[Part I] I salute you if you are still with me on Dena’s Diamond and her homecoming….
Finding Dena’s Diamond was a circular staircase in itself. When Claire died May 13, there was no question but that I would be getting a new greyhound. I thought to take a month or two or six, but found my gaze constantly seeking Claire on the couch or looking for her when it was time to give out the bedtime treats. And, there was Elby That Cat! who sat by the front door, quietly, patiently waiting for Claire to come in. It wasn’t more than two and a half weeks when I found myself checking the dogs available at my rescue group. They were all youngsters, which for me means under five years, and most were not “cat friendly.” Turns out there’s now a waiting list for cat friendly greyhounds. I am not a patient person. I am a doit person. I began checking other groups and came across the one who had Dena’s Diamond. (Do you judge a book by it’s cover? Much to my mortification, I judge a dog’s picture. Here’s Dena’s picture at the site:
There were three things going against her in my instant judgment. She was nine years old and I wanted a six year old. And, there was the picture. Doesn’t she look just like your first grade picture? A happy goofy girl that will grow into the regal-ness that is her destiny. And the collar – could not stand the collar she was wearing. And, finally, but not least was her name. I knew a Dena, once long ago in a distant land called Elementary School. That particular Dena was a snitch and a tattletale. Out of sight, out of mind until half a century goes by and there is Dena’s Diamond. Well, you’ve seen one Dena, you’ve seen ’em all, right?
I am not proud of this self-knowledge, but it is what it is and there it was. Her profile raved about her. Uh-huh. No, no, keep looking. A new load of dogs was incoming and perhaps there would be a dog in that group. Meanwhile, I’m bouncing between sites, going so far as to check nearby states, Oregon, Canada (okay, countries). Oregon had lots of possibilities, but they drew the line at a home inspection across state lines…. my sense of purpose, of achieving a set goal kept hitting wall after wall after wall. The rescue organization talks to me some more about Dena and that the next load would be in August, but that they could put in my specifications and perhaps there was just the dog waiting for me. Uh-huh. August. Might as well have been a year.
And then, God stepped in. For some reason, I noted Dena’s name was highlighted, indicating a link, which was to the site that provides their genealogy and racing record and I realized that Dena is Claire’s niece. For anyone who has been keeping pace with this site, you know there was a strong likelihood I’d find a relative of Claire’s. Call me a sap, a sentimental traditional sap, but that was the missing key to unlocking my heart for Dena’s Diamond. I do a 180 degree spin and am in hot pursuit of bringing Ms. Dena home. In great appreciation to the Royal Hounds, an all volunteer organization, they moved heaven and earth to make this adoption happen in just under a week. We did everything backwards. The home visit, the application, the donation fees and the official meet and see what you and the dog think of one another was the tail wagging the dog. Sorry, couldn’t help it, too good to pass up..
I have found that greyhound lovers are much like boat owners. It is a very small community and they are friendly, outgoing, social and willing to help you whatever it takes. As this progresses, I start wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Signing a contract, sight unseen of this dog (and she’s named Dena, my mind wails in protest), paying a nonrefundable donation, but with the assurance that if Dena doesn’t work out, they will find me the perfect dog at no charge.
And, yeah, she’s “cat friendly,” but so was Claire… Claire, who, on her first day, wandered over, oh so nonchalantly, and with the most unflappable cat in the world, Dyssa, sitting on my lap, Claire just opened her mouth and put it over Dyssa’s head, while she was sitting on my lap. Thus, declaring war between the species. I ended up establishing a no fly zone in my hall consisting of two winter tires and a small three-step ladder as a barricade between domains. (Dyssa was too fat to fit under a child’s gate. She had to have an escape hatch if she crossed the green line into the Other’s domain.) As y’all know, they worked it out between them while I was at work and became fast friends. But, what about Dena? Would she require the same form of negotiations? Not by the wildest stretch of imagination can anyone call Elby, That Cat! unflappable. And, Elby is a darter, a chaser of dust bunnies on the ceiling, for Pete’s sake – the perfect morsel for a trained racing professional, retired or not.
Dena’s First Day
I squeezed through the gate to be greeted by four impressive greyhounds all milling and sniffing and occasional kiss is bestowed on me – a rare honor for a new person from a greyhound. Riff, the human Mama, is one of those zen-like women. She exudes stillness all around her. A calm still water reservoir. We sit outside in the yard, having a cigarette and a cup of coffee, letting the dogs determine the pace. The love and affection between Riff and Dena is very apparent and, due to moving to a new home, Dena and she have been apart for a week. This is their reunion and I am content to just observe and be surrounded by four greyhounds, me used to just one and I find a new goal crystallizing, I want this. It is not going to happen in a one bedroom apartment. This is one of those long term goals.
Riff sends us home with a collar for tags, a collar for the leash, a leash, a greyhound muzzle, and some extra coats for Dena in cold weather. Greyhounds require a special collar for their leashes, called a Martindale, which allows for their extraordinary necks. Because their heads are smaller than their necks, they can slip out of a regular collar and then they are gone in a New York minute.
Dena is a bit puzzled in the back of my car. The seats are folded down and it’s a hatchback with plenty of room, but it is a strange car, a strange woman and what does it all mean. Some whimpers. As we drive towards home, taking freeway and streets, she alternates between standing with her nose out the window and laying down in the back. Some anxiety is rising. We pull into my complex, which is dog friendly, with lots of green lawn areas for the dogs. It backs onto a State Park with paths for walking and exploring right out the back door. Dena and I walk around a bit and I put her muzzle on. Like all complexes, one building looks just like another and yet, she tracks directly to my building and my door with no signal from me. How did she do that?
Still with me? Part III to follow – word count: 1266.