Today I had to do something I knew I had to do, but still hated to do.
Today I sent our Heart Hound, Bluebird, to the Rainbow Bridge to run free forever.
This is Bluebird:
She was a blue brindle greyhound. She came into our lives in 1999 after we had just bought our first house. I had wanted a dog all along and my wife suggested a greyhound. We were set to adopt a different greyhound, but Queenie died at the track on her last race, of a heart attack. A few days later we went to the kennel, out jumped this blue brindle bundle of happy fun from a top crate, she put her paws up on our waist, tail wagging away, and it was Game Over. It was love at first sight. She had a little adjustment trouble with us, partly because when it came to greyhounds we were totally green and also because she was battling Giardia. With the help of another greyhound, Saturn (gone to the Rainbow Bridge July 2006, we miss you, you big red goof!), she adjusted in and became our Heart Hound. Several months later to help with her being lonely, we adopted Slim.
Slim was his own self, a injury-retirement living on borrowed time and a broken leg. He was content most of the time to just be around us. He suffered a stroke in October 2003 just before we moved from Colorado to California and almost didn't make it. He went to the Rainbow Bridge September 9, 2006, exactly 4 months ago, from hemaginosarcoma (cancer) that had been found late and had spread to other organs from his spleen. His death broke Bluebird's heart.
In Colorado we teamed Bluebird and Slim up with Saturn and CJ and Miesque, two whippets that were also owned by Saturn's owner, a dearly loved family member. CJ and Miesque are also at the Bridge after long and productive lives, including helping me overcome a childhood fear of dogs that led to us falling in love with and adopting (to date) four greyhounds. The Choya Keep Pack was formed, named after all the cactus on the land.
In late 2003 we moved to California and Choya Keep Pack was split up. In 2005 Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and we got lucky and wound up being able to adopt Mustang, who was somewhat of a celebrity on Greytalk (http://www.greytalk.com) because of her plight. She came to us just before Halloween 2005, and while she is a ripe old 13, she is still hanging around.
In late September, about two weeks after Slim crossed the Bridge, Bluebird began to limp. Not sure what was going on, we took her to the vet. They did some X-rays and it came back as early osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. After about a month of denial and trying to get definite confirmation, she had her right front leg amputated on October 25. She spent the time up to Thanksgiving recovering from the surgery and then began chemotherapy. Unfortunately the chemo was ineffective and the cancer returned, much more aggressive than before. In the past 3 weeks a new tumor grew, going from small to softball-sized when she died today, and the cancer had metasized into her lymph nodes and were causing her kidneys and thyroid to fail. we took her off all medications except a painkiller and let her be as spoiled and as comfortable as she liked. Today she could not get up from the sofa without screaming in pain and showed no desire to lounge in her morning sunbeam. She also gave us "that look". It was her time to go to the Bridge. I took her to the vet and they made it painless for her. She died with her head in my lap, her favorite spot, with me telling her we loved her and scritching her ears until the very end. After she was gone I took off her collar and took it home. She will be cremated and we'll figure out the rest at a later date. Her collar will go with her picture up on the mantle, next to Slim's.
Before she went this past weekend we did one final road trip, Bluebird along, this to the Greyhound Adoption Center in San Diego. We knew we were going to get another greyhound. Bluebird's last act would be to pick him out for us. She came through like a champion and we adopted Surf, a three year, four month black brindle male who she took a liking to. He came home and has fit right in, being the protector of the house and especially of Mustang and Bluebird.
It's hard to write this. I know that she is free of the pain, whole again with all four legs, young again, and free of the poisonous cancer that was killing her. I know that I did the right thing. Yet the selfish part of me feels guilty for it, because I still wanted her around, wanted, no, needed her love, and part of me was angry for being unable to help her live instead of die, and angry at that little cancer bastard that took her (and Slim) from us.
But I have to look forward. Bluebird was the first and the last of the Choya Keep Pack. Mustang and Surf are the new pack, the Pachappa Pack. So in one way it is the end of an era here, but the beginning of a new one as well. Bluebird did it on her terms and made us better dog owners and better people for it.
But she also leaves behind seven years of memories that we will always cherish:
- When I came home from a business trip after a week and she did a Dino to my Fred, knocking me flat on my back and licking me like crazy
- Laying on my back and licking the almond oil off that my wife had used for a back massage
- Being an ambassadog and conversation piece everywhere we took her
- Befriending another greyhound named Haley and watching them streak past a dog pack like greased lightning at the dog park
- Missing a rabbit in the garden by the puff of its cotton tail, running into a cactus and not caring because she wanted that rabbit!
- Barking at herself in the mirror and startling herself because she hadn't barked before and she wanted to play with the dog in the mirror
- Sleeping on the bed on our legs, keeping them and her warm
- Learning to do stairs because Saturn was at the bottom of them
- Spinning around three times and rolling over for treats, but then not doing it for auditions for Dave Letterman's Stupid Pet tricks--she knew better
- When we lost our first son William due to a stillbirth, she cried with us
- When we got pregnant with our second son John, seeing her light up when she smelled my wife pregnant
- Going crazy at John's birth and getting to smell him shortly afterwards and recognizing him as the "Alpha Puppy"
- Letting John chew on her tail when he was teething, and the brood mother in her came out
- Her going crazy whenever she heard the cookie jar open, the leashes rattle, or the car door open
- Always greeting me at the door with a wagging tail and a snuggle
- Picking out Surf for us--she adopted him for us!
- Bringing out the best in us
- Giving us all the love we could handle
- Teaching us about cancer, family, and how to cope
She is at the Bridge now, but she is never forgotten, always loved, whole again, and back with *her* pack, but only after having made sure that she got us to our new pack. She is our Heart Hound--unique, special, and first.
Tonight we will toast her memory, celebrate her life and her gifts to us, and mourn her death.
We're already missing her deeply.
Farewell, dear Bluebird.