Let's Face It Mumma, You Can't Get a Present Better Than Us

Blue and Bettina Greyhound with the red bow


The Milestones Keep Coming

It's hard to believe that EIGHT years ago today I went to Maine Greyhound Placement Services and met this breathtaking 4 year old greyhound.  He was white with two gray patches over his ears.  At that time one of the gray patches also covered most of his eye though these days it has faded to white except on his ears.  This greyhound was a serious handful but I was so taken with his beauty that it didn't matter.  I chose him.  He was strong and had no leash manners.  Heck he had no manners of any kind.  Early on he seriously injured my rotator cuff when he decided to take off after a leave or a bag or something interesting to him but unseen by me.  He was always doing stuff like that.  He never listened.  Anyone who knows him now never believes the stories of his early days.

What I didn't understand about Blue then was that despite his rowdy behavior, he was a very gentle and sensitive boy.  He had the misfortune of coming into a home that already contained a small brindle heart dog.  He got a bit short changed in that respect as Girly Girl shone very brightly in Mumma's eyes.  Being the sensitive boy that he is, I think he felt the role of second fiddle that I had cast him in.
Big Poppy wants a cookie

Because of this difficult start it took us a long time to build a strong relationship.  For most of the time that Girly Girl was alive, I had the distinct impression that Blue, while happy enough with me, would be just as happy with anyone.  That has changed with 8 years of cohabitation.  He's my big Poppy, my Buggy Boy.  I can't imagine life without him in it and I think that he has come round to loving his Mumma as much as she loves him.

I still think he's breathtaking.  I have had the amazing privilege of watching him become a handsome old man.  He still has flashes of the silly goofy boy he was in his salad days.  He never met a blanket or a bed that he didn't like.  He has a fondness for body pillows.  He's lost a fair number of teeth but we've made accommodations for that.  Since he can no longer easily pick up his beloved sweet peas (they keep falling out of all the gaps) we now mash them up into a thick sweet pea slurry that he can eat over his dinner.

I truly can't believe we've had 8 years together already.  Blue manages to charm everyone he ever meets.  His requests for attention and his greyhound lean are legendary.  There is a long list of people who would be happy to take Blue "off my hands" if I ever wanted to give him up.  That list started on the day after I got him with his first vet and is now longer than I can keep track of.  But Mumma will never be taking anyone up on their offer.

Happy Gotcha Day Royal Bluejay.  There will always be a big boy bed and a man cave for you here.


It Never Really Heals

I started off typing a big long entry about how much I still miss Girly Girl and how much it still hurts that she is gone.  But the more I typed, the more depressed I got.  I don't want that to be her legacy.  Because in reality she was an amazing greyhound who changed my life for the better in countless ways.  So I will leave it at this:

“Perhaps ... 
To R.A.L.

Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of you.

Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet,
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.

Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.

But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.” 

My heart
Girly Girl
February 15, 2003-October 12, 2010
Always Remembered


Who Would Have Thunk It?

Seven years ago today a tiny black dog came squirming into the world.  I didn't know her back then but I have no doubt that she immediately started bossing around her littermates and making countless demands of her poor exhausted mother.

Bettina Greyhound hairy eyeball
The hairy eyeball (and the drippy nose)
As she grew, she underwent the same training as all the other greyhounds in hopes of preparing her to race.  As usual, Bettina had her own ideas about what lay ahead for her.  She was sent out into the world for her maiden race and she didn't get much farther than that when they decided to close down her track.  I'm not saying that her arrival was the cause of the closing of the track, but we don't really know now, do we?

They opted not to ship her to any other tracks.  That's a decision that I have pondered for a long time.  At first I figured that she just must not have been very fast.  Except she IS pretty fast.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with her sassiness and her tendency to play a little dirty.  I've watched her hip check her brother on numerous occasions if he was on the verge of overtaking her.

