I never anticipated what an invaluable and unbelievably cherished part of my life the dogs were. Only now, after more than two weeks since the passing of my beautiful “baby girl”, can I actually begin to reflect on the wonder they brought into my life. As I write this in November 2013, with the air cooling to freezing point outside, I think back through all the seasons with the pair of them, and feel enormous gratitude.
Dylan – a masterpiece of boyish “diplomacy”, vigour and infectious charm, was always in charge. Take cats, for example. When there was a neighbourhood feline, trying to go unnoticed while precariously tip-toeing across, atop of the back fence – in fact, when it had done so much as decided to do this, literally setting its paw down for its first step – Dylan knew about it. His senses were alive.
More than that, actually: they were almost supernatural. He would rush to the back door – French doors – and almost bark the house down. Or, if it were a summer’s day, he’d launch forth into the garden to re-establish the boundary! The chase coursed through Dylan’s veins for nearly every day of his life; a life remembered happily and celebrated often in conversation amongst close friends.
But where Dylan had the fire of life burning deep in his heart, Ally, on the other hand, was not gifted in quite the same way as he. She was raced less hard than Dyls but, evidently, had a harder upbringing than him. She was an Irish hound, complete with a racing tattoo in each ear. He was a Brit, so only had one.
As we would later speculate, she was likely to have been abused by a previous owner/trainer. She nervously flinched when touched under her chin/on her neck area; a trait she had until the very end. She was also very fearful of children and people wielding sticks or long, bar-shaped objects. Children with sticks were, quite literally, her worst nightmare.
Yet, Dylan (aka “Billy Bobs”) and Ally (aka “Rooney”) made a truly wonderful pair, each one propping up the weaknesses of the other with their own strengths. Where Dylan was adamant that a Bichon Frise was “dinner” (and telling it so), Ally would quietly watch and keep out of the way. He was the boss, after all. When Ally squealed with unbridled excitement at a squirrel that had dared cross her path, Dylan joined in the commotion, more because he liked to make noise rather than be delighted at the new target acquisition itself.
It was almost as if he didn’t want to be seen not knowing what this new, important event was all about (although his jumping-barking-spinning manoeuvres suggested exactly that).
When they slept and Ally snored, Dylan growled at her – in sympathy, we like to think… And when she couldn’t eat all of her dinner, he was there, right behind her, waiting patiently for her to exit stage left. They loved to swap knuckle joints at Christmas, each of them believing they’d got the better deal. And because Dylan was the boisterous one, the one nearly always getting told off but, likewise, quite often getting the direct attention, Ally managed to get away with a few, lesser-noticed naughty tricks of her own.
When we lost Dylan in August 2011, it was heartbreaking. As with so many racing Greys, his hind legs had become very weak in his old age, and even walking up a gentle gradient was exhausting for him. Knowing him as a young man, feeling his power through the strength of his chunky, squared-off thighs, you had to be absolutely sure of your control over him. To that end, we always used a Halti harness with Dyl.
In his last few weeks, we didn’t really need the harness any more; his jumping-barking-spinning days were pretty much over. (Luckily, we managed to capture some early video of this on now-ancient camera phones (Nokia 6230s, I think), back in 2003/4.)
Sadly, the same fate befell Ally. Her hind legs had just become slowly weaker with age and time. It was a struggle for her to get up from her bed; to arise solely for the purpose of going outside for a quick toilet – which was equally challenging to complete, with dignity intact – before settling herself back on her bed for another hour or two of sleeping. Her life had become very difficult in 2013, and having to make that call in October was the most heart-wrenching decision of my life.
Only few people know the agony, the traumatising realisation that being the person in whose trust is unconditionally placed, you now have to pro-actively stop their pain. The two days leading up to Ally’s departure were memorably intense, as was the whole week surround it.
But during those last two days, we were extremely lucky to have beautiful, warm and clear weather for her last walks. It went beyond all expectations that she managed to complete those walks in the way that she did. Such memories make the decision all the tougher.
Yet, over time, we lose the pain. What we have left are the joys, the silliness, the lucky escapes and the general craziness that is taking on a retired greyhound.
In this memory, they both live on.
[ This page will be updated with new links, as content is made available ]
New Page: Celebrating Ally’s life.
New pages will continue to be added in due course – stay tuned!
- Arrival in 2003
- Arrival in 2003 (coming soon)