Good-bye, Reggie, Good-bye, Luke

In my small community of dog lovers who have also  competed in performance events with their dogs, we’ve lost 2 recently.

I met Luke, the Whippet, well, it had to be about 14 years ago. His people , Nancy Fagin and Ron Weber, booksellers, came into the resale shop I worked at and he came along for the walk.  Since I had had a Whippet, I was just immediately charmed.  Luke was extremely well behaved.  I lived with  a Saluki at the time, and it turned out Ron & Nancy knew Gregg Gammie, and Nancy was very  interested in straight racing. We became good friends, often having dinner together, bringing our dogs to each others homes.  Apparently Luke came some racing bloodlines, but along the way, his first owner could not keep him.  That’s sort of how I got my second Whippet, Bebop—but his owner had died, and that was how he wound up in rescue.

In any case,  Nancy made the very tough decision to euthanize Luke a few weeks ago. He was  about blind, almost deaf, and more importantly, he was hurting. His digestion was no longer  good, and poop just came out of him, and he had tumbled down the stairs a few times and was no longer putting weight on one of his front feet. He was 16.

This was just a few weeks after Janie Wondergem lost TSH Crystal Payday, UD (“Reggie”).  I met Janie at one of the International Kennel Club benched shows.  It was where my dog, Dazzle, took his first AKC point. We had to be there all day, that’s how it goes, but I was hoping to meet other  Saluki fanciers by being there.

We got together a few weeks later.  I was a bit adrift at the time.  Ans there was tension among us about buying a grooming shop together.  I understood her hesitation completely, but felt the  business was a good one.  I didn’t think she would ever get Reggie trained, as Janie is  a small-boned woman, and Reggie was powerful.  I was working with Dazzle, but I  knew he wouldn’t be ready for any  obedience competition in the foreseeable future.  He just didn’t have the personality for performance.

Reggie was an extremely  smart dog, but a Saluki.    Janie was taking him to conformation classes, to get him used to strange dogs, and to being touched. He’d lean all the way over rather than allow himself to  be touched in any way.   From that, and her perseverance, and  just keeping at it—-all with positive re-enforcement, she got Reggie to the point that he could be left in the  obedience ring, on the stand for examination, and not flinch.  Janie said that obedience was  Reggie’s job.    She was  campaigning  Reggie for an obedience championship, but she felt the jumping was really getting hard on his hips and knees, so she started training him for tracking—Janie said to keep his mind engaged.

She called me and told me she could tell by the way he was standing that she knew he was dying. Her husband scoffed, but Janie took him to the emergency veterinarians (it’s always on Saturday night, right?), and they said he was bleeding internally.  They said it could be a few days to maybe a few weeks, and Janie had him about 2 weeks more, when he was just too weak to get up.  She allowed him to die on his pillow.

We dog lovers sort of mark our lives by our dog companions.  Many of us are getting older. The age of the average performance fancier is past 50.  We are not attracting younger fanciers.  Most don’t have the patience, and then  combine that with traveling to dog shows or events, we just can’t afford the travel.

This is only important because our dogs have been our partners.  Because of the training, we’ve met our friends, we’ve learned  so much, and we have great memories of the times we had with our dogs.

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