Noels Wish pedigree
31/8/95 - 6/7/04
I've had dogs for over 20 years. German Shepherds to be exact. Occasionally I would flick through a breed book and think, “what would I choose if I couldn't have a Shepherd” and there was never any that appealed to me. It was a game I played. Then I got a job at the local RSPCA shelter, first as assistant manager, then as Manager. So I had plenty of “pound Puppies” to choose from if/when the time came, not that I thought seriously of anything but my beloved German Shepherds.
About 1995, a brindle greyhound bitch came into the shelter. She was beautiful and we quickly named her “Princess”. On warm days Princess would cockroach up against the brick wall. I didn't know it was called cockroaching back then. We traced her last owner but he had given her to someone else and didn't want her back. Too slow and not good enough to breed from if I remember rightly. So Princess was found a new home. I had met my first greyhound and I remembered her.
Then one of those “pound puppies” came home. Why. I don't know, I had 2 Shepherds – Tara and Zoe. I didn't need a new dog but Emma was here. A hound type cross, a bit of Rhodesian Ridgeback, a bit of Beagle, a bit of this and a bit of that with the soft hound temperament and the soft hound coat and I was hooked. Princess had influenced me I'm sure with the hound temperament. At about the same time I saw a T.V. story on rehoming ex-racing dogs and I remembered Princess.
Tara died and it was Zoe, Emma, 3 cats and my daughter Rebecca and myself. Life went on. Emma's soft temperament impressed me more and more. My Shepherds were under the hammer, I was thinking more and more of “hounds”. My job was very stressful; I was to resign in a few more months, no longer could I help to kill all those innocents who never asked to be there. A friend had started to look into fostering a Greyhound and I remembered Princess.
Here was something I could do that always had a positive outcome. There were no time constraints on finding the right home as there was with the Shelter animals. “Count me in,” I said. So I got my first foster.
Jinny was a sweet, lovely girl, got on well with the cats, loved Emma and had an “understanding' with Zoe. Mind you I has asked to only foster male dogs, because there was no way I would adopt a male. Girls were my thing! But with 3 cats it was explained to me that I really had to take what ever was offered, for the cat's safety. Fine with me.
Three weeks later and it was time for Jinny to go to her new home and for me to have a new foster. So it was goodbye Jinny and hello Sam. It was hard to give Jinny back but I told myself Sam needed me now, Jinny had a home to go to, Sam didn't. And I most certainly didn't need a third dog!
So Sam arrived, a big white and black male, very elegant on a Wednesday. By Sunday I am on the phone to my friend saying “ I can't give this dog back, what was I to do?” Wise heads prevailed and it was decided to say nothing until after our dog clubs obedience trial the following weekend. Sam was coming with me and we could see how he handled things.
Meanwhile, Sam had started sneaking onto the couch after we went to bed. I didn't tell my foster co-ordinator this new development. As a foster carer I wasn't supposed to allow this but all my ideas for stopping Sam also meant the cats couldn't get up so… Then Sam started getting up during the day and I LET HIM! The day of the trial came and off we went. Sam spent 9 hours in the car with only a few toilet breaks and never put a paw wrong. There were several interested on lookers but I couldn't persuade them that Grey's were the new wave of obedience dogs.
So what was I to do? Every test I thought of Sam passed with flying colours. So Sam stayed. I had always said I would never own a male dog and in over 20 years of owning dogs they had never been allowed on the furniture but Sam turned that all around. Sam has opened up a whole new world to me. I've been to the races a few times and I am a member of the local club. We even have a key to a well-grassed straight track where Sam can relive his memories. Not that he always bothers to run very fast, sometimes it's nice to just stop and sniff the “roses”. If the harness horses are working nearby Sam's competitive spirit comes to the fore, then he turns it on. He is beautiful! By coincidence Sam nearly lost his life at the local track. He fell and then was hit by the lure but he's tough, he lived.
