My most dear and precious boy left this physical world on Wednesday, February 3rd, after defying the veterinarians’ predicted odds for seven months. He grew suddenly weak, so tired, and could no longer keep his amazing spirit inside his frail and failing body. We set him free to return to his first beloved human, Lin.
A friend on Facebook mentioned, in response to my announcement, that it was the end of an era. It is true. Ryder was not an ordinary dog. He was a Multiple Best in Specialty Show winning Saluki, a champion in two countries, who has kids, and grand kids, and now greats who are winning shows and delivering joy all over the world. He is loved beyond measure on almost every continent, and there were a great many tears shed. Had Lin not been stricken by cancer herself, there is no doubt that his show career would have continued, and he would have made Grand Champion and beyond. He will be dearly missed, just as she is dearly missed, everywhere.
Ryder’s death is the end of an era for me, as well … possibly even the end of an age. I am having a great deal of trouble dealing with the reality not only of his death, but of the fact that his decline has taught me a very hard lesson.
My body can no longer handle the strain of caring for a large dog in his or her failing years. I am currently nursing a broken rib, an injured back, and the resurgence of a serious autoimmune disorder due to the physical strain of supporting his weight, lifting him, rearranging him at night, and keeping him safe and comfortable. My immune problems have meant large doses of prednisone for prolonged periods, many times, over the last thirteen years, which has left me with severe osteoporosis. I knew after I fractured a vertebrae trying to care for Kai in 2015 that I probably should give serious thought to whether or not I should own another Saluki. But Ryder needed me; that ended the inner discussion. The decision was right for both of us. We were both grieving souls, and we helped each other to heal.
I have had Salukis for over forty years. That is two thirds of my life. Aside from the two plus months between Kai’s death and Lin’s, and these past few days, in all those decades I have never been without a Saluki by my side. They are far more than just my “favorite breed.” They are a huge part of what makes me who I am. They are my spirit hounds.
And Ryder must be my last.
I can’t imagine being without a dog in my life. I have always had at least one canine companion. It must be; I will have another dog. However, logic, reason, and common sense (damn them all) dictates that it will have to be someone I can safely lift without fracturing a bone. The only small breed I have ever been drawn to is the Italian Greyhound, because despite their inclusion in the Toy Group, they are truly sighthounds in miniature. It will soon be time to start learning more about them, to make connections, and to allow doors to open and admit that future someone.
I’m not ready for another dog yet. My heart is crushed and bleeding, and my spirit weeps as it seeks for Ryder everywhere I turn. It may be a while before I come through this darkness and realize that the physical need for a canine companion has overridden the need to process my loss. When I do, however, my new friend won’t be a Saluki. My body has told me, in very clear terms, that this must be.
I don’t know how to move forward with that pain in my heart. So, I will set it aside, and continue to let my love for Ryder carry me through these hard days.
I am sure that, once the time is right, and the Universe lets me know it’s time to take the step, the right little hound will find me, and whoever comes into my home and arms will bring the comfort and company I need. Maybe Ryder, and Kai, and Yoda, and Dancer, and Pascha, and Jai will send them my way.
Today, though, I mourn not only the loss of my dog, but the loss of a huge part of my self.