KNIGHT, KIMBA, FRENCHIE, & JACK
Senior greyhounds are special. I know all greyhounds are special but senior greyhounds are special with a difference. Until you've adopted one you won't really understand just how special. I will tell you, though, that I will never be without a senior in my house again. They make me pay attention every instant and make me not take anything in life for granted. They force me to focus the way they focus - in the now.
They come stamped by time with bleached muzzles. Some refer to this look as "silvered" or "white masks," some say they've got "frosting" on their nose. For me, without fail, the sight of white on needlenoses evokes both deep feelings of tenderness and also a quiet inner joy. A little reverence, too, because in the eyes that accompany that hoary mask you will find the serene and patient soul whose roots are in an existence already fully lived. The seniors possess calmness. I don't mean that they've slowed down, because some of these oldsters have enthusiasm that has no bounds. It's just that the senior mind is tempered with experience, and this imparts mellowness and calm with the ability to adjust quickly to the world, all the while taking "now" in stride. And this is doubly so for former brood dogs. They can be truly unflappable - motherhood strengthens their sense of self and confidence.
Gratitude. You don't think of pets as being able to feel gratitude, of being grateful. There is no doubt in my mind and heart that my seniors are grateful for their new lives as retirees. One of our seniors, a brood mom named Knight who retired at eight and a half, appreciates the softness of the cushions on the couch and closes her eyes in a dreamy enjoyment as she gets gently scritched on her white chin. She undulates her body in joy and chatters her teeth as we all get hooked up for an outing. As she sometimes doesn't feel secure in her footing (or doesn't like being jostled) she will stand to the rear of the pack when I hand out treats. She looks me in the face with gratitude as I reach over the clamoring vultures to deliver hers straight to her. There is no question in my mind that her eyes are saying "thank you" as she takes it.
Another former brood mom named Kimba who retired when she was nine comes to me without prompting at various points every day for tranquil moments. She will come and quietly tuck her head into me as a way of telling me how special I am to her. After a minute of this quiet demonstration she will go back to her activities. She shows such satisfaction with her life as she goes about her day that it is clear that these unsolicited little moments are how she speaks her gratitude. She loves the life she's living and she gives me little signs of it all day long.
Knight and Kimba were racers who, because of their second careers as moms, did not get to retire from a kenneled life until they were seniors. Even though they were well treated as broods at Emerald Kennels, they were long overdue for a comfortable couch. They have had the use of ours for three years now.
Frenchie and Jack, however, had retired from racing in their youths, and each had a home for nine years. Each was surrendered back for adoption, with Frenchie coming to us at the age of eleven and Jack at the age of thirteen. The stories of how they lost their forever homes are stories I will not address now except to say that they did nothing to deserve not having a home. The important thing here is that they were just as needful as the hound right off the track.
Frenchie lived with us for nineteen months - a very wonderful time that I wouldn't have given up to spare myself the grief of losing her. She was a little more delicate than any of the other seniors when she came to us, and I tended to watch her for every little stumble, difficulty, and bump. The energy I spent in worry was matched by the joy I felt for every happiness she found in her new life. When she died (sooner than expected) in May, I took some comfort in playing the little math game of converting people years into dog years: nineteen too-short months for me but about eleven thoroughly enjoyed dog years for her.... Every bit of the heartache I'm still feeling at her loss was well worth the privilege of knowing her. I have no regrets about any of it.
And then there's Jack. Jack! Remember what I said about the serenity and calmness of seniors? About their gratitude and being grateful? Well Jack breaks all rules and then makes up his own! He's lived here only four months and I swear he makes me crack up every day! He is a bossy, bratty, noisy, conniving, and manipulative sweetheart. He barks in my face for a walk, yowls and chuffs if I take too long eating my own dinner (or is he saying "Hey, some of that is mine!"?). And he is male ego extraordinaire in that he successfully taught a couple of our broods to "Shut Up!" when they mouthed off during walks - they hold their tongues now, something I couldn't ever get them to do. Way to go Jack!. In his former home, he had refined counter surfing to a high art and on more than one occasion has proven that he's smarter than the people in the house. Jack is another one that is loving the life we can give him and doesn't hesitate to show it.
In each case, my experience with senior greyhounds has been a special one. When I listen to others who have also brought a senior into their lives, there seems to be a recurring theme. Seniors are extraordinarily easygoing and calm. They let you know in so many little ways that they are grateful for the kindnesses given to them. Join the GoldenGreys user group at Yahoo! to hear more about how great seniors are. Or go and visit Kelly Graham's site www.geocities.com/ohiogreyhounds/seniors.html to see some seniors needing homes. They are every bit as fulfilling to be with as their younger counterparts, and they impart so much more to the experience. They make you realize just how special and magical now is - every moment precious, to be savored and not to be taken for granted.
Take a chance and adopt a senior. There are no guarantees about how much time you may have with your old timer. It may be just a couple of months or it may be years. Last year a famous senior in New Jersey named Suzi Waddell passed away in April at the age of twenty. The Waddell's adopted Suzi at the tender age of fifteen, so even the really ancient seniors may surprise you. But you won't know unless you give one a home. I've had two of mine for more than three years, and I had one for more than nineteen months. I've also brought in three new ones this year. I am thankful for every day I have with my seniors.