Yesterday, March 1st, was the last day of life on Earth for a great greyhound. He was born in 1999 and spent about 4 years as a racing dog. During his racing career, he was known as “It’s A Cracker”, and he was quite successful. After retiring, his name settled to Zephyr, and he happily found his new family.
All his life, it seemed silly to him that there were nice big human beds, but he wasn’t allowed to sleep on them. One of his missions was to solve this problem. No matter what was placed on a bed to keep him off (cans filled with pennies, chairs, plastic with spikes, people, etc.), he would find a way. My bedroom was right next to the bathroom where I would shower. If I didn’t close my door all the way, he’d be on my bed as soon as I turned on the water. When I switched it off, he’d climb off of the bed and disappear. The only hint was an open door and some Zephyr colored hairs on his favorite spot – my pillow.
He was happy, playful, and a trouble maker. Unfortunately, he crossed paths with some not so polite dogs during his early years out of the track. As all greyhounds, he didn’t understand how to live this “civilian” lifestyle, and had to learn from others. He developed a habit of biting the ears of other dogs, and once he grabbed them, he didn’t plan on letting go. We were smart, but so was he. His leash was always kept short when other dogs were around, and he learned to be quiet and calm in their presence. If he was lucky, everyone would let their guard down until Zephyr was in biting distance, and then he would strike without hesitation. Keeping with his happy nature, he never caused any serious injury to strange dogs – just a few sore ears.
These weren’t the actions of a brainless brute, however, because there was one breed that remained safe: greyhounds. He would happily engage in a little roughhousing with other greyhounds, but he didn’t pick on them like he did the other kinds of dogs. He was a good, old-fashioned “greyhound snob”. Whenever a scuffle started at a greyhound gathering, a bunch of dogs would run away with their tails between their legs. Not Zephyr, you could bet that he was heading towards the sound of the fight. There might be some ears that need biting!
Another one of his passions involved watching TV. Unlike his brother Jay, he didn’t quietly watch the screen with his ears up whenever he heard the barking dogs of the Iditarod. Zephyr preferred suspenseful mysteries. He would patiently wait until the quiet part with the crucial dialogue, and then he would decide it was time to play. Strategically positioning himself between you and the TV, he would bark repeatedly while wagging his tail. If you ignored him, he would bite you. If you tried to pet him, he would bite you. If you tried to play with him, he would bite you. If you threw him a toy, he would bite it for about ten seconds, then he would start his barking-biting routine again. It seemed to be his goal to keep those mysteries unsolved.
Despite his tough sounding character, he was very sensitive. If he sensed something was wrong, he wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t acceptable for his family to go on vacation because he would miss them. He was a kind-hearted dog who needed the affection of a loving family – and this was something he had plenty of.
Some dogs like attention. Zephyr lived for attention. He would lean on you endlessly for hours, as long as you would keep petting him. You were permitted to pet him while he was laying down, but you weren’t allowed to stop. If you did, he would growl at you. It had the distinct tone of “keep petting me or I’ll bark during your favorite TV show.”
You never had to worry that you weren’t giving him enough affection. He would come over to wherever you were sitting and push his head under your hand. Sometimes he seemed ready to do all of the petting for you – as long as you supplied the hand. If he wanted his belly rubbed, he’d even flop on the floor and roll over on his back to show you.
He was a great role model and big brother for his shy little sister, Dominique. She could have done without his dog-walking, ear-biting etiquette, but she always knew she could count on him. The biggest mark he left on her was the desire for their nightly “milk ration”. Spoiled as they are, they follow anyone and everyone to the kitchen in the evening and use their puppy eyes to beg for a little bit of milk in their dish. They were such a good team that I think they kept the local milk company in business.
There was one habit of his that I regarded as my favorite: carrying away yogurt cups. If you were eating a container of yogurt, he wanted to finish it for you. Once you gave it to him, he didn’t want you to hold it for him, he wanted to take it to his bed! He would clutch it in his teeth and run off with it. So for everyone who wondered, that’s why there were yogurt cups scattered around the house.
His best moment may have been the time he noticed a plastic deli container on the kitchen counter. He knew it didn’t have a lid and was full of good food. Pinching the edge between his teeth, he gently slid it backwards until it fell straight down on the floor without spilling its contents. Then he picked it up and ran off with it.
It became obvious that he would never lose his young, playful, puppy-like nature. Unfortunately, his body wasn’t able to stay as young as his mind. Going from nearly perfect health to extreme pain in one day, he was taken to the emergency clinic where it was discovered that he had developed a tumor in one of his knees, and the veterinarian wasn’t able to do much about it. The choice was to put him on pain killers to live out his days, amputate his leg (which would mean he could no longer do all the things he loved), or simply put him to sleep while he still had his dignity. My parents faced this tough decision, but I know they chose the correct option for a proud greyhound who had lived a long, happy life. Yesterday morning, Zephyr peacefully went to sleep for the last time.
Zephyr, you were more than just a pet – you were a member of our family. We will always love you, and we will never forget you. Thanks for all of the great times we had together. I hope the milk in Heaven tastes just as good.
A few more pictures of him that were taken by my parents (click on any of these pictures to see them in a larger size):