It was one year ago today that I entered the garage of Stu and Barbara Homer (who operate Golden State Greyhound Adoption) and met my new dog, Olivia.
The Homer's dark garage was brimming with double-stacked crates holding ex-racer hounds that were about to meet their new guardians and discover freedom after a lifetime of confinement. At the moment though, the dogs were unnaturally quiet. They had no idea of the wonders that awaited them in just a few hours. Instead, they appeared shell-shocked, having just left their Florida race track one week earlier to endure a 7-day cross-country ordeal in the back of a truck.
And there, among the dozens of dogs, I spotted my underweight little girl, her cage marked with her racing name, MamaLu. A striking red brindle, the 3-year old looked especially frightened and withdrawn. My heart melted. I couldn't wait to give her the home she deserved.
However, this didn't happen right away. That's because, as readers of this blog and my Pet Tales column know, Olivia's arrival coincided with the cancer diagnosis, three days later, of my other greyhound, Elvis. Instead of doting on my new dog, Olivia watched from the sidelines as I nursed Elvis through surgeries, sat with him through chemo, and rushed him to emergency to treat leaking incisions almost every single night for two months. It was a nightmare in the truest sense of the word. And a losing endeavor because three months later my beloved boy lost his battle.
But through my tears I realized there was still another life depending on me. Not just for food and shelter, but for the same love and devotion I had bestowed upon Elvis for nine years. I started seeing Olivia -- really seeing her-- for the first time and appreciating her unique spirit. Appreciating how lucky I was to have this dog help heal my grief-stricken heart.
Today, Olivia is affectionate, playful and giddy, every step she takes bouncing with paws of joy. She hates carrots, loves baths, sleeps with her eyes open, and has breath that smells like frogs. And she loves to snuggle, something I would have never risked doing with the stiff, wary, suspicious Olivia of one year ago. Today's dog makes satisfied little "ummmm" sounds as I rub her belly, neck and ears, and uses her needle nose to nudge me when I stop.
This is the home that Olivia deserved. The home I envisioned before life threw a monkey wrench in the works. Better late than never.
Happy Anniversary, sweet puppy.