I don’t have the heart to kick her out, despite the permeating scent of dog breath. Never mind that she likes to spread her 55-pound body smack in the middle of the queen-sized bed, leaving me teetering on the brink. Or that she radiates heat like a Duraflame log. Or that she scares the bejesus out of me in the middle of the night when she jumps onboard, and I awaken to find this long-legged moose straddling me and looking down as if to say, “Uh, would you mind moving over? You’re cramping my space.” Sometimes, she cuddles up against me so I awaken to find that I’m spooning a greyhound – not quite the bedmate I dreamed of as a child. But then I remember where she came from and throw an arm around her neck. I stroke her silky ears. She can stay.
Lucy is an ex-racer, like my other beloved greyhound, Elvis. But unlike Elvis, who was retired when his Colorado racetrack shut down, Lucy’s career came to an abrupt and painful end. She was just four years old when she wiped out in a race – during which high speeds can clock up to 45 miles per hour – and broke her leg; a dire fate for a racer and one that usually ends with a needle or a gun. Instead, a volunteer with Golden State Greyhound Adoption (Walnut Creek, Calif.) learned of the little white racer with the broken leg and picked her up. The adoption group paid for all vet bills, and when she healed in a few short months, they found her a home. My mother adopted Lucy and enjoyed her new companion for four years. When Mom died last year, I became Lucy’s new guardian. Neither Mom nor I ever knew which leg had been broken.
Today, when I see my Lucy so frisky and playful, it’s hard to imagine that day at the track when she tripped and tumbled to the ground, yelping in agony as her leg snapped in half. As I watch her unbridled joy trotting next to Elvis on our brisk walks and her delight with new stuffed squeaky toys and treats, I wonder: How did a dog this active and curious ever survive living in a crate for the first four years of her life?
Because that’s where greyhounds live when they aren’t racing. Years ago I toured a greyhound farm. Inside the shed, it was quiet except for the occasional “woof.” There were few windows and just one dim light bulb. Double-stacked crates sat in silent shadows. When I tried peeking inside one crate, I could hear a dog wiggling about, but it was too dark for me to identify color or size. All I could see was a pair of white eyes peering back.
That image is what runs through my mind as Lucy sleeps alongside me, nose to nose. Coating my expensive duvet with white hair. Hogging my space. Heating my bed and pervading my nostrils with eau de dog. I remember
Lucy’s former life and pull her closer to me.
She can stay.
To learn more about greyhound adoption, visit www.goldengreyhounds.com.
Eileen Mitchell writes the weekly “Pet Tales” column for the San Francisco Chronicle, where this article originally appeared on Dec. 22, 2010. She blogs at http://eileenmitchell.blogspot.com.