Regall Azkaban, "Clowny," 11/2002-9/2013

He’s been gone for a week and a half and I still can’t really get my head around it.  There are times when I feel it and it is so raw and fresh that I’m taken back to sitting in my car like the coward I am as Simon stayed with him in the vet’s office right to the end.  There are other times when it is as though he was one of my many fosters that has passed in and out of my heart, making only the smallest of dents.  There are times when I feel as though he is waiting at the vet for me to pick him up.

And then there are the times, the gut-wrenching awful sobbing painfully horrific times when I know he is gone, when I can feel the jagged edges of what I suppose used to be my heart like a broken wine glass lodged in my chest and when I swear that I will never, EVER let myself be hurt by any being, human, canine or otherwise, like that again.  I’m actually having one of those times right now, as I sit at my desk and write this post.  Finding a picture of him drove me to distraction and I took a good half hour to just study the steady progression of white fur down his face over the course of the two years he was mine.

Well, really, I was his.  In a way I thought would never happen after my precious boys Profee and Hunky died, Clowny owned me in that way only boy greyhounds of a certain silliness who have hearts far bigger than their chests can contain can do.  I think that’s why I’m so wracked with guilt over being relieved that the pee pads are folded and waiting to be returned to Angel-On-Earth Nancy Bowden rather than still waiting in a heap in front of the constantly churning dish washer.  How can I be relieved that he isn’t on his bed in the sitting room, barking out a chorus to remind us that he needs something?  Is my heart that hard?  Have I succeeded in closing off the part of me that relishes every tilted head, each raised ear, all those wags of that whip-like tail?

No.  I’m just tired, bone and soul, and it will take time for me to recover.  That’s what people tell me, and I guess I’m still in the recovery part because I’m still convinced that there was something we could have done; or that the vet on that last awful day was just being kind to us when he said he suspected that Clowny had a form of cancer that could have caused the entire downward spiral that was our summer.

All I can do is hope that the two years with us were good ones for him.  I know he enjoyed traveling, he loved Sandy Paws and Beach Bound Hounds, and he was always happy to go to the festival.  One of my best memories is sleeping in the back of my tiny Fit with Clowny during a rainstorm at the Georgia Renaissance Festival…me in full hoop/corset and Clowny getting as close as he could for a cuddle.

I love love love you, Clowny-Boo, and I will never ever forget our short time together.  You run now, with Hunky, Jeany, Bo, Profee, and Lizzard and spin just as much as you want.  I’m just sorry we couldn’t do more to fix that stupid old body so that it could support your beautiful spirit for a little while longer.

Quédate conmigo,
Si no estás no sale el sol.

I’m so glad she was born. SO glad.

At first, she looked like this…

I’ve recounted the story of how FTH Oopsie Daisy/Daisy/Daisy Duke/Daisy Mae/Mae/Mei Mei/Princess came into our lives.  You have undoubtedly heard me brag about how she was named by the community of greyhound freaks over at GreyTalk, how she lived on her Mama Caffie’s kitchen floor until she was old enough to go outside in the puppy runs, and how my entire family on my mother’s side once gathered around the computer to watch her come in spectacularly, amazingly, and fabulously dead last in one of her attempts to break maiden at JAX.

(For those not versed in Racing Vocab, that means she has to win a maiden race to get to run with the big dogs.  She didn’t do that at JAX but did at Sanford Orlando, where she got up to Grade A.  I’m sure you’ve heard THAT story before as well, so I’ll move on.)

Then, this happened…

What you haven’t heard from me lately is that Daisy is nine years old this week (there is a running debate about the Leelo Babies Birthdate so I celebrate 12-14 August to cover all my bases…and because I love her too much for only one day).  Nine.Years.Old.  It has been almost a decade since I watched via text on GreyTalk that she had been born, almost a decade of knowing about her and waiting for her and loving her.

I know, everyone moons over their dogs like they are the only ones that have that sort of relationship.  I know that I am not the only one that loves my dog.  But y’all, my Mei Mei is special.

She came home to me and Simon at the tender age of 2.75, in March of 2007.  Me and Simon weren’t even a Me and Simon at that point, not officially, but he was Daisy’s Dah-dee from the start.  She never had trouble understanding him like the other dogs did, and would look up at him with the most adoring expression as he talked to her, as though trying to understand every syllable that came out of his mouth.  She still does that.  With him.  With me if I prattle on too long she licks me to shut me up.

She came into a family of old dogs.  Hunky was 10 when Daisy came home, going on 11, and Jeany would turn 10 the next month.  They were still reeling from the loss of Profile, who was the clear pack leader, and were none too thrilled to have this young and bouncy dog around.  So she adapted to them, not the other way around.  She would defer to them in all things, and became a comfort to both of them as they got older.  She also took their Mommy’s focus for awhile, so that they could sit around and love each other and not be bothered by my constant fussing and attention seeking.