Sam has a few problems. His fall left a legacy but it didn't stop me from falling for him. Sam tells me “ that's why I don't sit!” but I could care less about sitting. He is a true gentleman. The cats seem to delight in tickling his feet with their tails as he lies on the couch but he doesn't mind. Zoe could care less that Sam is here but Emma finds him a bit big. To me he is just perfect!
And I remember Princess and thank her for starting me on this wonderful adventure.
29/05/04 - I had given Piper and Emma some raw bones to chew on outside. Sam decided after a while that he too would like to go out. A short time later Rebecca and I heard but didn't see a scuffle between Piper and Sam. Obviously one had tried to get the other's bone. Even though Sam has no teeth he likes to gum the bones sometimes.
We let Sam in and found a very small area of his ear had been nipped. Ears bleed a lot! And we were a bit sick of blood in our house so, after several attempts, we managed to get Sam's ear bandaged in such a way as to stop blood decorating our walls.
30/05/04 - Sam's ear bandage had lasted well but Sam was now very lame in the left front. I thought it was his shoulder. He frequently cried while changing position while sleeping. I wasn't happy with this.
31/05/04 - I rang the vet first thing and made an appointment to take Sam down that morning. Jo, the vet, felt there was some swelling in the shoulder and he was very touchy about it. We came home with pain killers and instructions to watch him. Because there had been some interaction between Piper and Sam it was thought that might have been the cause of Sam's lameness. I did bring up the possibility of bone cancer and x-rays but Jo preferred to wait as Piper might have knocked Sam over.
4/06/04 - The pain relief has worked and Sam is much better.
5/06/04 - Sam went to rush into the house so I pulled the door to to block him. I didn't touch him and he didn't bang into anything but he pulled up very short and screamed in pain. And screamed for at least a minute. I was horrified.
7/06/04 - Sam is again very lame and crying out. The sudden stop seems to have jolted him in some way. I make an appointment for Sam at the chiropractor.
9/06/04 - Sam got me up several times in the night with an upset tummy, I think.
11/06/04 - Sam's appointment is for this afternoon but I can't seem to get it out of my head that this time Ian's magic fingers won't work their magic, so I ring up and make an appointment for Jo to see Sam again. I speak to the receptionist and request x-rays. Sam will need to be knocked out and left all day. No, I say, he will be fine. OK they say with disbelief in their voice.
Sam and I go off to Jo's. Poor Sam starts shaking like a leaf, his heart rate is so fast. A blanket is laid on the x-ray table and we lift Sam onto it. I say I am being a drama queen but I won't rest easy until Sam is x-rayed. We laugh and joke a bit to try and ease the tension. Jo and I go back a long way, we worked together when I was at the RSPCA. The first x-ray is taken with Sam laying down. Jo is not sure if we can get the sitting up ones without Sam being sedated so we go for the easier ones first. Jo goes off to develop the film and I am left with my fears and Sam
As Jo comes back someone asks if it was a good film, as in, was it nice and clear. Jo hesitates and than answers slowly that yes, it was a good film, but no it wasn't. I know Jo has found something.
Jo comes back into the room and tells me there is something on the x-ray. It is either an injury or a tumour. Given Sam's family history and there has been no recent injury, we decide it is a tumour. Jo starts to tell me about different options, but I cut her off and say there will be no options. Jo takes 2 more x-rays, we discuss sending them down to a specialist for their diagnoses, but Jo's warn me they will properly want a bone biopsy before totally committing. A bone biopsy is bloody painful she tells me and often inconclusive anyway. I say no bone biopsy.
As Sam has settled down and relaxed as much as a dog can relax, Jo tires for the more difficult angled x-rays. Sam is so good. We get another 3 x-rays and any thought of it being an injury has long disappeared. The last x-ray was the most clear and showed some bone damage as well ( very minor at this stage ). We don't bother sending the x-rays off.
I shed a few tears and wished I had had Sam's teeth removed much earlier than I had.
Jo gives me Rimadyl tablets for pain relief for Sam and we drive home.
