I had a 2-week business trip in November, so Pip went to the dog-sitter, as usual. Over the last year, he'd started having issues with coming up the stairs to her back deck (only way in/out of the house for the dogs). But I dog-sat for her in October and he handled those stairs with no problem.
Dee emailed me after the first week and told me he wouldn't do the stairs any more. Then a couple days later she told me he had swelling around his knee, and weakness in his back end. I immediately suspected cancer, and had a couple days to get used to the thought of it before getting back home to see him.
When I saw him, I knew. I've seen it enough over the last 12 years - cancer is the number one killer of greyhounds, I think, and I've seen too many greys with bone cancer. My dog-sitter lost 2 to bone cancer within a year of each other. So when we saw Doc, I told her I just needed her to confirm the diagnosis, which she did.
I had already decided that if it was cancer, I would let him go right then. He could have broken his leg in my car on the ride to the vet - the knee was that far gone, from what I saw on the x-ray.
Knowing you're doing the right thing doesn't always make it any easier, unfortunately.
Sandy has adapted well to being an only dog, and not only has she taken over his bed (that took her a couple days), but I've pulled out some of his old stuffed toys that I put away before he could completely disembowel them. I'll have to get a picture of her going after a stuffy that's 3 times bigger than she is -- it's a hoot.
One of my favorite songs from the musical RENT! is Seasons of Love, where they sing about how to measure a life, and that the best way is to measure it in love. That song's been going through my mind a lot recently...since about Nov 21, in fact.
In the song, they measure the year into 525,600 minutes. So I just did the math, and would measure 5,755,680 minutes of love for The Majestic Pippin, my gentle giant, buddy-boy, Mr Man, and silly goofball.
This is him at approximately 7200 minutes of love, when he was first promised to me (I had first right of refusal to adopt him when he retired - it's called "pre-adoption").
This gives you a better idea of what he looked like, at about 31,680 minutes of love. He's the one in the foreground, easily recognizable by the missing stripe on his hip. I used to tease that his mama licked it off.
He was known as "Banjo Boy Number Five" at that time, since he was puppy number 5 in a litter of five brindle boys. Banjo was their mama's name. They took after their dad. Every boy in that litter was huge, for a greyhound. One of his brothers raced at 88 pounds, and they all stood approximately 31 inches at the shoulder. A half-inch taller and they'd have been too tall to race, because they would have scraped their backs on the top of the starting box doors.
This is at 69,120 minutes of love, with his brothers and his Mama Banjo (I did say they took after their dad, right?) He's the one whose nose is right up against her chest.
This photo, at approximately 64,800 minutes of love, earned him the nickname "Majestic Pippin."
At 347,040 moments of love, we finally met. That was when I stopped saying I *might* adopt him, and started saying I *will* adopt him.
That was August of 2005. He was 9 months old, just about ready to go off to school to learn how to be a race dog. He LOVED racing with all his heart, but he wasn't very smart about it. Like any teenage boy, he didn't really know how to pace himself, and would pull a muscle as he was winning the race.
Then in August of 2007, my beloved first greyhound Angie crossed the rainbow bridge. Pippin retired from racing that same week, but I was still in an apartment, so it was November before I brought him home to my new house. It's a running joke in greyhound circles -- adopting the dog doesn't cost very much, but when you add in the cost of a new greyhound-friendly car, and a greyhound-friendly house/yard, it adds up fast. *grin*
He loved our back yard -- it was one of the major selling points of the house, for me. Already fenced, and large enough for him to run zoomies without hurting himself. And to play catch (yeah, he preferred playing "catch" to playing "fetch")
He loved stuffed toys, but would disembowel them too quickly for my taste. Even so, he got quite a few for his first Christmas with me.
One day I looked up, and his black muzzle was mostly gray, and I was shocked to realize we'd been together 8 years already, out of his 10 on the planet. I spent some time reminiscing, talking about him while I was on a business trip, and each moment was still as precious, and as loved as those first ones when he was a newly retired racer. I started thinking about how to celebrate 5,781,600 minutes when he turns 11 on Boxing Day. New bed, for sure -- soft and lush, maybe even orthopedic for his arthritic bones. Like the orthopedic ones I had for Angie, that he got to enjoy when he was newly retired.
