husband was in college. God Bless your Dad!

  5. says

    Your tribute to Riley is lovely! But your father’s story brought tears to my eyes. I am grateful for every single person who served in the military and gave all they had for us. My middle daughter is studying the Vietnam War right now and some of the rude comments by young people who evidently know absolutely nothing about war are heartbreaking! These are college students! A young woman made the comment that these guys get to get off their duff and get help! What she does not realize is that during the earlier wars there was no help available for Vet’s. We have not always lived in an age where help i readily available for anyone who requests it.
    Thank you Claudia for your beautiful share.

  6. says

    I made a little stepping stone to put in the garden with our dogs name on it. I certainly understand not being able to give up Riley’s dish. That’s a wonderful way to use it and remember him.

  7. says

    I think it is so so so wrong to send children into wars. 18 years old, oh my God!
    I deeply believe that there are no winners in wars. Why does mankind learn from the past? There is no glory. Take any war, think of the suffering, the mourning, the pain, the nightmares on all sides. There is no other way to solve a conflict than talk. Again and again and again. I’m a pacifist and so glad that I live in a neutral country and my boys don’t have to fight.

  8. says

    What a perfect remembrance Claudia, and so fitting. Its nice to continue to hear stories about Riley.

    My father-in-law was a gunner in the air force too and my husband is a Vietnam vet. We’re flying the flag and very grateful for all who have served and sacrificed.

  9. says

    The brought a little lump to my throat. It’s a lovely dish garden for a sweet boy who will never be out of your heart. I enjoyed the tour of your home yesterday at Brenda’s! Our Veterans have endured so much! My Dad fought in Korea and Vietnam and never would talk about it much. War is not pretty! Hugs, Linda

  10. Donnamae says

    What a wonderful way to honor Riley…sort of like planting a tree in remembrance. That pic of Scout with the dish…so
    precious! May we all remember our veterans today and every day! 😉

  11. says

    Claudia, this is so touching. I know your heart is broken, and I am so sorry. My “babies” mean the world to me, and as they age, I am devastated by the thought that I might not have them much longer. Of course Scout misses her brother! My precious kitty, Zcat, died just about the time Riley did. My other babies miss him, I know, especially my Great Pyrenees, he and Zcat were best friends.
    On the other subject, my dad joined the Army at 18, and served 26 years, through WWII, and Korea. To the day he died, he rarely spoke of it, and never without tears. My husband served in Viet Nam. My younger brother has done two tours in Iraq. I do not believe anyone who goes to war returns unscathed, although the wounds might not show. God Bless them, everyone.

  12. says

    I really like your idea of putting the living plants in Riley’s bowl. Kind of a continuation of life idea. My aunt was a war hero and her life was destroyed by her experiences overseas. They kept so much of what they had seen locked inside and it must have been so difficult to carry on with normal lives when they came home.

  13. says

    I love that you have saved the dish this way. I know you really miss your boy. My dad was a POW in Germany in WWII. It scarred him, too and left him with terrible nightmares. He would never talk about his experiences, but we learned a lot of the terrible things that happened from one of his friends from the POW camp.


  14. says

    This is very sweet, Claudia, and I’m happy it brings you some comfort. Maybe you will inspire others who have lost a precious pet to do the same.

    Your father was a brave man, my dad served in the navy and received his high school diploma during that time.

    Hope you have a great week!


  15. says

    That is a great idea to use your beloved dog’s dish in a new way.. did you drill a hole in the bottom for drainage? I know full well about a father whose war memories haunt them. My dad was on Iwo Jima and saw most of his troop killed, held dying friends in his arms while they called for their mama… it’s why I never want to see another war. Hugs, Teresa

  16. says

    Well, now you have a memorial garden for Riley. When you miss him, which I know is constant, gaze at his garden. It is how I got through grieving Pepper six and a half years ago. Maybe add something with his name in the bowl garden. I had a sign made for Pepper’s that said: Pepper’s Garden.

  17. says

    Wonderful tribute Claudia to your boy Riley. I think Scout approves.
    I know everyone in your home misses him. This is perfect. ~Pat

  18. says

    What a perfect idea for using Riley’s dish. So sweet that Scout is checking it out.

    Your poor dad for still having nightmares about the war to this day. When you think about an 18-year old boy – a child! – fighting a war, it just blows your mind. My son is 21 and so gentle and sweet (most of the time, lol) and still seems like such a man-child to me. I just can’t imagine him in a war. God bless your dad.

