You were always that way. You showed us that choice was important to you, and in allowing you to have choices we saw you blossom into the happiest girl. You loved your life with us and we loved our greyhound girl Knight.
It has been over three weeks since the Saturday we had to say goodbye. Before that was a week that was not one of the best for you and it was so awful for me too. I've never known you to get so turned off by food as you were that week. My heart was breaking every time you turned your head away from food. I am sorry we never figured out what the problem was - even now I feel we should have been able to, and that feels so horrible. Forgive me my dearest, dearest Baby Doe.
I wasn't part of your life for your first 8 1/2 years. I know that you were an athlete and ran races on tracks, and then you were a mommy and had puppies. Huns at Emerald Kennels once said that you had five litters and that you were a very good mommy, but when I checked it looked like only two of those litters got fully registered as race dogs. Some of your pups may have still been running races at the time you came to us. Now however I cannot find any sign of them on the internet in the race annals and can only hope they are in good homes. I would dearly love to bring one of your babies into our home to live with us but I started looking too late.
The last three weeks have hurt so much, my dear Knight. I've kept busy because there's always so much that needs to be done around here. I have found it so hard to find time to set some of that aside and write to you.
I look back over the three and a half years we shared. April 20, 2001. An important date for me, something for me to hold on to in my human way, and I can say "Knight's 'Gotcha day' was April 20th." And now, in my human way I will also be saying "Knight went to the Rainbow Bridge on October 30th."
I'll also be saying "There is an angel in heaven who loves me. She'll come for me when it's my time and be my guiding light across the Rainbow Bridge. Her name is Knight." I believe this with all my heart.
The day we met was a confusing one. Did you ever know that I was set on bringing home a big boy with crooked teeth that we'd seen on the Greyhounds Only website? He wasn't at the kennel because he was living in a foster home and didn't get to the kennel that day. I believe he was a bounceback and I no longer remember his name. That worked out for the best because we got to meet you.
You'd already lived at Huns' kennel for three or four years having your babies. Yet when you met me and Tom you bowed to us out in the field there and invited us to play with you. This was not something you ever did according to Frankie, Kathy, and I think Paula, the adoption people working with us. It seems to me that you knew then that we were your people and you were telling us that you were supposed to come home with us. I remember that you even got to leave the kennel that day with Frankie, to be fostered in her home until she thought you were ready for your new life.
The day Frankie brought you to our home was sort of chaotic. Joy and Don were there with Frankie to do the adoption. So was Karel. We were so busy doing the home visit thing that we missed that you needed to pee, and pee you did right there in the dining room in front of everyone. We never made that mistake again and you likewise never did that again.
You were a silly girl. Those first few days we tried to show you all the new things you were allowed to do, but Nooo, you had to do them in your own way and time. I remember us showing you a bed and asking you if you'd like to jump up on it and lay down. Oh Nooo, you didn't want to do that. Then, three minutes later we look in the room and there you are laying on the center of the bed like a queen, quite satisfied with yourself.
Because of you our lives changed in so many ways. We could not get enough of the wonder that you brought into our world. We got rid of the car and bought a minivan so that there'd always be room for you to go places with us. We carpeted the wood stairs and upstairs floor so you had sure footing. We rearranged the sunroom so that you could reach a window to look out. We cooked home-made dog food for you because you were not crazy about the commercial food that was recommended by the adoption reps.
Then after three months with us, in August, Tom and I decided to bring home SurfRider and Kimba. In retrospect I need to say I'm sorry to you because you LOVED being the only greyhound in our house of three dogs. Not that things got bad, it's just that I can see now that you enjoyed leaving behind the issues of pecking order you had at the kennel. Now Kimba was in the house, Kimba who had always been queen at the kennel. Though you were always on the same wavelength with her I think there was a little part of you that knew that you could never quite forget that the rules to live by were Kimba's. Conversely you put SurfRider in his place and he had to live by your rules. Sometimes when you and Kimba put your minds to it young Surf really felt low. Yes Knight, sometimes you could be a spiteful girl and you did sometimes torture Surf.
I remember how every once in a while you would decide to take Surf's place on my bed which was where he preferred to nap during the day. If he even so much as looked in that direction you'd give him a look and yip a warning at him. You'd keep him off that bed for hours.
Oh, all the tender memories I have of you. At first you would never meet my eyes with your own but instead would get all squirrely and goofy. Then there was that bad accident where we almost lost you. We showed you that yes, we were willing to give you whatever help you needed. You would just ask me with your eyes and I'd carry you up the stairs from the yard. You did that from then on, asked with your eyes. Our last few days together I insisted Surf give up his spot on my bed at night to you, and your deep eyes reflected your contentment. Despite how crappy everything else was you were content to be snuggled with me.
