Finding my sunshiny Day!
|Photo thanks to our Adoption Coordinator, Steve.|
It had been a very long and troubled day for us. Hope was in having surgery and the waiting was beyond painful. She had been having fainting spells with all signs and symptoms pointing toward a heart problem. Because we live in Canada and a six hour drive from the hospital it was deemed necessary to have a heart monitor surgically implanted to take her readings whenever a spell might occur. Amazing technology? Without doubt! Still, she was thirteen, she was having heart troubles and she was under anesthetic. She was also only the third dog ever to undergo this new surgery and the not knowing was agony while we paced the long corridors in wait of news.
Enz had been taking yet another hall-stroll while I had found a quiet spot to lean back against a wall, just across from the door that led out to the fenced run, when a woman came through that door with two absolutely striking Greyhounds. All I could say was, "Enz..... looooook..."
I am and have always been painfully shy but I just had to know those dogs. I pulled myself from the security of the wall and asked the woman if we could meet them. The dogs stopped and stood so proudly as we introduced ourselves, letting them sniff our hands through their muzzles before reaching to pat their velvety soft coats. "Are they Greyhounds?" Enzo had asked. Like many people, we had never before seen a Greyhound other than in pictures and we were both immediately and completely taken with these two beauties. The lady had explained that yes, they were both Greyhounds and that they were there in the hospital healing from racing injuries. Racing injuries?? That kind of stuff really went on in this world? I am ashamed to say that I had NO idea, at all. Of course, I had heard the term 'dog track' in movies and on television but, I honestly had no clue that it was such a reality. I was shocked. It was Enz who asked about the muzzles the dogs wore, I really hadn't even noticed them, I just saw through them and somehow knew immediately how gentle-natured they were so it was no surprise to me when she explained that it was simply skin protection for the dogs when they were in pairs or groups... play-time and tissue paper thin skin just don't mix very well.
After that very first meeting, we knew. We also knew that we had a very sick little girl who needed every bit of us and after the lady took the two gorgeous Greys back to their beds to rest, we continued our restless wait for our Hope.
|Healing cuddles for Hope after her surgery|
It was three years later when we lost our hope at the age of sixteen. It had been a challenging and draining three years that had taken a massive toll on our hearts. We loved that little girl and had spent the last year and a half carrying her like a baby, hand-feeding her and snuggling her like it might be our last snuggle every time we did. The loss, when it came, was all-encompassing, blinding, devastating.
It was two and a half years after that loss before we had healed enough to open our hearts again. We began our Greyhound search in the place we had first met them and found our way, on-line, to the Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption website. Going through the names and pictures of retired racers waiting to find their families was exciting yet painful... I wanted to give every single one of them the love and care that they had worked their whole lives never knowing, the love and care that they deserved to have known from the moment they had been born. I couldn't choose just one out of all when I knew that all were in need.
Filling out the adoption application was both exciting and nerve-wracking. What if the adoption organization thought we were unworthy and rejected our application? What if only having a large attached pen for bathroom breaks wasn't enough because they expected a fully-fenced yard?? What if they couldn't get in touch with our references at the only moment they had the time to try??? What if our application simply had been overlooked???? Questions and doubt clouded our enthusiasm from the moment we had actually faxed in our application until finally, a couple of months later, we received a call.
Our first telephone interview went really well, despite the three disconnections that cut us off mid-sentence each time. We had talked about how we had first learned about the plight of the retired racers and the few but impressionable Greyhounds we had met on our hospital visits and all of the reading and research we had done over the past years in knowing we would one day adopt one. I remember Steve, our adoption coordinator, specifically asking us why we had decided on adopting a four year old, as we had written our age preference on our application. That's when I realized that we didn't actually have a real preference on age, or anything else for that matter. Before we had begun our search I had been incredibly compelled to adopt a senior dog, one who needed all that we had to give for the time when they would be in aged need; Enz had wanted a puppy and so we agreed on somewhere in the middle. But answering Steve's question came so naturally as I easily explained that age, colour and sex were of absolutely no difference to us and as we looked at each other while I answered, I knew we both fully meant every word. We wanted a family member and nothing else mattered.
