Spring 2013 has been rough. My good friend, Jake, died of a heart attack on April 3rd, 2013, in my backyard. Jake belongs to my good friend, Kathie. Jake loved being a dog and all the spoils of being a dog. He could be rough-and-rowdy, or gentle and compassionate,revelling in each moment.
May 2nd brought tragedy to my own home. Carson had been showing signs of age, slowing getting up and down, limping. Gnawing at a joint is a sure sign of pain in any animal, and he favored the ankle on his right foreleg. I had Carson on Deramaxx since Christmas to help manage the pain, and mixed glucosimine and chondroitin in with his meals twice a day. On May 2nd, Carson fell, tried to get up, and collapsed again. I suspected his hips and knees were hurting. I rushed him to the vet for x-rays. What they found was a large hemangiosarcoma in his thorax. Hemangiosarcomas have a voracious appetite and grow amazingly fast. Carson was given a clean bill of health in January, and I had him back in the vet’s office in March for more Deramaxx. He passed away due to surgery complications about 1pm, May 2nd, 2013.
Carson was a retired Greyhound racer from West Memphis, Arkansas, racing as “Jax Magic Carpet.” Greyhounds are brilliant dogs, fun, fast, comical, and peculiar. They are not for everyone. They don’t require much exercise, but they love digging super-large pits. And, they are vulnerable to sarcomas, hip dysplasia, and their skin is thin and tears easy.
I never got to watch you race, sit in the stand and watch you charged around a track, never witnessed your churning muscle pushing eighty pounds of canine mayhem, or your raw single-minded intent clawing dirt and dust into the Memphis sky; tachometer eyes betraying energy harnessed in epic fibers tensed for the call: “AND they’re off!” the starter’s pistol and crashing of gates blast 10,000 years of genetics and breeding down a stretch, propelled by lust and desire to lead this frenzied pack.
I never saw your trot to the gate, never saw your anxiety in the box, never saw the massive sinews and heaving chest, your heart, passion and adrenaline tear a dusty orbit around that Memphis track.
I never saw you race but I did see you chew the door frame of my bedroom, the look on your face as if to say, “Is there something wrong with this? Because I can stop, you know.”
I never saw you race but I did watch you become a Canine God to a pack of Chihauhaus, the fawn miniature versions of you stretching up nose-to-nose to pay their homage, and me wondering if those little guys thought they might one day grow up to be your size.
I never saw you race but I watched, flabbergasted and astonished you and Abby excavate Greyhound-sized summertime wallow pits in the backyard.
I never saw you race but the pain on your face before thunderstorms I did see, heard your fearful whimpers, felt your nervous nudges politely asking for comfort. How an 80-lb carnivore could simultaneously be terrified of thunderstorms while completely comfortable being vacuumed, or snooze during a lawn-mowing I’ll never grasp.
I never saw you race but I did see you on TV once; we learned how deep your phobia of tiled floors went that day; carrying you down stairs, across the floor, into and from elevators, into and from the studio.
I never saw you race but I admired your patience when dogs, both little and big, tried to ride your legs at the park; you could have damaged many dogs but your gentleness found less violent means to avoid embarassment. Mostly.
I never saw you race but your appreciation of landscaping and flowers did not go unnoticed; you were the consummate “stop and smell the roses” fellow, wrapped in a Lambourghini frame.
I never saw you race but your willingness to climb into my lap was amazing; a tiny dog in a giant body, as if “I think I can do this; I can sit right there. Really. I don’t take much room; but, I don’t understand why this leg won’t fit. This looked a lot easier a minute ago.”
I never saw you race but your willingness to rearrange my dirty laundry I found disturbing.
“Carson, those are my dirty clothes.”
“I know, Michael; I can’t lay on the ones your wearing, and your clean ones are all put up.”
I never saw you race but at times I thought you and Sadie would kill each other; you two always knew when to stop. You stole each other’s bones, though, and your tail cracked the floor when orneriness was on your mind.
I never saw you race but you loved car rides, to any place, if only around town, to the vet, to the park, simply to catch the breeze from a window, reminiscent of the days when wind flowed around you like water.
I never saw you race but I caught a glimpse of the hidden Greyhound spirit, the dark engine thrust into chase when a rabbit made a catastrophically poor choice of residence; a supernatural explosion of ferocity and odd ineptness, breeding and genetics conditioned you for the chase, but not how to finish; left for me.
I never saw you race but the delicacy you accepted food and treats made imagining a bestial spirit lurking behind compassionate brown eyes impossible. “But, Michael, I might hurt it!”
“Carson, you have to break it to eat it.”
“I know; it makes me sad I have to destroy my bone to enjoy my bone.”
“I have more.”
Dogs are social, pack animals. To be outside, alone, is to ostracize them. 10,000 years of breeding by people, for people, has made dogs even more dependent upon people. Staking a dog out in a yard is cruel, it’s abandonment from the dog’s viewpoint. Even in a fence, alone, is abandonment. Dogs, horses, and birds are social animals. We breed them to bond to us; humans have bred dogs specifically to bond to us.
Greyhounds are great dogs but not for everyone. I have two, and would have an ark-full if I could somehow manage. They are not good apartment dogs. They require some, but not a lot, of exercise. They are like cats; you cannot have just one. Dogs need other dogs to socialize with. Greyhounds, because of their peculiar environment, may not get along with non-Greyhounds. Typically, racing Greyhounds may never see or have very little contact with other dog breeds. A big Grey might see a poodle or Maltese or Chihuahua as ‘prey.’ Greyhounds can never be removed from a leash. They will be a mile away before you ever find your car keys.
Consult your vet, or find a nice vet tech for details about what kind of dog to adopt. They are a good source of knowledge about breed strengths, weaknesses, and temperment.
- Conversations with my pets #2 – Walking me? Seriously… Outside with animals and things? (winedrinkingmummy.wordpress.com)