  19. says

    Hi Claudia,

    Your thoughts and actions regarding Riley’s dish were so very moving. I have never owned a pet. My daughter and husband, who are serious animal lovers , have had to compromise with my strong allergies to cats and dogs and thus, it’s been fish for fifteen years! But, I can sense how much you loved Riley and the picture of Scout sensing her brother …such a sweetheart! I think your garden dish is perfect and a most fitting way to keep Riley’s spirit alive.

    Your father was a courageous young man and thanks to so many like him, we are forever grateful for our freedom.


  20. Patti says

    That is a great idea Claudia.. Nice to make a new use for something that has meaning to you. I love the pic of Scout checking out the scent. Animals are so SMART! ~Hugs, Patti

  21. says

    Claudia, that is the perfect way to use Riley’s dish. War is a terrible thing. I wish we didn’t have them. My nephew has been in Afghanistan for 9 months and is hoping, if all goes according to plan, to be allowed to return home at the end of the month. Please God, let things go according to plan.

  22. Linda Spencer - Georgia says

    Claudia, What a wonderful way to use Riley’s bowl!! Also, I toke a tour of your home over on Cozy Inspirations and I just love it!! I love your decorating style!! God Bless you and your father. We thank him for his service to our country and pray that he won’t feel bad anymore.

  23. says

    Oh Claudia, I love the precious photo of Scout. And I can’t think of a more beautiful planting dish for those little plants. What a wonderful tribute to your sweet boy Riley. Hugs, Debi

  24. says

    Wonderful idea for Riley’s bowl. I was touched by the story of your dad. Unfortunately for many of our vets, the bravery they showed didn’t end when they came home. Living with the memories of war took enormous strength. God bless your dad.

  25. Claudia in Huntsville, AL says

    Sweet Riley and what a sweet living tribute to him. The picture of Scout touched my heart as my eyes welled up with tears. Blessings, dear one! ~Claudia

  26. Regena Fickes says

    My late husband was a Nam Vet. I can relate to your father’s trauma. In his latter yeas, the horrors returned more often. To your Dad: Thank you, Sir. I appreciate your service. You made my life possible. You have made the way of life of each and every American possible, even if some are selfish and shallow enough to think it is unimportant. To you Claudia, thank you for sharing your father.
    Your use of your boys dish is beautiful. Thank you.

  27. says

    Bless your Dad, Claudia. We have had many veteran’s in our family and the ravage’s of war never leave their minds, I think – how could they? My husband’s dad lost his life in Vietnam, my uncle was a POW in WWII, my brother served in Vietnam, my BIL served in Saudi Arabia with the Air Force, my husband’s uncle served in WWII. Another uncle of mine was a WWII Navy man and I have a nephew who has served three tours of Iraq with the Army and is still enlisted, but is stateside, thank goodness. Such a debt of gratitude do we owe all the men and women who have and continue to serve to protect our rights and lives.

    Now, that being said. What a wonderful reminder of Riley. Of course, Scout would sense right away that her brother was being honored. I know you still miss him.


  28. says

    That is so very sweet. This reminds me of one thing that we never could get rid of that belonged to a Yorkie of ours. (Tink). It was her Baby Minnie Mouse doll. Our dogs’ ashes we always have on the shelf in our laundry room (Lol!) and Minnie Mouse is always there, too.

    And speaking of keeping a little lock of Riley’s fur… today when we got out our Christmas tree, right there on the very top my mother found a little tuft of Tiger LIly’s fur. (Our 20 year old cat that passed away this summer). You can bet I’m keeping that for a keepsake!


  29. Tina says

    Thanks to your dad for the sacrifice he has made for my freedom! I have an uncle that served in Vietnam and still today no one dares to nudge him awake for fear of what might happen, and God knows what actually did happen to cause this reaction.

    What a great memorial to your beloved. Fantastic idea.

  30. says

    What a great way to remember your beloved pet. So much more meaning than the finest china in the world.

    I loved your guest post on Cozy Inspiration :) Wonderful photos!

  31. says

    That’s probably one of the most perfect dish gardens ever … I see so many found vintage bowls planted up but the history is borrowed, here the history and the love is your family’s. It’s a lovely way to remember Riley x

  32. says

    What a perfect dish for a little garden, Claudia. I love finding ways to repurpose those sentimental pieces of the past that we can’t (nor should we have to) discard. I was very perplexed this Veterans’ Day that I could not find one Veteran selling those lovely red paper poppies. I always slip some money into their tin and come home with one but there were none to be found this year, which was sad.

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