Affairs of the Heart

When I started listening to what my dogs were saying to me, all kinds of wonderful things began to happen in my life.  Dogs showed me how to listen with my heart  first and then how to change the parts of myself that were holding me back.

To acknowledge that dogs come to us with a special charge – that they are in our lives for a reason we may not understand right away – but that we intuitively sense from the first meeting – that is the start of  an affair of the heart.

Having an affair with a dog is to bond so honestly with an animal that  WE are better for the relationship;  that our lives are forever changed  because of  these,  our heart dogs.

Coming soon to this page are the stories and photographs of my heart dogs.  Check back often.

 

Suzy

We spelled her name “Siouxy” and pronounced it “Suzy” because we wanted to give her the focus of a Sioux warrior.

She was dog aggressive and a fear biter – both things that we would come to understand after the first six months of living with her.

Siouxy was a street-stray.  Someone tied her leash to a mailbox and left her there when she was approximately 3-4 months old.  Not too long afterwards,  someone else found her and turned her over to a friend of mine who operated a one-woman  animal rescue operation.

On the day she had to transport this dog and one other over to the humane  society (Lollypop Farm), her car gave up the ghost so that what was supposed to be a relatively uneventful ride across town to drop off two dogs became almost impossible.

Until she called me.

I was free and more than willing to help.

Siouxy never made it out to Lollypop Farm.  She came home with me after a detour to where my husband worked so that he could see her.

Me:  “What do you think?”

Him:  “Well, maybe we could foster her.”

This was in our early days of helping out with greyhound adoption.  We had recently adopted our first ex-racing greyhound,  Zia Comanche and as easy a dog as he was, we knew that even on a temporary basis, bring home a female puppy would be fine.

Siouxy was smart.  In the 10 years that she would be a part of our lives, she would be my best teacher.   And, we,  her human family,  would be her staunchest protectors.  [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]

 

Felix – My Rescue Whippet

"Felix" - crazy love

He was a rascal.  A scamp.  Completely incorrigible.  A fierce hunter and a survivor.  And, he drove me crazy.  And, I loved him dearly.  And, it pains me that this is one of the few decent photographs I have of him because it does no justice to his lively temperament and his talent for always getting into things.

Exactly one month after attending that dog show up in Buffalo,  my best friend called me.  The two of us were founding members of what was, at that time, the only ex-racing greyhound adoption program in our city.  When I heard her voice, I thought we were going to talk about an up-coming dog transport.  However,  she had something a little closer to home in mind.

She’d been contacted by a young woman who had a two-year old, male whippet in need of a second home.  Could our adoption group help out?

My friend had come with me to that dog show and knew that I was really interested in this breed.  “So, Kathy,”  she asked,  “What do you think about fostering a whippet?”

The owner lived less than 40 minutes from my friend.  She arranged to pick the dog up and to then meet me in the parking lot of a shopping plaza.  He was rib-showing skinny and much too big for the small crate we released him from.  Reading the paperwork, we found out that his owner felt he was becoming much too destructive during the day – both she and her husband worked fulltime and had NO time for him.   So she wrote.

Could we find him a home where he wouldn’t be alone during the day?

Two weeks into fostering this dog, my family decided to stop pretending that we were fostering him.  Having reached that decision, it was time to give this dog a new name.  As I was upstairs in the bathroom putting eye make on, my son (who was downstairs) yelled:

“Mom! What do you think about ….” My son yelled out a name at the same time that I was thinking about that same name:  Felix.

He was one of the most athletic dogs we’d ever had.  Felix almost defied gravity when he was outside chasing balls, hunting squirrels, or doing back flips in the air in his personal race to catch a frisbee.

He was an obedience instructor’s dream dog for performing recalls from a sit-stay.

I would ask him to sit, and, then I’d walk a short distance away from him.  Turning to face him, we’d  eyeball each other.  After silently counting to 10,  I’d give him the hand signal and the verbal cue for “Come!”

Like a bat out of hell or a heat-sensitive missile,  Felix flew straight for me.  Just when I thought that he’d bowl me over, he’d jump waist high, push off my chest and nail a sit squarely in front of me.

