We never meant to have a two-year-old dog. I think the very youngest greyhound we ever adopted was four years old; that was Chester, and we only kept him because he had been hit by a car and had stitches in 25 different places and was generally pathetic.
We run Minnesota Greyhound Rescue, so we see greyhounds of all ages and all descriptions al the time. But generally we like to adopt old dogs for our own personal pack…Or at least middle aged dogs…Dogs who have gotten “bounced” or are just suited to our little Island of Misfit Toys (that includes me, not just the dogs). Our sweet Sly came at 10.5 years old. Tanner came at 9.5. Crisco came after getting booted out of his 4th home at age 7. So you see what I mean.
In a group of new adoptables from the Daytona racetrack, we received a white and fawn boy named “Bank It.” We liked him immensely right away. There was just something about him that made him stand out. He was a pain in the buns from the get-go, though. He kept on knocking over and pouncing on the big water jugs that we use to fill the outside water dish. He would walk (I mean, bound) along the top edge of furniture. He had to put his mouth on everything. But for some reason we liked him. And while I like most of the boys, my husband only rarely has one that he singles out and says, “This is a cool dog.”
But he was only two; he was extremely cute; he was at least reasonably cat tolerant, and he was totally adoptable. So we didn’t entertain for a moment the thought of keeping him.
Then, the worst day of my life so far happened. Crisco, my 14-year old greyhound and best friend, was diagnosed with cancer in his spine on a Friday. The following Monday, I had planned nothing for the day except to sit in my pajamas on the couch with Crisco, (whose pain we were trying to get under control) and just be with him. Crisco was sitting in our bean bag chair, and I was sitting next to him with no intentions of moving. I was just being sad.
Sly, my sweet wiggly guy who had come to us six months earlier, came up and poked me with his nose – a trademark move. Sly was the best boy. You could not be around him and be sad. He poked me for pets, stood while I scritched him. He ran over and played a little with his purple bunny. He came back and did his wiggly little dance that made me think he needed to go out. So I got up and walked him to the door, with him bumping against my legs and looking up at me as we went. Our usual routine was that he would charge out to his corner with his crazy sideways run, do his business, and charge back.
While he was pottying, I went back in to check Crisco. When I came back 30 seconds later, Sly was down. He was dying. I couldn’t save him. I found out later that he probably had a pulmonary embolism, but at the time I thought he was choking on something that I couldn’t see or feel. He was big: 80 pounds, and I am little: 105 pounds. I dragged him across the yard, pulled a muscle in my shoulder. I got him into the van and drove like a crazy person, swerving and shaking, but I knew in the van that he was gone. My little Sly. The one who was going to get me through Crisco’s death with his goofy guilelessness.
I was lost that night. Sly was our fourth dog to die since February, and it seemed like I was in a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. There had been nothing wrong with Sly. I couldn’t save him. And I was going to lose Crisco too, my best friend.
On Tuesday, Bank It moved in. No, I didn’t have a moment of weakness and let him in. He decided that he was moving in.
The kennel is separated from the main part of the house by one of those half-doors. It’s a pretty high one, and the kennel is also down one step from the main house. So together, they make about a chest-high barrier. No dog has ever challenged this, and over 80 have lived out there. At least, no one ever challenged it until Bank It. He thought to himself, “I’m going to get over that,” and he did.
And he did it again every time we tried to put him back out there. I watched it once. He put his front feet up on the top of the door (which even by itself is fairly impressive because it is, as I said, quite high). Then, he stepped his back feet up onto the step. Then, like a gymnast, he hopped his back feet up along side his front feet on the top of the door and vaulted himself over like it was nothing.
And that was pretty much that. I needed him and he came. He acted like he had lived here all along. He lounged on the couch. He licked our faces and bit our noses. He had been living out in the kennel for a couple months, but for some reason he chose Tuesday as the day he would move into the house. We named him Hank.
He has continued to be a giant pain, but so far it has mostly just cheered me up. We lost Crisco a week after Sly. That was something I had been afraid of for a long time. I had nightmares about losing Crisco. I loved him more than anything in the world. Crisco has slept next to me in our bed for 7 years.
Hank slept with me that night and has ever since. On the day of Crisco’s cremation service (the day after his death), I was dreading walking into the house for the first time without Crisco at the gate to greet me. But I never had to think about that moment, because as soon as I walked into the house, Hank was there. And I mean, right there, on the wrong side of the gate. Immediate goofy distraction: “Hank, what the heck are you doing here?” I walked farther in to find something that would distract me for the next half hour too: Hank had knocked over a sculpture and shredded a fake plant and its pot all over the living room floor.
“Good boy,” I told him.
I had agonized over whether to keep him, whether to let such an adoptable dog take up a “spot” here when we could go and get a senior dog who had been waiting a long time instead. But it turned out that I needed him. Not that he could replace my boys, Sly and Crisco, not for a minute. But he could help me see that the world didn’t end, and that there might be happiness again someday, even though I miss those guys every minute. And that’s the story of Hank, our accident.