I can also envision her spending her 20 hours a day in her crate making an unholy racket at the indignity of having to be in a crate at all.  She was known as "Crazy Mo" in the rescue kennel (a fact that absolutely no one disclosed to me until she was safely in my home for almost a year).  That was because it routinely took 2 or more volunteers to wrestle her back into her crate once she had been liberated.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner (or a crate).

She met me at a time when my heart was so broken I didn't know if I'd ever feel good again.  I'd lost Girly Girl.  The world was way less shiny.  And I didn't think I would be able to adopt another greyhound because I'd spend the rest of our time together unfairly comparing her to Girly Girl and

In Mummas spot on the couch
In Mumma's spot on the couch.
finding that she came up woefully short.  Bettina, of course, had her own mind on the subject.  She saw a gravy train and by god she was getting on it.

So at the ripe old age of 2, and after 6 months in the rescue kennel, the cheeky, bossy hound that is Bettina wormed her way into our household and my heart.  Now after almost 5 years together, I can't imagine life without her.  I've watched her go from a sleek black dog to a greying middle aged hound (she actually started turning grey about 3 days after she came home with me, so we've been watching the grey thing for a long time now).  She's lost none of her sassiness.  About the only thing that Bettina compromised on was the crate.  Occasionally she'll go in one voluntarily but she does expect to be rewarded handsomely for it.

Happy Birthday to you my tiny biscuit.  You're Mumma's diamond in the rough.  Polish though I might, you've remained as sassy as ever.  I am looking forward to the rest of our adventures together and to watching you grow into a bossy old lady.


When You See It Coming

Sharing your life with greyhounds is hard.  I suppose sharing your life with any canine is hard, but when it’s greyhounds, it is more so.  When you have a dog, and it stops eating or it starts limping, you don’t automatically think stomach cancer or osteosarcoma.  But with a greyhound, you do.  Why?  Because the odds are high that a limping greyhound has osteosarcoma.  Or one that isn’t eating has stomach cancer or some other equally nasty health issue that will limit lifespan.

Vinnie the greyhound
Handsome Vinnie
When you have a greyhound that reaches age 10 or more, the odds go up astronomically that a health issue that might not seem so dire in other dogs means something very bad for yours.  We have dear friends who have an older greyhound and they are facing these odds now.  It hits home for me because their hound, Vinnie is so similar to Blue its scary.  They’re the same size; they both have all sorts of odd lumps and bumps.  They’re both white with some patches of color and adorable spots.  As they’ve aged, their color has faded to the point where sometimes you mistake them for each other in photos.  And they’re both about the same age (Vinnie is about a year older than Blue).

Vinnie has recently started to display clear signs of pain and he’s off and on with his eating.  Now, mind you, Vinnie has always been a bit of a finicky eater (at least since we’ve known him).  And he had a hock fracture that ended his racing career which has always caused him some pain, especially when he has been standing for awhile.  But recently he has been having a lot of difficulty with his hind end.  Standing is difficult.  Going up and down the few stairs to his backyard has sometimes required assistance from his Mum and Dad.  Getting on and off the couch (his favorite place in the world, and it is HIS couch) has been a struggle.

Vinnie has been to the vets and at the moment, the diagnosis is that he does NOT have osteosarcoma
Vinnie is very sculptural
Vinnie is more art than greyhound
but the fact that he isn’t eating so much is concerning.  They sent him home from his last visit with special canned food that seems to be of interest to him.  He has pain meds which seem to be helping him.  But we hear from Vinnie’s Mum that it’s a step forward and a couple steps back.  Everyone who loves him is trying not to think the worst.

But of course, when you have a greyhound that is exactly what you do.  After reading Pat’s email of a couple days ago I have been thinking about Girly Girl, and the fact that Blue is Vinnie’s age and has hind end problems of his own.  And that Vinnie’s brother and sister both passed of cancer (Emma with osteo and Jim with stomach cancer).  And that Blue’s littermate sister Bea passed from osteo and his half brother Fox suffered terrible medical problems before we had to let go of him in January.

