Thursday, September 13, 2007

Coming to the Rescue

I was voted the least likely member of my family to bond with a pet. The dogs we had as kids were always Mom’s dogs. We could pet, play with or ignore them as the situation suited us.

Typical of my personality I made a fairly calculated choice when the time came to honor my promise to my son and get a dog. I had known people who had adopted retired racers and I read Cynthia A. Branigan’s, “Adopting the Racing Greyhound.” I knew they came housebroken, didn’t bark much and didn’t require a lot of exercise (they are the world’s most ardent couch potatoes) I learned that they socialized best with older children, walked well on a leash and were completely dedicated to their families. As dog choices went, this was ideal for us.

Ariel came into my life when she was ten by way of another family who had to give her up due to a move. That’s about two years shy of an ex-racer’s life expectancy. She had the athletic build of a racer and the most sensitive soft deep brown eyes with eyeliner markings that gave her an exotic look. She actually looked more like a German Shepard than a purebred greyhound. She was a little beefy (probably how I would be built if I was a greyhound) and loved to eat (ditto). And, she knew exactly how to tilt her head and flirt for the camera (I haven’t mastered that one yet). Her coat was a beautiful caramel shade with a soft rabbit fur like quality. She would try to put herself into the leash when it was walk time. She was timid with strangers. She had a habit of putting a piece of furniture between her and other people. She barked when the doorbell rang and moaned to the rhythm of a siren. The first time I heard her I thought it was the neighbor’s lawnmower. She was sedate indoors but came to life outside and loved to play tag with my son. She was smart and needed a project to occupy her when she was left alone or she would help herself to my books and literally devour them.

I fell immediately in love with her when I saw her picture on the Greyhound Adoption website. I needed a companion for my first greyhound. Ariel died about two and a half years ago. She went out fighting and endured several strokes and seizures one day before the vet helped me ease her out of her misery. It was a relatively easy decision because she was suffering but it was a gut wrenching experience. It took me well over a year to complete the grieving process for her. I still miss her and even writing this piece is painful.

Kristi is my first. She is with me today. She has the same coloring as Ariel but the similarities end there. She has a petite build and a silky coat. She can eat or not eat. She is completely devoted to me. She loves people and will approach them so that they have an opportunity to pet and adore her as she feels she deserves. She expends most of her energy bounding around and tossing her stuffies at the prospect of going for a walk. (stuffies are the small stuffed animals that greyhounds are given as pups to prepare them for the big “race.”)

My son was 14 when we got Kristi. He will be 23 this month and has moved out. Kristi and I share the remaining empty nest. Her beautiful face is more white than fawn and her legs wobble when she climbs the stairs. She doesn’t walk as far or as fast as she used to but she still does a little dance and throws her stuffies around when it’s time for a walk or a ride in the car. I expect when her time comes to leave me she will go out in her sleep like the little lady she is. Even in that respect she will be completely different from Ariel.

I knew I was doing a good thing when I adopted Kristi and Ariel. I knew it was good for them and I knew it was good for my son. I just didn’t know how good it was for me.

I am a better person by having pets in my adult life. I am more compassionate towards living things in general and particularly those humans who choose to share their life with a pet. I understand how someone can grieve long and hard for a lost pet and I appreciate how those pets can ease the transitions we humans are expected to bear. And all this time I thought I was rescuing them.

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