Then we visited the vet, and learned it wasn't arthritis - it was bone cancer. And he's already had it for a couple months, at least, while I thought he was just stiff because he was getting older.
So we took a couple more pictures, to mark my 4,678,560 minutes of love with my beautiful brindle boy....
and then I honored the promise I make all my furkids, that I will always make the best decision for them, no matter how much it breaks my heart.
What is this love that would have her suffer agony rather than cause me pain?
This is the love of a dog who doesn't want to leave her human.
What is this courage that would have her brave old fears to stand by her new love?
This is the courage of a dog who wants to be beside her human.
What is this pain that would have me numb my heart, freezing unshed tears with its heat?
This is the pain of the love we shared, with the fear that I lack her courage.
Her love brought her courage to face her fears,
but my love locks tears away;
frozen black diamonds burning in my heart,
Grief is white-hot flame in a frozen desert.
It burns the heart,
steaming tears into mist.
Grief is blue-tinged ice in a burning wasteland.
It cauterizes the heart,
filling eyes with sand.
Grief is a barren land beyond words,
visited by aching hearts and lonely souls
In Jan 2004, a beautiful black racing greyhound named Amain retired and moved from FL to GA.
She moved into a foster home with Greyt Friends, a greyhound adoption group , and started learning how to be a pet. She discovered beds, and wading pools, and waited for the right person to discover her.
It had to be a very special person, because Amain was afraid of new things, and needed someone who would understand her fears.
In Nov 2004 Amain moved in with me, and learned a new name - Casey, aka Casey-girl. She chose me, out of all the humans in the world, to be the one she loved. She chose me to be her safe place, to protect her from all the scary stuff out there in the big bad world. I made her a promise on the day she came home with me, that I would take care of her to the best of my ability, always choose to do what was best for her, and when it was time to let her go, I would.
Today, my Casey-girl and I went to see Doc, and Doc agreed that it was time. I sat with her and scratched her ears, and told her she was the best Casey-girl in the whole wide world, and that I would always love her. I thanked her for choosing me as her person and her safe place, and told her that I'm a better person because she was part of my life.
She's free now, chasing butterflies across that bridge made of rainbows, visiting with Angie & Zoe and Jessie, shining like a black diamond in my heart and my memories, running free in good health with no pain and no fear.
She is my brave girl, whose spirit was way stronger than her body, who never admitted how much she hurt, and who loved me more than she loved herself.
My friend Cathie took this photo back in the spring of 2005, and it remains probably my most favorite picture of a brood mama with her brood. This litter of big brindle boys was collectively known as "The Banjo Boyz," and greyhound lovers from all over the world hung out together on the Internet the night they were born, and followed their raising and their racing, as well as their retirement, thanks to a pre-adoption program called "Follow That Hound!"
Because the Lamberts loved their Mama Banjo so much, they adopted her out after the one litter, so that she could have the most time possible as a pet. The lucky adopter spent the next 7+ years spoiling this gorgeous gal. Today, Dione's heart is aching because Mama Banjo, as we all called her, has crossed over that bridge made of the rainbows that form from our tears. Those of us who knew her, or knew her awesome boys, or are blessed enough to have one of her boys in our homes, know what a wonderful hound she was. And any of us who have loved a hound know the emptiness in Dione's house and heart today.
The pain will ease, the emptiness will become less as other dogs move in, but the place reserved for Mama Banjo will never be filled by another -- how could it? She is/was one of a kind, and we are honored that she was part of our lives, and grateful that it was for so long.
Run free to good health, pretty mama. Thanks for being such a good mama to Vito, Roux, Stickman, Chase, and the Majestic Pippin. And thanks for bringing so much joy to Cathie, Bill, Dione, Clinton, and all who knew/loved you. I'm sorry we never met, but you live on in our hearts and memories, as well as in your incredible boyz.