The following days and weeks were nothing less than torture in waiting. Our interview had happened just a day or two before the American Thanksgiving weekend which meant we would need to wait longer than the usual three to five days we were told it would take to find which of the dogs would be the best fit with us. It turned out to be almost two full weeks of re-living and worrying over that interview before we finally heard back with the tear invoking call that we had been approved! Our only real concern was that our new family member be small-dog safe since my mom has a HUGE Newf/Husk/Lab cross whose best friend and next door neighbour is a TINY Chihuahua/Terrier cross... we had always hoped that the three of them would be spending lots of walk and play time together. Steve told us then, that he would compile a list of which of the dogs would best match and he would then be back in touch... more waiting..... but, we did set our adoption date for December 16, 2013. at 9:00 am and that left us ecstatic and looking forward during that wait of two additional weeks!
The instant we got off the phone with Steve after setting our date, we were calling to make our weekend reservations for Minneapolis. We knew, from experience, how hard waiting at home had been and decided that the final weekend wait might be easier with a trip to the Mall of America to help ease our minds from the seeming foreverness.
The next few days we spent busily preparing for our soon-to-be new addition. I spent hours upon hours on-line choosing and ordering the perfect beds for whoever might choose us as their family. I felt a bit like an expectant parent having made the choice not to know the sex before their baby is born, everything had to be neutral to start; beds, dishes, blankets, even the flannel welcome home quilt I busily got to working on was made out of neutrals though we stopped in Duluth on our way to the Twin Cities to buy enough flannel for both a boy and a girl quilt so I could make a new one especially for our pup once we got home.
Oh, having just mentioned the 'choosing' part of the adoption... I worried about this choosing part of things that Steve had mentioned. He had told us that they encouraged the dogs to choose their new families and although it made perfect sense it concerned me greatly. I was petrified of having to meet and losing my heart to more than one. The thought of leaving a pup behind, of having to choose one deserving and loving soul over another was something I more than questioned my ability to do.
It was then, when I knew that this was actually now a reality that I could bring all that was happening out to share. Up until this point I had only shared this journey with one extremely supportive and fantastical friend, Miso, who also happened to have a friend named Rick who had adopted a Greyhound from the same place a few years prior. I was so grateful that he had given Miso permission to send me his e-mail address in case I wanted to talk with him about the process, and now that it was real I felt I needed the guidance he offered.
Rick was so upbeat and excited to share his own past and current experiences having adopted Earl and I knew that I had made an instant ally and friend in this process we were maneuvering. I felt a little guilty having asked of him right from the start but his willingness to help came from the love has has for his own dog as well as for that of the entire breed; traits we entirely share. I told Rick what I was most afraid of, meeting more than one dog and having to make the heart-wrenching choice of whom to bring home. His answer? It would definitely happen.
Finally, the weekend before our adoption date came and we were on our way to Minneapolis. I had ordered, literally, a ton of things delivered to the border that we picked up on our way and as we opened the beautiful squooshy beds and set the SUV back area up all cozy and ready for the ride home, reality finally sank in completely. The mall plan was already back-firing. Once we got checked-in at the hotel and made our way across the street to shop we realized we had no desire at all to be there. Our minds were filled with anticipation, both happy and nervous anticipation. We couldn't concentrate on anything, though we tried. I think it may just have been the longest three days I have ever known.
And then, our adoption day morning finally made its appearance.
We left the hotel early and drove the forty minutes it would take to get to Coon Rapids from the hotel. It was still dark out and the drive was a very quiet one. We still had two hours until our appointment time and decided to go for breakfast after finding our way to the animal clinic we were scheduled to meet at. Our breakfast was as quiet as our ride had been, each of us lost in our own thoughts and concerns of how this important morning would unfold.
We finally made our way to the clinic as huge snowflakes began to fall. We knew we had a few hours for the adoption appointment and then still a six hour drive to follow so we hoped the snow would prove to be no more than a flurry as we walked in through the doorway.
We were there. We were there and we were waiting. And, we were overfilled with emotions of every kind imaginable. I was still questioning whether it was even really happening. I was still worried that no one would choose us.