After Jeany fell down the stairs in Keighley, Simon kept finding Daisy curled up next to her.  She could have been out exploring her new home, terrorizing the cat, or doing a host of other doggie things, but instead she decided to make sure Jeany was comforted.  I think Jeany actually liked it.  After we lost Jeany, Daisy was forever snuggling up to Hunky, even when he wet his bed, and I’m not sure if it was to comfort him over the loss of Jeany or herownself.  Daisy falls hard in love, and when she loves you, you know it.  She loved her big brother and sister with a fierceness that I wish more people could possess.

And now, all she has to do is this and I’m a goner. 

Now she’s back in that position again, after two years in the UK of being the only dog, getting all the attention, and generally living like the Princess she is.  With Clowny’s injury and subsequent paralysis, Daisy has to navigate a world where her people are either ignoring her or telling her to be careful, don’t stand on Clowny, let him finish eating before you dive into his bowl, etc.  She could turn into a spoiled brat, acting out because she isn’t getting the attention she’s used to, taking her frustration out on Clowny who is, to be fair, the easiest of targets right now.

But she doesn’t.  My precious baby girl, my Daisy Mei Mei backs up when we ask, she waits to be allowed to clean up the food Clowny leaves behind, she snuggles on the bed with him at night until he grouses at her to move.  She takes her toys elsewhere and plays on her own, tossing George, her stuffed monkey, up in the air over and over until someone notices.  She follows me down the hall when I just need to go cry about Clowny a little without letting him see me do it and licks my tears off my face.

Today (and the two days prior) are more than a celebration of her birthday.  Today is a reminder that through some twist of fate, I was given the gift of Daisy.  Love you to absolute bits, my babygirl, to the moon and back.   I don’t know what your Daddy and I would have done this summer without you.  Thanks is not enough, not by a longshot.

“You’re my back bone.
You’re my cornerstone.
You’re my crutch when my legs stop moving.
You’re my head start.
You’re my rugged heart.
You’re the pulse that I’ve always needed.
Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.
Like a drum my heart never stops beating…
For you, for you.”

(from Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips)

Changes in Attitudes…

Well, the last time I was posting, Clowny was walking.  About a month later, he stopped walking.  That change went hand in hand with Clown stopping prednisone.  He walked around, slowly, at Mountain Hounds in Gatlinburg but for the most part he stayed in our room and was miserable.

He has changed medicine twice and has been to see a holistic vet for acupuncture and laser therapy, but is still not walking.  His back legs work and are responsive to pain, but there is some sort of disconnect in his spine so he can’t make them stay under him.

Our lives now are consumed with picking him up to go outside, washing pee pads, washing blankets, pleading with him to eat, and watching him struggle when he slips out of our hands and onto the floor with a crash.

There hasn’t been much to blog about, really.  Two weeks after his…accident?  Onslaught of symptoms?  Two weeks after that I finished for the summer at Clemson and have been taking all the interpreting work I can get in order to pay for his treatments and keep all four of us fed.  I want to get out of the house, but with limited funds and his limited mobility, I feel guilty if I’m gone more than a few hours.  And poor Clowny smells like a bad day at the assisted living facility…but being a greyhound we can’t bathe him every day.  His fur would likely fall out!

I don’t think I’ve slept more than 2 hours at a go since Memorial Day.  He cries when he needs his pee pad changed.  He cries when he poos.  He cries when he wants water, or when he just needs to roll over.  And thanks to my supersonic hearing that I’m positive I inherited from my mother, every time he cries I wake up.  To be fair, I also wake him when he licks…which he does a lot, probably just to alleviate his own boredom.

I’m also participating in another Camp NaNoWriMo this month, so I’m already feeling a bit guilty about using my writing time here rather than on the Work In Progress.

There are those in my professional life that have been insensitive at best and downright insulting at worst about my dedication to my dog and what it means for my life.  To be fair, the one person I’m thinking of now has also made insulting comments about my choice to put my husband and our life above my duty to my work or how ridiculous is it that I want to have children, so I’m not sure that I should be bothered too much by comments about how much I love my dog.

Anyway, all of this is not a cry for attention or pity, far from it.  We have a wheelchair for Clowny now that we are trying to make work, and the next step after that will be a ramp for him to be able to go in and out the front door.  This post is meant more as a catch up…so that those who do understand why we do what we do for this amazing creature that shares our home and hearts will know what’s going on.  Hug your hounds and take every chance you can to see them run, play, and even walk across the room to beg for a treat or just gaze at you.  Trite as it may sound, you just never know when those things will be taken away.

Mommy loves you, Clowny.  To the moon and back.

