After my basset hound Andy passed away, his partner in crime, Hairy--a black and white, long haired farm cat--followed a few short weeks later. I was fully expecting to get another dog and cat but instead of a canine and feline pair, my mother came home from the shelter with two adorable kittens.
I don't consider myself a "dog" or a "cat" person. There are relatively few animals I don't like. Still, I will honestly say that I was disappointed there wasn't a dog romping around the house.
I don't know where I got the impression that a greyhound would make a good companion, but after years of living dogless, it seemed like a superb idea to me. They are, after all, incredibly interesting creatures and compared to how Andy loafed around, would be a totally different pet.
I did everything to win my case for a greyhound and eventually succeeded.
A quick trip down to Kansas to the TLC Greyhound Adoption center and we came back with a beautiful brindled male named Clay.
Clay has already been a part of our household for nearly a decade. He's gone from a spry young boy, freshly retired from a semi-successful career on the racetrack to a literally grey-faced old greyhound that barely can make it around the yard twice before he's exhausted.
To my girls and their cousins, Clay is captivating. Fortunately he takes it all in stride. He's mellowed to the point that if anything bothers him, he quietly gets up and climbs onto his chair.
During one of my last visits, I noticed his upper lip was slightly swollen. When I turned it over, there was a fleshy pink growth underneath that had sprouted considerably in the few weeks since I'd last seen him.
He was scheduled for surgery and so much of his lip was removed that his nose was crooked from how tight they had to pull his skin to suture it back together.
The sad news was that the lump turned out to be cancerous and not in a docile, benign way. It was a Mast Cell Stage Three tumor that is not very differentiated from the surrounding healthy cells, so it spreads quickly and is hard to get all of it during surgery. Needless to say, there's not much that can be done.
Clay is eleven now and typically the life expectancy of greyhounds is around twelve. He was one of the lucky ones--his existence has been ideal after his racing career. Still, it's surreal to think of him not soaking up the sun while he lounges on the backyard's gently sloping hill or rushing to the door to greet visitors. It's a transition all mortal beings must make that equalizes us a bit.
I think Bonnie Wilcox said it well: Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well (Old dogs, Old Friends).
Good boy, Clay.