MOST OF US HAVE BEEN THROUGH IT. We’ve either had to make the excruciating decision to have a beloved pet put down, or we lost them suddenly at home or in an accident. It has to be one of the most heart wrenching situations to deal with in life.
Some folks never want to have pets. There are various reasons for this decision. Some are far too busy and cannot devote the necessary time to care for and love an animal. Others don’t want to go through the pain of loss, having been torn apart with grief in the past. They fear it because they know it will come. And there of course are those who just don’t like animals at all. I personally have a problem liking those people. Who could possibly dislike a puppy or kitten?
When we decided to become pet owners, it wasn’t planned. I brought home a large white and orange cat that was bound for the pound. He was being cared for by someone who already had six cats and she couldn’t care for him. We added another cat to keep him company and they remained fun companions for a few years. They had to be re-homed when our second son was diagnosed with infantile asthma. It was difficult to let go, but it was a priority to keep our son healthy.
But he grew out of the asthma and we relocated to Florida from Michigan. Once again, we had no intention of getting a pet, but the pet found us. I had some clients who could no longer care for a French Bulldog rescue so, after checking with the rescue agency, I was able to adopt her from them. Clara was a wonderful pet, but had many health issues, and it broke my heart to have her put down at only five years old, because she had fractured vertebrae in her back for the third time.
I thought we were done with pets for a while, but a family member had adopted a greyhound rescue. We looked into it and we were hooked. We adopted them, one by one. They were never puppies, because they came to us off the track, retired. (except for one, who broke a front paw in training and never raced). Mixed in with our greyhounds, I had rescued a Corgi mix that I adored. We lost him to pancreatitis at nine years old.
At one time, we had four greyhounds. One of them was Daisy. Daisy was unplanned, as many of them had been. I had gone to the Humane Society to look for a small dog for my mom because my father had passed away the previous year. I thought a dog might help her. They had no small dogs. My mother eventually adopted a huge white cat.
But Daisy was there, a greyhound at the Humane Society. This was not common, as they usually came through rescues, but that summer, there had been an overflow of them from the tracks and the rescue agencies couldn’t absorb them all.
Daisy was doomed for the needle. She was thin as a rail and would not interact with people. She had worms, and she was weak and undersized. It was evident that no one would adopt her. She had been abused, and had never raced. She had no registration number in her ear, so we didn’t know where she came from.
All she had was a birth date: 4-01-03. And this was in the summer of 2005. I had her loaded into my SUV and brought her home. (There were other things that had to happen in between, but that was the end result).
It took a full year before Daisy would let my husband touch her. But she quickly adapted to being in a house because of the three other greyhounds she could follow around. She was extremely shy and quiet. But eventually, she became the leader of the pack. We lost them all over time, except Daisy. We added two more, then lost one that we added. And Daisy carried on, loving food like no dog I had ever seen. She jumped up and down, with all four legs leaving the ground and would stare at me when I was eating anything until I relented.
She also became more and more beautiful. She filled out; her black coat became silky smooth and shiny, and she learned how to smile. She barked a lot too, which is rare for a greyhound. She did whatever she could to get attention, especially if it involved the kitchen.
Without realizing it, she made her way deep into my heart. I created a Facebook page for her, and the other greyhounds called, The Daily Daisy Greyhound. It still exists because we carry on in her memory. Last year, as her age began to show, I wrote a book from her point of view, to memorialize the silly and loving ways of a little greyhound girl.
We still have Button, her adopted sister who just turned ten and is in excellent health.
But when Daisy started losing the ability to keep her back legs underneath her, I knew it wouldn’t be long. She had just turned 15 this past April, and I had been blessed with about three years of extra greyhound life beyond their lifespan. The morning that we made the decision, she actually ran into the house from outside. She was a ball of energy even in the last day of her life. But by that evening, she could no longer support her weight and was panting in pain.
Of all the dogs I’ve ever had, even the one I grew up with, a collie named Heidi, this was the hardest one to part with. She was attached to me like a shadow and had followed me into every room in the house when I was home. She couldn’t climb stairs so she would wait at the base of the stairs if I had to go upstairs. When I came down, she would run around and around in circles and make happy sounds, as if I hadn’t been home in months.
I miss her. People who have had a heart dog know this loss. I miss her with every part of me. I miss her eyes, her funny walk, her smell, the sigh she’d make when she’d lie down. I miss her excitement over food. I miss her presence.
I cope by giving all the love I can to Button. She has been deeply hurt by this loss too and is lost without her sister. We will be looking for another greyhound to help both of us cope. Greyhounds don’t replace the ones who leave; they just fill new love spaces in our hearts. Time helps with the pain. But I never want to lose the memories.
I hope that God didn’t create our beloved pets just to have them die forever. We will find out one day. I know we are to look for our loved ones when we leave this earth, and I’m sorry if it offends anyone, but I count Daisy in that list. I will be looking for her.
Janice Barlow is a true crime author. She also wrote a book about Daisy, her beloved greyhound. It’s on Amazon in both color and black and white versions, and on Kindle. It’s called, Daisy’s Amazing Diary: A Greyhound Tale.