On wobbles and stumbles and leaps of faith…

My magic boy, Regall Azkaban (“Clowny”)

On Wednesday night, I got home from work and let the dogs out of the bedroom, scolding Clowny as per usual when he bounded out past the baby gate, spinning around like a top and careening into Daisy.  That sort of behavior made putting a muzzle on him impossible and Daisy mad, so it was not winning him any points.  I think I might have even popped him on the noggin to get his attention.

I let them out, I let our foster dog Mannie out, I fed the dogs…all went as it normally did. That evening Clowny had one of his more vacant episodes, but with him being almost 11 and that night there was a thunderstorm on the way, I didn’t worry too much.

The next morning, last Thursday, I got up and went to work as normal.  Hubs rang me on my way in to say that Clown had lost complete use of his back legs and it looked like he had experienced a stroke.  I nearly crashed my car.  Of course, I turned around and headed back home, trying to find an open vet practice as I went.  The one we normally use, whom I will call Vet #1, had a voice mail message telling me to call the E-Vet.  I did that, and the nice girl that answered told me that they don’t take emergency clients after 0730 because the overnight vets had left.  Sorry?

I then called Vet #2, whom I think will become Vet #1 in the future, and they were not only in the office but said to bring Clowny in right away.  I got back home, assessed damage, cried some more, and Hubs and I rushed him off to the vet.  Massive Steroid Jab number One happened and we took him back home.

That was Thursday.  I worked from home that day, afraid to leave Clowny for too long.  He was dead weight that day, passed out cold for most of it, probably from the massive steroid jab the vet gave him.  I tried to help him move around because I can’t lift him like Hubs can, and only resulted in both of us being frustrated and him almost biting me in my face.  Thursday was a crappy day to say the least.

Then Friday happened.  We took Clowny back to the vet for Massive Steroid Jab number Two, and by the time we got ready to leave the vet he was moving his back legs.  He couldn’t keep them under himself or stand, really, but he could move them.

I got them settled at home and headed off to work with my head ANYWHERE but in my office at Clemson.  Hubs rang me around lunchtime to tell me that Clowny had RUN ACROSS THE YARD to investigate the men dumping the topsoil that Hubs had ordered.  Run.Across.The.Yard.  He said it wasn’t pretty in the least but Clowny was MOVING ON HIS OWN.

Friday night was uneventful other than doing massive loads of laundry.  Greyhounds, it seems, are like small children who have waited too long to tell someone they need to pee.  When you pick either of them up and squeeze the bladder, you are going to get wet.

Saturday morning we checked in with the vet who said to keep him on 25mg of prednisone a day until Monday when we would re-assess.  By Saturday evening, this happened:

That is Clowny, wobbly and stumbling and absolutely certain that he can make it across the yard WITHOUT YOUR HELP, THANK YOU VERY MUCH MOMMY.  And me, in a squeaky voice, proud of his progress and terrified that he will hurt himself and in complete and utter AWE that the paralysed greyhound I’d seen on Thursday was now running, sort of, in the yard.

More leaps of faith to come.  More progress to report.  I have never been prouder to be Clowny’s Mommy.  Not ever.  Watch this space.

A Falk in the Driftwood Worest..with Peaches.

Are we there yet? by Nancy Dunne
Are we there yet?, a photo by Nancy Dunne on Flickr.

(thanks and love to Zilch the Torysteller for part of the title…)

This weekend was the annual Sandy Paws event…and if this were years past I’d be doing something uber fun right now in Jacksonville before getting ready to go to Orange Park to watch the dogs run. But alas, with gainful employment in higher education does not always come annual leave, so here I am, back from my break, blogging. Yeah.

I headed down Thursday night after work to spend a whirlwind weekend of meeting, greeting, laughing, and even a little tired crying (on the way home yesterday) with people that are one of my families of choice: my greyhound friends and more specifically my Follow That Hound friends. Even though with the closure of B&J Kennels this year the FTH program is no more, we all still get together and we all still feel like a big extended family.

Friday afternoon Anne and Leah and I went out to Driftwood Beach for some photos of me and the dogs…but I ended up just wandering around and taking pictures because HOLY MOLY is that place amazing. Oaks felled by a hurricane created petrified sculpture. It’s like walking around and seeing dinosaur bones. Insane.

Friday night was spent laughing until we cried with good friends. I need more of that in my life. I need my Peaches.

Saturday was more Sandy Paws fun, including the crowning of the king and queen, a live auction (including one of Daisy’s books that went for $55 I think?), and then the tired returning to the villa for one last night’s sleep to the sound of the waves.

Yesterday was awful…I hate the annual theft of an hour by Daylight Saving Time even though it means I’m only 4 hours behind Simon rather than 5. But the pretty face in the picture there kept me company for the ride back to Greenville, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of that time even if it did seem to be an hour earlier.

I’ll get my pictures uploaded to Flickr soon…stay tuned. Roooooooo!