“I know obedience competitors who would kill for that!” breathed an astonished instructor.

Underneath his brash exterior lived an anxious warrior.  Felix had separation anxiety and could not be left alone nor could he be left in a crate.  So, we found him a girlfriend – a 3 year old, “retired” show whippet named Josephine.

He was a wiley escape artist – managing to jump over two sets of 5 foot fence to survive for three days just inside a forever wild forest that backed up to my whippet breeder’s friend’s house. With coyotes.

He took 15 gift-wrapped favors off of the dining room table,  slit open the netting material of each favor,  removed and ate 15 pieces of chocolate after peeling off the foil from each separate piece.  And, unless you looked closely to discover that the chocolate pieces were gone,  the favors looked none the worse for what he’d done.

Except that all 15 favors were now scattered about on the living room floor.  Right side up.  Picture perfect.  But. Empty.

Felix could brazenly walk into another home filled with 8 other whippets – intact males and females not spayed because all 8 were show whippets – and assert his leadership by lifting his back leg and peeing on the corner of the living room couch.  There would be a subtle shift in the pack dynamic; a recognition and acquiescence among these 8 whippets that Felix was now in charge.

Felix was never obnoxious about asserting himself.  He simply never doubted that taking charge was what he was born to do.

We lived with Felix for 13 years.  He was the most exasperating, loving, take-charge-yet-scared little guy.  Put him in a pack of whippets and, instantly, he took charge.  Mix things up so that he was part of a group of other breeds and he wasn’t too sure of himself.  He could hold his own but he wouldn’t start anything.

He did what he had to do to get his point across.  The door to my son’s bedroom is still deeply scored from the marks Felix’s nails made when we thought we could leave him loose in a room with Josephine instead of crating him.

We lost him to kidney failure.  The day before we took Felix to the vet’s office to be euthanized,  my son and I spent the day outside in the yard with him.  Felix’s tremendous heart was still determined to never give up, but,  his body was showing the wasting effects of the disease.

He could still navigate the yard but he’d stopped chasing squirrels.  Actually, by this time, the squirrel population had figured out that our yard was to be avoided at all costs.  It would take these squirrels a full year after Felix’s death to realize that their protagonist was gone.

I brought Felix’s ashes home a few weeks after we euthanized him.  The tin container is inconspicuous and fits in a number of places.  Some days, it’s on the desk near my computer screen.  Other days, it sits on the bottom shelf of the book case.  I like to move him around because when he was alive, he had a hard time sitting still.  And, because he was never happy to be separated from his family, I don’t want him too far away from me.  [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]

 

Giza – Because You Can’t Have Just One

"Giza"

This was the first time I saw her.  In a photograph that was taken shortly after she’d been pulled from the racetrack adoption holding kennel;  she’s the ex-racing greyhound with the blue brindle markings on her face.   At that time, she was 3 years old.

After a brief stay in a foster home up in New Hampshire,  she came to live with my family.  We would have her for just 3 years before losing her to bone cancer.

We named her Giza (pronounced Geeza – long “e”) after the pyramids to honor the ancient history of greyhounds.   After 12 months of almost non-stop dog transports from our parent adoption organization in New Hampshire,  we understood the phrase, “Greyhounds are like potato chips.  You can’t have just one.”

Our yard wasn’t fenced and what had been relatively easy with just one dog – getting him outside to pee on leash Every Single Time And No Exceptions became a mental game of “I can do this until springtime and then I SWEAR we will get the yard fenced!”

Standing outside with two dogs – up to my knees in snow – late at night – lost its glamor fast.

She was an easy second dog.  And it was fun to watch two greyhounds interact with each other.  This was the first time I’d ever had a pair of the same breed.

She ran off one warm spring night.  My husband had taken the dogs off to a nearby fenced field so they could stretch out and run.  What he didn’t see was the gap in the fencing.  Giza slipped out.

These were the days before cell phones.  As my husband was walking in the back door with one dog to tell me that he’d lost Giza,  I was just getting off the phone with the woman who’d found her trotting down the sidewalk past a neighborhood bar.

