Yesterday, I posted a pair of shots from Drive's early days with us, including the first picture I ever took of him, on his very first day. I've found myself looking at those pictures quite a bit, thinking about the day we met, and reflecting on the animal I brought home.
Drive will always be "my first greyhound." I've spoken so much about what he means to me now, the times when I find solace in his presence, the secret moments we share, the jokes we tell each other, the lift he gives my spirit every time he grins at me.
It took a while. Something that many owners of retired racers can confess to is how long it can take a greyhound to adjust to being in a home environment. Not true of all of them, certainly, but it was true of Drive. He was never in a foster home, so my solitary front step was the first one he ever saw and it terrified him.
He was cautious and reserved around us for months, and he was insane when left alone. Separation anxiety. In many of my pictures you can see a windowsill that was gnawed off. It was done in terror the first time we left him alone in the house for a couple of hours. After that incident, we bought a crate, just like at the kennels, and shut him in when he had to be home alone. We had to wean him from it over the course of five or six months.
I see, in a picture from July of 2005, how thin and bedraggled he looked. It's clear to my "mommy vision," at least. As listed on Greyhound Data, his racing weight was around 78 pounds. He weighed less than that when he came home to me. His coat was rubbed off in places and he had hot spots that tortured him. I have more than a few pictures of him with large naked patches on his sides where he'd chewed his hair off.
I don't know what Drive's life was like before he came to me. I don't want to know; it's behind him forever. As of April 9, he will have been my dog, my gift to myself, for 6 years. What's the right way to celebrate that? What's the right way to tell someone "Thank you for saving me a hundred times just by being there?"
As much as I joke about it being "his job," I never forget that he is Dog. It's not his job. It's his nature. It's his purpose. It's his meaning.