GRAFTON, Mass. – In life, Riker Paluzzi was an amiable doofus, an 85-pound beast who thought he was a lap dog and believed anything on the ground was a great snack. In death, he's apparently a fantastic credit risk.
At least that's the belief of Discover, which recently sent my seven-years-dead Labrador retriever an application for its "Discover Student Open Road Card." In Discover's world, Riker is a college student in need of cash rewards, fabulous online and mobile tools to help him track his spending, and options to customize the look of his card.
Riker was an obedience school dropout. His name never appeared on a magazine subscription; he was marked as a Grafton resident only once in the town census as, decidedly, the family dog. He died, of canine lymphoma, before Facebook was available to the general public. Aside from photos on our family website – where he was, again, quite noticeably a dog – he never had an Internet presence.
Why has he unexpectedly been resurrected as the family's oldest child, a carefree college student in need of credit?
This actually started back in 2010 when an organization called People to People requested that Riker, as well as my human teenager, apply to be a student ambassador. I called the group and explained the situation; they agreed to take him off their list.
Since then, we'd receive the occasional piece of non-dog-related junk mail. I growled at a telemarketer who asked for him by name. These little bits of Riker's afterlife, like the dog hairs that occasionally turn up in our home, are few and far between.
I called Discover and talked to a helpful service rep named Naomi. She agreed a dead dog named for a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" character was not, perhaps, the best candidate for his own credit card.
How did they get Riker's name? She wasn't sure, since it wasn't indicated in "the system."
"We do take information from a variety of sources," she said. "We're not in the habit of giving cards to dogs, however, especially if they're, well, not alive."
When I remember Riker, I think of the active puppy who served as our test child, the mellow family dog who cuddled sleepy toddlers who used him as a rest area, the contortion artist who expanded from a curled-up ball at my feet to a pillow-stealer who pushed me out of bed on a nightly basis. His ashes now nourish a tree in our front yard, nestled under a marker made by our daughter.
The kids, when Riker died, asked if his ghost would guard our house. There have been times when I've actively wished for the pitter-patter of ghostly paws. I just never expected they would come to the house through our mailbox, attached to a 12.99 percent APR credit card.
Really, I would have settled for a haunted howl.
Jennifer Lord Paluzzi is the managing editor for The Daily Voice in Massachusetts.