A greyhound reaching age 10 has beaten many odds.  With Blue turning 12 in December and Vinnie either at or on his way to 13, both have dodged many a proverbial bullet.  But how many times can you cower under a table while the dropping bombs land on other people?  How long before that bomb with your name on it rains down?

As I told Vinnie’s Mum, the ONLY thing that is good about seeing it coming is that you have time to say all the things you want and need to say.  Girly Girl and I had many a deep conversation and I believe that she understood.  If not the words, then at least the sentiment behind them.  When she left I felt like she knew she was loved beyond reason and would be missed forever.  Blue and I have been having similar conversations of late because I hear the bombs dropping all around us.

I realize it’s a zero sum game.  No one gets out alive.  But does it have to be now?  Can’t it be next year?  Or the one after?  We are sending every last ounce of positive energy we have to Vinnie and his family.  If you have any you can spare, please consider sending out some positive thoughts for them as well.


Memorial Redux

I don’t think it’s any secret that my heart was completely shattered when I lost my heart dog Girly Girl.  I’m always moaning in this blog about how much I miss her and how I still think of her all the time almost 5 years after she passed.  A once in a lifetime dog is just that.  And some people are lucky to realize they had a heart dog years down the line after they’ve compared that relationship to all the subsequent ones.  But some of us are unlucky/lucky enough to know it the second you meet that hound.  When you know what you had, and what you’ve lost one can’t help being a little bitter at times.

Girly Girl Greyhound Angel Ornament

We have reminders of Girly Girl all over the house.  A portrait of her that Grammy commissioned the Christmas after she left us, a quilt square with a photo of her made by a greyhound friend and sent out of the blue like a little package of sunshine.  We have photos of GG all over.  And a cast of her paw print.  I have a mug made with her paw print that always sits on the window ledge in my kitchen.  There will be no drinking from that cup.  And we have the memorial that the folks who cremated her gave us when we went to pick up her ashes.

So you’d think we wouldn’t need anything else.  But one day, while reading Hazel’s blog (Class A Greyhounds-RVing with the Big Dogs) we came across an entry called Memorial.  Hazel had recently lost her hound Fleur and she had discovered and ordered a beautiful ornament with an angel greyhound with Fleur’s name underneath it. 

I knew that I had to have one for Girly Girl but Hazel hadn’t posted where she found it at the time I read the entry.  Being a pretty good Google detective, I was able to track down where the ornament had come from.  A lovely lady named Therese makes them.  She has a Café Press store called Heisman’sGreyhound Art. 

Therese has been creating these little works of art for some time.  She shared that she had lost her heart dog back in 2007 and has lost 7 out of 9 greyhounds that have shared her life since 2000.  It’s very safe to say she gets people like me. 

Fox Greyhound Angel Ornament
I sent Therese the names I wanted on my ornaments (one for Girly Girl and one for Fox whom we had just lost).  She soon sent me links to the Café Press pages where I could view and order the ornaments.  For such a lovely keepsake, they are ridiculously inexpensive at $6.99.   I placed my order and shortly they arrived in my mailbox.

I couldn’t have been happier with them.  I can’t decide whether I will hang Girly Girls somewhere in the house so I can see it every day or if I will put it on my dog themed Christmas tree.  If you have lost a hound (or more than one) this is a lovely way to memorialize them.  Therese is a kind lady who would be glad to make you one of your own. 

(I received no remuneration for this blog post.  I ordered my ornaments after seeing one on Hazel’s website.  I get nothing if any of you decide to order from Therese.  I just found these ornaments beautiful and wanted to share in case any of you feel the same way I did when I saw it.  I did get Therese’s permission to write this post.)


Brusha, Brusha Brusha, Each and Every Day

Blue was scheduled for a dental recently.  I typically don't get too worked up about them, but Blue is 11 years old and I had hoped he wouldn't have to go under anesthesia again.  I know in my head that anesthesia is much safer than it used to be and that he was going to be in great hands with our vet, Dr. Amy.  But somehow your heart and your gut never gets the message from your head.  

6:45 Get up, brush teeth, brush hair, let the kids out to potty.

