Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Memoriam, Surf, 2003-2011

Surf, aka Slim Strider, went to the Rainbow Bridge this morning, to run free forever. He joins his love Bluebird there.

Surf came into our lives as Bluebird was exiting. She was terminal with cancer, after it had taken her leg and then her life. Her last task was to pick a new dog for us, and she picked him, coming through like the champion she truly was, picking a worthy successor for this family. For three days they laid on the sofa, nose to nose. I don't know what all she told him, but after she died, he gave us 4 1/2 years of love and devotion. He was so like her that occassionally we called him Bluebird by mistake. He didn't seem to mind.

When we got him, we were told he was a bounce from a previous owner and that he had raced at the Tijuana track. We never knew why he bounced, but over the years we've speculated that his previous owner died on him, away from him, went out, never came back, because Surf was always a Velcro dog, wanting to be near us, afraid to let us out of his sight. He would get paranoid when I'd go to work, but I always came home. We've also speculated that he had a hip injury at the track because he would not sit like other dogs--his hips would not let him do it. We never worried about it, but we wondered.

In the past week, Surf was suffering. He refused some food, was drinking water by the gallon, and was vomiting. A trip to the vet two days ago found a tumor the size of a small melon in his lower abdomen, bulging the sides, blocking the intenstinal tract and putting pressure on the grand aorta. We couldn't tell if it was in the intestine or on it, but it didn't matter. This tumor grew in about a week's time, the fastest I've ever seen, and that's scary in its own way. Surgery like that could kill him, and the odds were against it being recoverable. He was terminal, maybe a couple of weeks at most. But he had less time than that. We decided to make him as comfortable as we could, but it didn't help. Last night was his worst night, and he gave us "the look." It was time. This morning I took him back to the vet and held him and told him we loved him as his last moments in this plane passed. I bawled my eyes out. We all loved him. As it should be done, his collar, his bond to us, stayed on until after it was over. If it came off before that he'd feel abandoned. It went on him when we adopted him, and he knew what it meant then--they always do. It would not have been right to remove it before he was gone.

He's free of the pain now, but I'm not. I've done this too damned many times, and it always hurts. So I'm writing this to try to cope.

Surf is survived at home by Molly, another greyhound, and Apollo, a whippet, who he was very tight with and was bascially brothers with. How Apollo will cope remains to be seen. The humans are in grief right now.

Surf was dearly loved and will be dearly missed. He was a gentleman through and through, never a complaint, never anything but a pure sweetheart. He gave us all a lot of love, and like all dogs, he taught us, too.

The plague of cancer continues to haunt greyhounds; up to 1 in every 4 of these wonderful dogs will get it. We knew this was a possibility and we accepted the risk. We didn't anticipate that it would hit at age 7, but later. Both Bluebird and Slim were 11 when they went to the Rainbow Bridge.

The pain of the loss is hard to take, but as pet owners we accept it as part of the package deal with the love they give us. Death helps us to appreciate life; suffering helps to appreicate health; sorrow helps to appreicate joy; that's the balance of life, nature, and existence. The bad times like this truly suck, but they make us appreciate what good times we have.

Life is precious--all life, be it the pet of the sofa, the baby in the womb, even the idiot murderer on death row who doesn't understand it at all. Life teaches us all by example, even the bad ones, and the best we can do is to learn and grow and become better people from it all. Surf's time with us was shorter than Bluebird or Slim's, but that time was quality for all of us. He was in his Forever Home.

That's Surf's legacy--teaching. He taught us about Velcro dogs. He taught us about legacies. He taught us about brotherhood with Apollo. He helped me cope with stress in levels that I've never had to deal with before this year--when he laid on my legs, he helped relieve it through his weight, warmth, and love. He gave us all so much.

His photo of his last days joins Bluebird and Slim on the mantle, and a candle there is lit in his memory. Tonight we will toast his memory, his legacy, and his life, celebrate it, while mourning our loss. But he's free of the suffering, the pain, and the stress. He's with Bluebird, and Slim, and maybe even has met his previous owner at the Bridge. But he's always in our hearts and minds. The collar is now empty, hearts are broken but will heal, but the love and memories remain.

Farewell, Slim Strider. Loved, missed, but never forgotten. Run free forever.