Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How It Started

The first time I ever met a real live greyhound, we were in no position to have a dog. It was probably in 2001 or 2, and we had wandered in a Petco in Salem, NH. I think we were considering a ferret or some other prey animal to live in a cage in our soul-killing little apartment.

She was darkly colored, I remember that much. I was surprised at how soft she was. I'd had dogs before but this lovely girly leaned against my legs while I patted her and looked up at me with incredibly deep brown eyes. There was a soul there, huge and obvious and loving. My heart, tiny and chilly though it is, thumped. "This one. Is this one up for adoption?"

Not that we could have a dog in that prison camp we lived in. Anyway, she belonged to the woman there representing GPA-NH. We took some literature and I am certain one of us forgot all about having a dog. (One of us was raised a cat person, through no fault of his own. ;) )

Years passed, and other cliches. By 2005 I found myself living in a house, but this house had no dog in it. How can this be?

I'm going to spare you the details of the "I need a dog!" campaign, but in March 2005 I went to the Seabrook, NH, greyhound track to look at available dogs. Ostensibly a gift for my approaching birthday, the final decision on which of the three availables we chose was left up to me.

I don't remember the other two at all, I'm sorry. I remember Drive. He looked at me, lowered his head, and gave two very shy wags of his long tail. I put my hand on the back of his neck, buried my fingers in red fawn fur. I whispered in his velvety ear, "It's you. I know it's you."

I called the next day to put in my official application and in a week he was mine.

Greyhounds are not like "regular" dogs in a few interesting ways.

At nearly five years old, Drive had never been in a car. He spent the 30-minute ride home panting and whining in my ear. He drooled anxiously down my shoulder until my shirt was see-through. He kept pressing his nose against my cheek, shaking.

He had never seen stairs. There are two -- only two! -- tiny little steps into our house, and I spent more than 30 minutes trying to push 75 pounds of confused canine up the necessary eight inches to get him through the door. To this day, he approaches stairs at full speed with his eyes closed, determined to get them over with. In the end, I lifted and carried him.

He had never been in a house. The hallway in our home was some terrifying ordeal for him, because he lacked the ability to turn around. You go ahead. You go backwards if you must. What is this "turning" nonsense?!

We had a few hours to ourselves, Drive and I, before the other pieces of our family puzzle arrived home to meet him. It was quiet and I'm not embarrassed by how long I spent staring into his eyes and telling him I would love him forever. I stroked him until he wasn't so scared, showed him every possible thing I could think of that might confuse him, walked him around to distract him, and kept letting him hear my voice. I could not stop talking to him.

I still talk to him all day, because he's never stopped listening.

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