And then we were brought into a room where we watched a video about Greyhounds and about how they adapt into their new lives. I know I should have studied like I was going to be quizzed on that video but keeping my mind focused at that moment, when I knew that my new fur-baby was waiting somewhere behind that closed door I could see across the hall, was maybe the toughest thing that had been asked of me yet.
And then Steve came into the room. It was wonderful to finally be able to meet in person and I hoped that he would somehow be able to feel just how much this whole experience meant to me, to us.
We talked for awhile. Steve had questions. We had questions. And, all the while there was this current of energy surging, so positive, so perfect. He told us there would be three Greyhounds that we would meet and my heart sank as much as it lifted with my nervousness. He told us he would head on back and see who was there waiting to meet us first and that we would finally get to see who would choose us... There was that 'choose' word again.
It seemed like a hour had passed but it was probably more like five minutes before I really started to worry when Steve hadn't yet returned with one of the Greys-in-wait. We were sitting together on the love-seat in the waiting room and i just couldn't take it anymore as I turned and whispered to Enz, "What happens if no one chooses us?"
It was the very second that I had finished whispering that question when the door from across the hallway opened. All I heard was scrambling nails on the tile floor. All I saw was the briefest glimpse of recognition-filled eyes before I saw nose, then chest and finally back as Day came straight for me, awkwardly and determinedly climbed me then turned and settled on my lap, claiming me as his mamma in no uncertain terms. My heart was filled completely and immediately with his instant trust and willing love. I had to fight so hard to keep my grateful tears at bay even as they pooled in my eyes. I couldn't speak. All I could do was hold him tight and stroke his quivering body as he relaxed into us. There, on that love-seat, the three of us connected into an instant family that I honestly can't even seem to remember a time when we weren't.
Field Day was the only Greyhound we met that day and I will never forget that first moment of meeting him. When I could trust myself to speak again I asked Steve if this was how Greyhounds chose their new families? Even he had seemed quite flabbergasted by this immediate reaction and told us that in twenty years of coordinating adoptions, this had been the first time he had seen a Greyhound just immediately crawl up into a new someone's lap, as our sunshiny Day had just done, and laid claim.
I can't even begin to describe how grateful, how honoured, how filled my heart became in that moment when Day 'chose' to climb me. And, believe me, once the connection had been made none of us wanted it to be broken, not even for a minute; Day had to, vocally-reluctantly, be physically pried off of me just to be taken back and have his micro-chipping done before we could bring him home with us. The instant they brought him back in to us he ran straight for me again and slicked himself tight in against me. He already knew we belonged together, we all knew.
It wasn't until we were helping him into our vehicle when I actually got my first full look at Day. Beautiful. Inside and outside, he is love and he is beautiful. He is my ever-sunshiny Day.
I knew, and it weighed on me, that my sunshiny Day had spent months in a foster home before we found each other. I knew that his foster family had dropped him off that morning not knowing whether or not they would be taking him back home with them later on that day. Knowing that really pulled at my heart. I know that the foster families who help by giving of themselves and their homes want for the animals they help to find loving forever homes and happiness with a new family but it still has to be just so hard to care for, to become attached, to love these sweet souls and then to let them go... I don't know that I could be strong enough to do that and as happy as I was for my own joy, I was just as sad for Day and his Fosters' goodbye. He was a happy boy, right from the start, so I knew he had been well loved in that home and I so wanted for that family to know how unexplainably thankful I was of them.
I was fortunate when one day, right here on Facebook, I saw a comment made on a picture of Day that became a 'hmm..???' kind of moment. I wondered and then, I asked. It was Day's Foster-Mom!! I was so beyond happy to connect with Stacie, to be able to thank her for all she had done for Day in helping him to learn about life in a home was emotional far past emotional for me. I know a simple 'thank you' can never be enough for all that the people who voluntarily help all the Greyhounds in need but I sure hope they understand how much they mean to the dogs and to their families; how much they have meant to Day and to us.
All in all, it was and continues to be an incredible, emotional journey that promises more and more every day! Day is smart and hungry for learning, he is loving and demanding of closeness and snuggliness, he breaks my heart but he fills my heart.
He is totally my Sunshiny Day!!!
( Written January 30, 2014. )