7:15 Take Blue and head to Topsham Veterinary Wellness Center.

7:35 Post to Facebook from Dr. Amy’s parking lot that we’re there and Blue’s adventure has begun.

7:37 Discover one of our Facebook friends (Nova Beaudry) is also going in for a dental today.  Begin a discussion on how nervous we both are.

Blue at the vet in recovery
Dr. Amy checks on Blue and his fellow patient in the recovery area.
7:45 Leave Blue with Dr. Amy to have his teeth cleaned.  We went through all the scary questions.  What do we do if he has complications?  Do you want us to save him? Etc.  When your hound is 11 years old, those questions take on a whole new meaning.

8:15  Start haunting Facebook for updates on the Topsham Veterinary Wellness Center page.  I know that they generally don’t have a lot of time during the day to post.  But I do it anyway.  It makes me feel a little better.

9:30 Bettina seems to be moping around without her big brother here.  Or maybe that’s just me projecting.

9:45 Decide to help pass the time by stress eating.  There goes a half a bag of Blue Diamond almonds (toasted coconut flavor-super yummy).

9:53 Talk with Nova’s Mum on Facebook regarding how much we miss our kids.

10:00 I look at the clock for the millionth time.  Blue was the first one to go into “surgery” today.  There’s a good possibility that he’s now knocked out and having his teeth cleaned.

10:30  Check TVWC Facebook page again. 

Blue greyhound after dental
This picture actually makes him look better than he did.
10:39  Can stand it no longer.  We post to the TVWC page.

10:56  Wondering if Blue’s procedure is done at this point.  Taking no news as good news approach.  Check the TVWC Facebook page again, just in case they posted something.

11:24  Check the TVWC Facebook page again. 

11:30  Refresh the TVWC Facebook page just in case I was missing something.  I wasn’t.  Dr. Amy told me I could call to check on Blue after noon.  That seems like forever away.

12:04 Check the TVWC Facebook page again.  Surprise, no new posts.  Decide it’s now “after” noon so I am going to call and check in.

12:10  Spoke with Dr. Amy.  They are done with his dental and he is just now waking up.  Katie is cuddling with him as he does so and they have him all covered with heating pads to make sure he is warm.  Dr. Amy said that Blue’s mouth was “a mess” which doesn’t surprise me given how bad his breath smelled.  He lost 9 teeth in total which were extracted.  I think, once he heals up and flushes the anesthesia out of his system, he’s going to feel much better.  I am relieved that he is done and that everything went well.  Now I just have to wait until 4:15 when I can pick him up!

12:14 Post a thank you on Facebook to Dr. Amy and her staff for taking good care of Blue and making sure he had a friendly presence at his side when he came out of anesthesia. 

12:19 Sent a tweet out with the good news.  Took a deep breath.

12:40 Missed Blue during lunch.  Especially when I dressed up Bettina and sent her out for her
Blue the greyhound sits
This is the 3rd time I've ever seen Blue sit in all the time he's been
with me.  And it's the only time he was slow/stoned enough that I could
catch it on camera.
break.  I broke a Stella & Chewy’s treat in half and only used one of the halves.

12:45 Facebook chatted with Auntie Drena to update her on Blue’s status.

2:19 Checked the clock to see if it’s time to go get Big Poppy yet.  It’s forever until 4:15.

3:27 Getting to 3:45 is killing me.  Hate being 2/3 of a whole.

3:45 Head to Dr. Amy’s office to pick up Blue!

3:48 Get stuck behind a farm tractor with no clear way to pass.

3:53 Finally hit a straight way so I can pass said tractor.  What is a tractor doing out in the depths of winter anyhow?

4:15 Arrive at Dr. Amy’s office.  I can hear Blue crying as soon as I hit the door.  When I get to the window I can see him, stoned out of his mind, in one of their recovery crates.  

4:20p I get the full rundown on the procedure.  Blue has lost 9 teeth and he’s going to be pretty sore because one of the teeth put up quite a fight.  I get antibiotics and pain meds for Blue.  I have a small stroke when it comes time to pay the bill.