I remember how much you loved walks. Yeah, Kimba and Surf loved walks too but they would change their minds if they didn't like the weather out. Not you. You wanted to be out seeing the world, even though it might be raining, snowing or freezing cold out.
I remember the first time Missy barked at a dog across the street on one of our first walks. You just thought that was the Bestest thing EVER to do, and from that point on you loved barking at other dogs. There was no arguing with you. Even when I'd manage to shush you you'd have to have the last word, because after a few more steps you'd slip a quiet bark out under your breath. I understood you perfectly, you were telling me "So there!"
I remember your introduction to Teal the cockatiel. I had him on the floor and showed him to you. You were halfway after him and I yelled "No!" and jumped over him to protect him. It scared the life out of you. And you... I don't know what you thought - you were freaked out for sure, the way you shrieked. You never bothered with him again even when he'd be walking around on the floor by you.
I remember that when you first came here you were a 'screamer'. If you thought something unpleasant was going to happen to you like a toenail trimming you would scream. It's funny that you didn't ever react with a scream after the first few months with us - that's when we knew that we had gained your trust.
One time we came out to the back yard and we found you holding a pigeon in your mouth. You dropped him when we yelled, and we discovered he flew okay when we shooed him out of the yard.
I remember other things you did, these little rituals you had. You would always need to check wherever Kimba peed and cancel it. Even just being let out in the yard - If you'd gone out and come back in you'd have to go out again when Kimba went out and follow hers with yours. And then the kicking after a potty. You loved to kick, chuffing under your breath as you made the clumps fly. It made me think of James Brown strutting during "I Feel Good!" I was so happy when a few months after your accident you began to do that again. That is such a strong happy memory for me.
I remember how you hated the vacuum. I'd bring out the vacuum and you'd jump up alarmed no matter how settled you were. You'd dance around looking for a way past it. Finally you'd bolt from the room, meanwhile skirting around the vacuum as far as possible even if it meant leaping over chairs or other dogs.
I remember your beautiful soft coat. I never knew that it was called 'brindle' until you came to live with us. I also remember your ears, each with a sizeable chunk missing from the end. I loved to stroke your ears, alway very gently because I never trusted that they may cause you discomfort, though you never showed any.
I remember that you were a 'leaner.'
I remember that when you stood you had the beautiful athletic silhouette of a greyhound, but when you lay down on your side your belly would pooch out prominently. I appreciated that you carried your history as a brood so well, though I loved to reach and stroke that old mama tummy. Oh my Knight I miss you so.
I remember that during those first few months when you were the only greyhound we had a settee in the living room. You loved laying in that settee and were quite the regal and aristocratic queen. The fabric covering that settee was old and didn't hold up too long though, and I'm sorry that I never got around to finishing redoing it for you. I'll have to finish it now because it'll make me smile to think of you.
Oh, I so loved sharing the sunroom chairs with you. You always let us have part of the seat if you were already in the chair. We always yielded space for you to settle in the chair with one of us when you'd find yourself with no chair available for yourself. Those were wonderful intimate moments. I miss them so much.
I remember your roo. I remember how much you LOVED to roo. Your voice was squeaky and shrieky, but you didn't think so. You just loved to roo. The day after your accident last year you rooed with me, even though you were really out of it with the painkillers and the morphine patch. The night before you died you still rooed with me, even though you had hardly any voice and could barely lift your head. I will remember forever that even during those bad moments, expressing yourself with your voice gave you so much pleasure.
Even Tom's mom fell for your charms. She was without a chair in the sunroom when we were all by the piano that Christmas, and rather than oust you she let you stay there and perched herself on the edge of your chair.
I remember that others fell under your spell. Barbara, Tom's friend, had to sit on the kitchen floor with you to scritch your chin and head while you lay there, as content as you could be, with your eyes closed. She thought you were "elegant." And you were.
I'll try to remember your eyes forever. They held so much in them, including your great love for me. How am I going to hold a memory of what your eyes held for me? How?
* * *
I have always cried whenever I heard Tom sing the refrain from "Warm as the Autumn Light" from the opera "The Ballad of Bay Doe" because of how intensely all my feelings of tenderness for you would well up and overwhelm me. That is the song I hear when I relive our lives together. I know that Tom hasn't been able to sing that song since you are gone.
You are, forever, my "dearest Baby Doe."