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Meet Rameses

I am not a dog person.

Confession time:  I have never understood my children’s obsession with animals.  While I enjoyed the occasional zoo trip as a child, animals in general did not occupy much of my thoughts.

But I can fall in love with animals on an individual basis.

And here is my new love.

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About two years ago, Lorelei started begging for a dog.  I said no.  Never again.

Like I said, I am not generally a fan of dogs.  They smell, they bark, they demand lots of attention, we have four cats already, and to top it all off John is allergic to them.  Our first dog was very old school.  He was an outdoor dog who loved the outdoors and was perfectly content with his dog house and the garage in cold weather.  But we adopted him around 2003, before the internet told me that my dog needs to be in the house with us.  While I still think Balthazar was perfectly happy, I would now feel plagued with guilt to have a mostly outdoor dog.

Lorelei wrote a manifesto explaining exactly why she needed a dog of her own.  It was in a folder and there were several pages to it, and while I can’t remember now exactly what it said, I do remember that its logic and emotional appeal were unassailable and all of us who read it were forced to concede.

So we said she could get a new dog eventually, but she would have to find one that was as hypoallergenic as possible and that could get along with cats.  And that she would have to prove she was responsible enough to care for it, because I have enough to do.

She pored over the internet and dog rescue sites and changed her mind several times before she decided on a greyhound.  In the meantime, she took on the litterbox duty and feeding of the cats to prove responsibility.  She earned money to buy everything the dog needed and learned all the internet could tell her about greyhounds.

We went to the local meet-and-greet sponsored by the Greyhound Rescue folks, eventually started the approval process (which was nerve-wracking but ultimately not as bad as I’d feared), and about a month ago welcomed Deco Cannon Fire (rechristened Rameses, because greyhounds hail originally from Egypt) into our home.

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In his former life, five-year-old Rameses was a racing greyhound.  You can see him in action here.  That was a treat for me to see because we have never seen him run.  At the most, at the dog park, he trots around the perimeter sniffing the fence.

Rameses 2.jpgLorelei could not have picked a better breed.  In a month, Rameses has barked maybe five times? He doesn’t have a smell (seriously, if you sniff your hand after stroking him there is no dog aroma).  He hardly notices the cats, who are beginning to learn that there is no need to run out of the room automatically when they see him.

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He likes attention, but doesn’t demand constant petting.  He’s like a cat in that respect, which is probably why I like him so much.  He spends most of his time sleeping.

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Lorelei keeps his crate in her room, and she handles all of his feeding and outdoors time and cleaning up after him.  Emily and I do help with the walking when she’s at school, but I leave the clean up for her.  We have a new park less than half a mile away with an enormous dog area, and we’ve been taking him there at least once a week.  He barely notices the other dogs, and we can’t get him to run, but he does enjoy exploring and sniffing!

Anyway, we all love him, even John who really doesn’t care for dogs, having been made sick by them for as long as he can remember.   We aren’t sure if he’s allergic to Rameses, because he’s had two colds since the dog arrived and the seasonal allergies are terrible here right now but at this point I don’t think he’d care.

Rameses 8Rameses 5Rameses 7I would never in a million years have thought of getting a greyhound.  I don’t think I’d ever even seen one in person before that first meet-and-greet.  But I couldn’t be happier with Lorelei’s choice.

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Today I had the honor to stand by the deathbed of a dear and loyal friend.  Today I had the privilege of being with him to ease him out of this life.  And today I also had the responsibility of deciding that it was time for that life to end.

Today we put our dog to sleep. Over 20 years of pet owning, two dogs and eight (at least) cats, and I’ve never had to do this before.  We’ve lost cats, but they’ve had a way of just disappearing.  By the time we realized they were never coming back, we had grown at least somewhat used to their absence.  We’ve never known in advance that today would be the day we would say good-bye forever. Anyone can tell you that I’m no animal lover.  But I loved OUR dog.

Balthazar

We got Balthazar from the pound almost 12 years ago, when he was about eight months old, because Jake begged for a dog.  We named him for the first Sholly to come to the New World.  We thought he was part German Shepherd, part Shiba Inu, maybe part Collie.

It was a good mix, whatever it was.  He was strong and gentle, smart and stubborn, protective and loyal. Once I had him tied up on the porch while some men were cutting trees in his yard.  When they were done I heard them knocking on the side of the house, because he was so threatening that they were afraid to come to the door so I could pay them.  Half an hour later, I heard him whimpering.  I came out to find this vicious beast crying as he patiently allowed our three-year-old to pull on his ears.

He loved to run away so much that we designed an “airlock” on our fence to prevent it, but he always came back.  He loved chicken so deeply that he jumped a three-foot-high baby gate to steal some once. But last night he lay in front of an open door and would not get up to go out.  And this morning he turned his head away from the piece of rotisserie chicken I offered him.

We always said that we never wanted our dogs to suffer, that we would never put them through anything just to keep them alive because we would miss them, that we would let them go when it was time. It was time. They could try to stabilize him, the doctor said.  They could try a transfusion.  But after it was over he told us he was so glad we didn’t try to save him, that we had done the right thing.

Lorelei and William came with me.  John is out of town, Emily was working, Jake was too upset.  They were brave.  We hugged him and petted him, and William patted me.  Lorelei told him he was going to a better place. It was peaceful.  It was easy.  It was quick.  His suffering was over as ours was beginning.  Lorelei sobbed all the way home.

Dogs are naturally good, Lorelei said later.  They must go to some kind of Heaven, maybe not the same one we go to.  I’ve never been one to assert that all dogs go to Heaven, but now I find my theology is uncertain where MY dog is concerned.

RIP Balthazar

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