4:25p They bring Blue out to me.  He’s walking like a drunk, he’s whining, he’s got a pressure bandage on his right front leg where his IV was placed, he’s got drool and blood all around his mouth and he looks like hell but one thing he’s pretty clear about is that he wants to get out of that building.

5:06p  Make it home with our patient and breathe another sigh of relief.  We’re all together again and everyone is fine.  


How to Treat Separation Anxiety

I have a second job.  It involves working in local Petcos and talking to people about Blue Buffalo dog food.  In my day job, I get to work from home, so I spend all day, every day with the kids.  But since I got the second job, I now have to leave them for 4-5 hours a week.  I know everyone says you need to leave them alone at times or they’ll get separation anxiety.  The problem is they do pretty well when I go out.  I’m the one who has separation anxiety.
Bettina and Blue from the web cam
Bettina hanging out on the couch and Blue in his crate (web cam photo)

I figured the only way I would have any peace of mind would be to somehow be in touch with them while I was at my “other” work.  At first I would just call and talk on the answering machine.  That’s great if they were missing me but it wasn’t really doing anything for my anxiety.

So I asked for, and received, a web cam from Santa.  I set it up and I was so pleased to be able to see the kids I decided to get a second one.  The second camera has infrared so I can see the house in the dark (although I do leave lights on for the kids if I’m going to out at night). 

I have gone along blissfully checking on my kids while I am away from the house.  I can see if they’re just hanging out or where they’re laying.  I can see Bettina run back and forth to the back door to see if that noise was me coming home.  I can watch Blue’s cute ears pop straight up when HE thinks that noise was me coming home.  I can even take snapshots of them from afar and save them to my phone.

One day while at Petco, watching my dogs, I happened to show the feed to one of the Petco employees.  Being a fellow animal lover I figured she'd think it was funny, or cute.  Instead she looked at me with an utterly horrified face and said, “YOU ARE SPYING ON THEM!”  I was taken a bit aback as I had never considered it from that angle.  I was only considering my peace of mind.  Was I spying on them?  Was I as crazy as she was making me feel?

Bettina and Blue from the other web cam
Here they are from the other web cam
Are my greyhounds entitled to some measure of privacy?  They don’t give me any privacy.  They accompany me everywhere I go, even into the bathroom.  One or both of them is always somewhere they can keep a close eye on me.  There is nothing sacred when you have a greyhound.

A web cam is an accepted training tool.  Just watch the show Lucky Dog on CBS.  That guy makes extensive use of web cams.  They are priceless when trying to monitor and correct behavior.

I looked at her a little askance and said, “No I’m not.”  I threw out all the reasons I could think of that a web cam was a good idea.  She looked at me like I had a couple heads and begged to differ with me.  I was spying on my dogs.

I guess you win some and you lose some but I’m not shutting off my web cameras.  In fact, I’m thinking of adding some in other parts of the house.  I’ve read about some web cams that allow 2-way communication.  Maybe one of those next.  But no way am I shutting them off.  It’s either that or they’re going to have to crate me while I’m at Petco.


The Dying Season

I hate the winter.  For many, many reasons.  I hate snow.  I hate to snow blow.  I’m not a big fan of cold.  It costs a fortune to heat your house through a long Maine winter.  I hate losing the daylight.  But most of all I hate it because starting in late fall and going through to spring, it is the dying season.

If anyone or anything is going to leave this world, it seems they most often do so within this window.  Facebook becomes one long memorial news feed.  Greyhound after greyhound after greyhound crosses the bridge.  Sure some go at other times of the year, but at THIS time of year it is an endless parade.  Girly Girl left me during this window.

And yesterday Fox joined her at the bridge.  He is another in the long parade that will go during this
Fox in his bed
dying season but to us he was special.  Fox was Grammy and Charlie’s hound.  If ever there was a dog who met the definition of autistic, it was Fox.  He was stoic and patient.  And stubborn.  He wanted to be loved but on his own terms.  You would never consider Fox a cuddly dog. 