“You know,  she said, “if she hadn’t had a name tag,  I’d have kept her.  She’s so beautiful.”

And she was.  A real heart-stealer on looks alone.

Diamond – our first Great Dane

 

This is Diamond.  He might be all of 2-3 years old in this photo.  He was our first dog.  We got him BK.  (Before Kid.)   He was the dog that started it all.  That marked the trail.  That set the standard.

I picked him out of a litter of 6-8 pups.  He was the little guy that sat calmly, towards the back of the pack and waited until I caught his eye.  All of his demeanor said,  “You WILL pick me.”

Despite the wooing job that his sister litter-mate was doing as she settled her head on my husband’s knee.

THIS  pup had his own agenda.  And, we were it.

There were a lot of firsts with this dog.  First time we went to dog school.  Where he became smitten with a lovely, standard French Poodle.  She was flirty and he liked that.

First time we explored all of the parks in our area in all kinds of weather.  We cross-country-skied with this dog in Ellison and Mendon Ponds parks.

Well,  my husband did.  Andy would tie a rope-leash around his waist and that dog would pull Andy up and down trails.  I’d be hard pressed to tell you who enjoyed this more,  Andy or the dog.

We named him Diamond because he had a white blaze on his chest that looked like one.

He was a Lake Dog that didn’t like water, except to drink.  When we’d go swimming at Durand or Mendon,  Diamond would stand at the edge of the water, watching us.  No way was he going to wade in and swim.

But.  He’d lower his head and take a drink.

A completely different taste experience from the Atlantic ocean which he had to re-teach himself every time we vacationed in Maine.

He was a serious dog.  And,  he was a physically large dog.  He out-weighed Jasper by a good 20 pounds;  170 or so to Jasper’s 150.

Jasper plays soccer and will fetch a tennis ball if you throw it.  If you won’t, he will play by himself.  Diamond did none of that.

Diamond would patiently stand,  still as a statue, and let my friend’s 3 year old son,  carefully poke a piece of carpet fuzz into his nostril.

He was a quiet dog – almost never barking unless he had a point he wanted to make.  As long as you were not a mounted policeman or a Chow,  Diamond was your best friend.

We were never quite sure why he decided to dislike men in uniform sitting on horseback.

Chows?  In the canine parlance of dogs meeting other dogs,  this animosity was a foregone conclusion.  Diamond was serious about this and that was that.

I drove everywhere with that dog and never worried about whether the neighborhood I was driving through was safe.

Once,  when it looked like two teenage boys were about to start fighting at the foot of my driveway – I opened the front door of my house and threatened to turn Diamond lose if they didn’t break it up.  Now.

Diamond just stood beside me.  Checking things out.  Not saying much of anything.

One of the boys took off while the other one,  looking apprehensively at Diamond, asked if he could come inside and call his dad.

When I opened the door wider and told him to follow me inside,  he said,  “But what about your dog?”

And I laughed.  “Diamond?  He won’t hurt you.  Come on inside and call your dad.”

He was a city dog that easily transitioned to living in the suburbs.  When we bought my grandparents house and moved,  Diamond was fine with that.  The kids in our neighborhood thought he was a big black bear – at least that’s the story they took home to their parents when they’d climb down off the afternoon school bus and see Diamond sunning himself out in the side yard.

Once he was house-broken, Diamond had free run of the house.  What he loved to do was sleep on our bed – in the middle of it – when we weren’t home.  Instead of fighting him on this, we learned to throw a large sheet over the bedspread.

We lost him to mouth cancer when he was six years old.  That was the year of the infamous Ice Storm that snuck into town unexpectedly in 1991-1992 and knocked Rochester on its ass.

Our neighborhood lost all power for two days.  We were pretty lucky because some parts of Monroe county lost it for two weeks or more.

During that time, Diamond was being boarded at our vet’s office because we knew he was really sick.  Dying-sick.

The day that I brought his ashes home was the first time I carried him in almost six years.  I was almost surprised:  Great Dane cremated ashes are pretty heavy.

Diamond’s best gift was that he was so even-tempered,  he made us look good.  Twenty years later,  I understand the value of that.