Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Inheritance That Barks

Whippets are strange looking dogs. They look like some kind of genetic experiment combining dogs and deer. They're dogalopes.

When we first met the two whippets Mom adopted from rescue shelters, my wife and I thought they were kind of creepy.Gryffor and Pippi took over the couches and beds. They napped all day. They were far too skinny. What's there to love except bones covered in thin hairs?

And yet Mom did love them. Maybe not more than all of her grandchildren. But ranked together, they would come somewhere in the middle of a personal poll.

Every time I visited Mom, we'd take these eerily quiet dogs out for walks. They had their own way of communicating with each other. They'd weave back and forth, tangling the leashes. I kept my eyes open for squirrels so I'd be ready for them to leap out of my clutches. They knocked down Mom a few times chasing squirrels. Another reason I wasn't much of a fan.

But Mom loved their sweet disposition. She was heartbroken when Pippi died, and she needed to make sure Gryffor would have a home if things didn't pan out for her. So, after checking with my sisters, I told Mom we'd take Gryffor. In Mom's final days, Gryffor seemed to sense what was going on. I thought this photo spoke for all of us.

After Mom passed away I drove home with Gryffor. Two boys silently riding home with heavy hearts. When we got home, I walked Gryffor straight through our house to the backyard. He nearly chased down one of our cats. There would be an adjustment period.

And during that period I learned whippets are really quite wonderful dogs. During the day, they want to be near the action--near the family--but they don't need to be in the middle of the action. At night they are hot water bottles... leaping into any bed they can find to snuggle up against anybody. Gryffor seemed to be happy to be part of this young family.

We'd take him for walks. Just picking up the leash makes him do a happy dance to the door. We'd watch him get his "whippet" out by dashing at full speed from one end of the backyard to the other. And we'd catch him sitting under the kitchen table waiting for scraps to fall. Every time I'd get home from work, Gryffor would be there, tail wagging at a furious pace.

Now, after a wet and cold winter, Gryffor isn't doing so well. He's twelve years old after all. That's somewhere near life expectancy for a whippet. His back legs tremble all the time. It's such a common sight among old whippets, dog people refer to it as "the back end going". We've added medicine to his diet and that seems to help. We've laid down rugs so his back legs aren't skating along the wood floors. We still take him for walks but they are shorter and more patient.

There's yet another sad day in the forecast. A day when, once again, we will have to say goodbye

For more on Mom: http://saintbryantv.blogspot.com/2011/01/phoebe-miller-bryan-1938-2010.html

1 comment:

  1. Message from wife today :
    Gryff is having a good day, the medicine must be working. He greeted us two times today at the door and did his spinning in circles dance and was wagging his tail.