Fox is also Blue’s half-brother.  They shared the same Dam.  They both raced at Raynham in the same kennel.  Fox’s stubborn determination kept him on the track for quite awhile and he was one of his Dam’s top winning greyhounds.  After he retired he went to the Maine Greyhound Placement Service and there his stoicism was a hindrance.  Poor Fox lived in the kennel at MGPS for a year.  No one was connecting with this amazing boy and he kept getting passed by.  He had given up hope and even after a special article was written about him in the MGPS newsletter, he remained in the kennel.

That is, until Grammy and Charlie happened along looking for their first greyhound.  Once they heard Fox’s story it did not matter that he was an autistic boy.  They determined to give him a real home.  There was much happiness in the kennel as volunteers found out that Fox (whom they all called Foxy) was getting a forever home.

Fox fit himself into our lives as though he’d always been there.  He wasn’t much for playing with toys, but if ever there was a greyhound who loved him some dinner, it was Fox.  He lived for meal times and treat times.  As he got older, like most old greys that I know, he began wearing little bits of his meals on his muzzle and chin as if he were saving them for later. 

Fox gets love from Grammy
Even with his autism, Fox learned to seek out a connection with the humans in his life.  He would wait patiently in the line of greyhounds seeking attention and then he would present his side to you, carefully looking away and politely wait for you to pet him, or scratch him or rub his belly or ears.  He would stand there until your hands fell off if you let him.

Fox had a funny chirp that he would use when he felt you were not hopping to it quickly enough to get him dinner.  It sounded just like a little bird.  He would start out almost subsonic and gradually raise the volume.  When he wanted to go out he would stand and face the front door.  It didn’t matter that going out meant using the sliding glass doors on the back side of the house.  When he first arrived at Grammy’s outside was through the front door and by god, that’s how it would always be for Fox. 

Fox never got on any furniture.  It terrified him.  We used to joke that the best way to persuade Fox to go lay down if he was bugging you to pet him was to invite him up on the couch with you.  All it took was a quick “come on buddy, get up here with me,” and he would get the whale eye and start backing up and looking for an escape route.  Depending on how serious he thought you were he would retreat to his bed in the living room, or for level 1 threats he would go all the way back to the bedroom and lay down in there.

As he aged, Fox was afflicted by a mysterious illness which was autoimmune in nature.  He began a slow slide downward with various times of serious flare up and times of miraculous recovery.  The last diagnosis we had for him was Alabama Rot.  He suffered through many issues and corresponding
Fox and Blue - half brothers
treatments with the patience and constitution of a block of granite.  It did not matter what you had to do to him.  It did not matter that it sometimes involved a lot of pain.  He would always stand and bear whatever had to be done. 

There were a number of times over the past few years where we were sure that Fox was going to leave us.  That it was time to release him.  But in a couple days he would make a complete turn around and be fine again.  Though each of these episodes took a toll and he was never quite as good as he had been before.  Still, this weekend it was a surprise when the time where we would have to say our goodbyes finally did present itself.

Grammy and Charlie held off, hoping like crazy for one more of his miracle turn-arounds but that was not to be.  If Fox was in pain, he never let us see it.  But he lost the ability to stand.  Then he didn’t pee for 36 hours and when he finally did pee, it was because he had lost all control of his bladder.  When the greyhound that lived for food above all else refused to eat, the time had come.

It was a gut-wrenching decision.  His eyes were bright and lively to the end.  His spirit continued to be willing to go on but his body would not cooperate.  Fox was 12 ½ years old.  He had outlived all of his littermates. He had a good run and by rights lived at least a year longer than he probably would have if he had been a dog of lesser determination.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.

We let him go yesterday afternoon with people who loved him holding him as he went.  He went as he had come and as he lived, with stubborn determination and with love.

Run fast and long Royal Foxglove.  Until we meet again.

My favorite picture of Fox
Royal Foxglove
6/2/2002 - 1/4/2015