18/06/04 - Sam has another bad night and I worry it is the Rimadyl until I remember he had a bad night 10 days ago. I can't remember if he had the same things to eat both nights and it's only a simple tummy upset or do I worry it is something more?
20/06/04 - Sam doesn't know about his cancer. He is eating well and acting normal. The pain relief is at a low dose for the moment, we can go higher when needed. There is the odd yelp when he moves around while sleeping, but there always was. Sam is, after all, a retired racing greyhound, and he does have old injuries, particularly in the hind legs. Rebecca notices that Sam has a small spot on the top of his nose where the skin has come off. I had seen it yesterday and hoped it was the result of him rummaging around the night before for just the right grass to calm his upset tummy. Rebecca wonders if it is a sign his immune system is not fully functioning ( like collie nose ). I'll ask when I go get more Rimadyl if I get the chance.
21/06/04 - I took Sam and Piper for a walk. Sam seemed fine but seemed to be puffing a bit. Maybe it wasn't a good idea? I asked about the nose but without seeing Sam Jo couldn't say. As long as Sam is happy, I am happy.
28/06/04 - Sam has been jumping out of his skin so I took him and Piper for a walk. Sam's first one since the week before. We had to turn back early. Sam was limping and not happy. When I got home I fired off a very distraught e-mail to my friend Bea that Sam had had his last walk. Poor Bea, she thought I meant he was going to be put down there and then. It just shook me right up. Sam had been doing so well and with no obvious signs of any health problems. I suspect, deep down, I was hoping for a miracle and I was shattered when I was shown that there was going to be no miracle. Sam was going down quicker than I wanted.
2/07/04 - Sam is OK but no longer asking to go for a walk, eating like a horse and still capable of a gallop around the back yard but the time is fast approaching when that decision has to be made.
3/07/04 - Sam seems restless without being in pain. Several hot spots have erupted on his skin which are bothering both of us quite a bit. Is it his immune system failing, a side effect of the Rimadyl? I ask him if it is time but Sam says no.
5/07/04 - Sam is not so comfortable today. I make an appointment to take him down to the vets tomorrow, Tuesday. Jo is on holidays but has a locum in, Katie.
At 10pm I was in bed when Sam came in. Sam told me he was ready. As Katie couldn't be reached Sam and I waited through the night. I kept him dosed up on the Rimadyl but it was a struggle to keep the meds up at the level needed. At 5.30am I had to go to work but Sam seemed comfortable at last so I went to work. I had already left a message at the vets that I would need Katie that morning. I got home at 9 am and rang for Katie. I gave Sam another Rimadyl and he seemed content to just lay there.
6/07/04 - Katie came at 10 am. Sam was worried, he could smell the vet smell. I told Katie that Sam would stand so she decided to put a catheter in his vein in case he moved while she was injecting him. Sam was a bit tense while this was going on but as soon as Katie approached with the injection that would release him from all the pain he relaxed. I was holding him and it was as if he welcomed what was coming. As Sam started to crumple I managed to whisper into his ear "run fast" and then he was gone.
Sam is being cremated and when I am ready Sam's ashes will be spread over the finish line of our local greyhound track. Sam lived to run, it's what he would have wanted.
Run fast, run free my beautiful boy. I love you.
Today, 31/08/04 should have been Sam's 9th birthday. I am still struggling to come to terms with his loss. Last night, after work, I took Sam's ashes out to our local greyhound track and scattered them around the finishing line. There were a lot of ashes so I spread some past the finishing line too, as in first past the post. And it was more like poured than spread. Cremation ashes aren't like the ashes from a wood fire, light and fluffy. When I turned back I saw that the dark ashes stood out plainly against the light sand of the track. In the middle of my sobs I also had to giggle. I hope the track people don't think a terrorist has been and laid down "suspicious powder". I had seen the track secretary the day before and told him what I was going to do but not when I was doing it. So Sam's bodily remains have now been set free but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Nth East, VIC, Australia
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