Ten years ago today I lost Wink (racing name RV Caramel Chip), my first retired greyhound. He ran 105 races and won 11 before he was retired at age 4.5 and I adopted him. The first photo was taken shortly after I adopted him, the second photo was taken shortly before he passed. He was 13.5 years old. He was a good dog. When I got home from the vet with a leash and empty collar I wrote this remembrance.
The Last Walk
Its 2:30 AM Sunday morning and I have just been awakened by a gently whining greyhound standing beside my bed. I figure he wants to go outside. After all he's 13 years old, old for a greyhound, and like me he usually can't hold his water all night. So I get out of bed and walk to the back door, however Wink doesnt follow me. He goes to the front door instead. He looks at me and wags his tail furiously. It looks like he wants to go for a walk.
I sense something special is going on here. It was just this past Monday I took him to the Vet because he was limping badly and having a difficult time walking. He has a history of arthritis and has been limping some for the past two years. And he was retired from racing after an on track injury, not a good combination in an old dog. During the examination the vet was using sinister sounding words like muscular atrophy and nerve damage. "Nothing really we can do for him but try some additional pain medicine," the vet said. She prescribed some medicine in addition to what he was already taking and told me no walks for a week. Its been almost a week, I think to myself. He looks so happy standing there that despite the hour, I give in. I go put on some shoes and grab the leash.
As we go walking across the front lawn towards the street I notice that he is walking better than he has in weeks. The new meds must be kicking in I think. As usual, I let Wink set the pace. I've been letting Wink lead the way for years. He knows the neighborhood and usually takes the same route each walk. Out the door to the street, turn right, down the street about 2 blocks to the dead end. Walk around in the fringe of the woods for a while then return home. Only this time he wants to go down the dirt road that leads into the woods to the water company pump station.
We haven't been to the pump station in weeks. The past few weeks he has been turning around at the end of the pavement. Tonight he wants to go to the pump station. It's dark down the dirt road leading into the woods that surround the pump station. There may be critters about. But he wants to go. If fact he is pulling hard. So I give in again. We go down the dark dirt road through the woods and enter the lighted clearing around the pump station. Wink walks up to the gate and starts sniffing around. He sniffs the lock and chain, he sniffs the fence.
As he is doing his thing I look around at the dark woods surrounding the lighted clearing. We've been coming here for nine years. Nine years ago the woods were deep and thick. We've explored all through them over the years. The memories come flowing back. In spring the trails are turned into pungent purple tunnels, the trees festooned with wisteria vines, the purple flowers filling the air with their scent. In summer the trails are green cathedrals, shady and cool. In autumn the trees are a rainbow of colors. And in winter the trails are carpeted with autumn's leaves. I remember when we discovered a planter of marijuana plants hidden in these woods. Darn right I called the cops! Not in my neighborhood!
We've come across a lot of critters in these woods; snakes, turtles, rabbits, foxes, lizards, possums, raccoons, even a coyote once. There was the time Wink almost jumped out of his skin as a great blue heron unexpectedly rose from the creek beside the trail and flew right over us. More than once Wink has almost torn my arm off lunging after a rabbit that jumped from the bushes in front of us. One day a rabbit leaped out of the bushes in front of us and ran right past us, almost between Wink's legs. Before he could get over his surprise he found himself nose to nose with the fox that had been chasing the rabbit. Luckily the fox chose discretion over honor and retreated back into the bushes. Over the years the animal contacts became less often as we have seen these woods shrink as suburbia encroached. The woods we once walked have become other peoples back yards. I can see lights from the new subdivisions flickering through the once dense trees.
I look at Wink and notice that he too is staring through the trees. I wonder if he is having the same thought that I am. And I notice how grey his once fawn coat looks in the harsh security lights of the pump station. And how white his face is. We stand there for a few minutes, each of us lost in his own thoughts. Finally he turns around and heads for home. When we get into the house, he walks over to the air conditioning vent in the living room and lies down in front of it. There he would stay for the next two weeks, except for visits to his food and water bowls and calls of nature.
When I took Wink to the vet that previous Monday, I knew he was old and in pain. I ask the vet if she could tell how much longer Wink had. She looked me in the eye and said "You will know when the time comes." During the next two weeks Wink's condition deteriorated rapidly. The new medication was not working. He struggled to get to his feet and once on his feet he staggered instead of walked. Soon he needed help just to get up and get out into the yard. I knew the time was near. It wasn't long until I had to bring his food and water to him. Two weeks and two days after out last walk, Wink's time came.
I miss Wink dearly. I thank God that I decided to go with him on his early Sunday morning walk. Wink summoned all the strength left in his body to give me a wonderful gift. For I didn't take him for a walk that dark Sunday morning, Wink took me for a walk, one last time.