Got word about 6:00 p.m. tonight that my dear friend Maggie, who has more aliases than a veteran CIA agent, had to say goodbye to one of her pack of three permanent greyhounds. I met Maggie because she fostered Ella, nee Dena’s Diamond, my current Chaser here at Chasing Rabbit Holes. The first time I met Maggie was when I went to meet and pick up Dena’s Diamond sight unseen. A dog is a big investment in terms of love and possible vet bills…
There was a wonderful article I read that spoke of imagining you’ve spent the first five years of life with a strict regimen that would rival a ballerina’s toughest training and dedication. You live in your own crate that might be 4′ x 4′ with about 20-40 other greyhounds in the huge room with you. You are let out for runs and feeding and training, but everything is clocked and on schedule. While you socialize with the other greyhounds, you don’t have all that much hands on contact. Greyhounds are bred for intelligence, speed and affection. When they are out and about, they are on a racetrack and then in the crate and back home in the crate.
Suddenly, they are retired and need to learn a brand new world where there are stairs, windows, doors, people are in your face, in your space with lots of built-in expectations that you would dearly love to meet if you only understood what those expectations are….
Several times a year, a van crosses from Colorado with the Veterinarian, Dr. Weir, who has made greyhounds her mission in life. She brings a load of rescues she has carefully vetted, handled their medical, observed them and brought them into Washington to be met by greyhound rescue organizations waiting for her and the dogs. Enter Maggie.
Maggie takes the new greyhounds, pretty fresh off the track and introduces them to the retired civilian life. Every greyhound is unique, but some are very shy in new surroundings. Maggie has made it her mission in life to take in these shy ones and teach them about one on one love and how wonderful retirement can be. It can take a week to months to bring a shy greyhound to full bloom as the loving, playful, gentle, mystical creature it was meant to be.
When I met Maggie, she had three permanent and one foster. She refers to her permanent greyhounds as her foster failures, a term of art in the greyhound world. It means you welcomed a greyhound into your home on a foster basis. It is for a short period of time to be sure the greyhound has a stepping stone from track to a permanent home with people who will love her or him and teach the greyhound about windows, stairs, living in a house with all that entails – radio, tv, computers, furniture, and family hierarchy. Learning about going for walks, runs in a backyard, being a rockstar when out in public. It is learning to live without a crate. Sharing space with everybody and everything. A foster failure is when the person who is fostering falls in love with her foster and realizes she cannot give the greyhound up.
Maggie is the most zen-like woman I have ever met. She exudes a stillness around her that is deeply calming to both dog and human. I received word tonight that one of her beloved foster failures, Carrie, had to be released to the Rainbow Bridge because of a brain tumor. Her symptoms came on suddenly and it was over in three days. Carrie of the little mohawk at the back of her head. A wonderful, dear loving companion. Here is what Maggie wrote:
Pat C Carrie “Puppy-Pal”
July 2006 – January 2014
Carrie was one of my first fosters. As she came off Dr. Weir’s hauler, I took one look at my designated foster and thought to myself “You poor homely girl with that Roman nose…who will ever love you?”
Evidently, *I* would. I found myself sneaking home from work at lunch just to get in a quick 10-minute visit with her. I soon adopted her, making her (me) my first foster failure. Not long after, the second of my original pair passed, and I failed fostering once again with my Snappy. They grew up together, and bonded such that they often shared the same dog bed, and used each other for pillows.
Carrie never raced. I adopted her at 18 months, and she was a goofy, playful, sweet, silly, trusting, and snuggly 64-lb. puppy–huge by my standards. Though she mellowed in later years, she was always still my Puppy-Pal.
She was eminently good-natured. She would have let me swing her around by her toenails if I’d wanted to. She was as clumsy and as well-intentionally oafish as I am, and I loved her for it. She had not a bone of guile in her body.
Carrie was my weekend alarm clock. When she decided I’d slept in quite long enough, she would stand on the bed and chirp at me until I understood it was breakfast time.
As the years passed and I continued to foster, Carrie acted as the big sister, showing the newbies the ropes of retired life. She was very much a homebody, preferring to let Snappy handle the Meet&Greet show-pony duties. She liked hanging with her pals Katie and Smiley, and running at the doggy dude ranch in Elma (she never wanted to leave), but otherwise preferred the couch to the nightlife.
This came on quickly. Day One: drooling and a squinty eye. Vet appointment made. Day Two: Carrie couldn’t swallow; regular vet took X-rays; referred us to a veterinary neurological specialist for a probable MRI. Day Three: NeuroDoc, a very kind woman at Summit, spent a considerable amount of time with me discussing options, none of which were cures. Carrie likely had a fast-growing inoperable brain-stem tumor. At least six of the twelve head/face nerves were affected.
I made the decision to let her go without further suffering. DeDe came to the clinic to say goodbye, and we wished her dogspeed. The girlie was well-loved.
I miss my Puppy-Pal so.