I lost my best friend yesterday. Her name was Indie, and she was turning 5 in a few days. She was a rescue greyhound, and I had her for around 2 years. She meant so very much to me.
I feel like it is important to share how much she meant to me, because at the very least I owe her that.
This is long. It feels cathartic right now. It helps me stop crying. Well, it helps me stop sobbing. It's super raw right now, but writing helps…it helps not only with the sadness but also as I revisit memories that make me smile.
So I go into her origin story before her life with me, and then a bit about her life with me, her death and now the reality of my life without her.
Indie was an ex-racing greyhound, though they said she wasn't fast enough for the track. When I think about that it makes me laugh, because she would sometimes run around in these giant circles at the beach, zoomies they call them, at a crazy speed that seemed to me be able to win any race. But no, she didn't race. They kept her around, as they do with some greyhounds, as training dogs, or sometimes if they like the dog. I don't know why they kept Indie around...everyone always said she was sweet, so I like to think that is the reason.
Greyhounds from the racing industry do not, and have not had good lives. They are bred for a purpose, and that purpose is to race. They are kept in cramped cages to preserve their energy to run and are always competing with the other greyhounds for food. They are not exposed to much outside of that existence; hence when the very, very small percentage are even deemed able to be rehomed, they come out damaged. I do believe there is a level of mental damage from that experience. I do hope the life they enjoy after rehoming erases, or helps heal, but it does take time for them to adapt to life outside the racing world they were bred into.
They don't understand how the 'real world' works, only a life of small cages with a lot of other dogs, racing for short bursts, then back in the cage. They are purpose-bred dogs, and that purpose is racing. Beyond that, they are viewed as expendable.
I think of it as greyhounds growing up in a world where they know/hear/understand 10 things, and if lucky enough to be rehomed now are exposed to 1000s of sights, sounds, smells, freedoms, etc.… It can be terrifying, and it was for Indie in the beginning.
And that is a shame. Because I don't believe animals should be treated as expendable. My Indie wasn't expendable.
They also said she didn't have an inclination to chase the lure. They use a lure (often a stuffed toy) to train the animals to chase/run after it, and this is what the greyhounds run after on the track. This is also why it is challenging to rehome greyhounds because they are trained to chase after these fuzzy lures and rip them up. So if you have a cat or a small dog, they can get triggered. This is a trained behaviour. Indie didn't have that inclination though…but they kept her. I never found out why. I asked, but no clear answer. I think it was because she was a sweetheart, but I'm biased…maybe.
Though it's an industry, and she was deemed expendable. Wow, some these words are so hard to write because to think she was thought of as expendable makes my heartbreak. She was not expendable. She was my Indie, and she was wonderful.
But let me provide some info for context. In New Zealand where I live (and this is pulled from a government study over 6 years and using the latest year provided with full data - 2014), the number of greyhounds who had their last race was 906. By 'last year' this means after this they no longer race. The number of greyhounds since their last race that was rehomed was 179. That is around 20%. That is what is reported by the greyhound racing industry. I doubt the rehoming figure is that high, and this does not include non-racing dogs like Indie. So 2 out of 10 dogs are rehomed. The others?
Race results looked at over a 6 year period reveals that the youngest age a dog raced in New Zealand was 13 months, the oldest 47 months, with the average being 20 months of age. A short window for being 'useful'.
Also, the government was able to estimate the number of unraced, vs raced, greyhounds based on average litter size (6.5 puppies per litter) (apologies for the deep dive but this is important, this was Indie's reality/life, and it deserves to be shared…). This is based on data provided by the racing industry: number of litters in 2015 was 137, based on an average litter size of 6.5 puppies per litter, numbers of puppies born in NZ 891, 327 have raced, 564 did not race.
The reality of greyhound racing is that every year, thousands of young and healthy Greyhound dogs are killed merely because they lack winning potential, were injured while racing or are no longer competitive. ... Racing greyhounds routinely experience terrible injuries on the track such as broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks.
The reality of greyhounds is that they are purpose-bred dogs, bred to run, to run fast. And if you don't run fast, you are expendable. While in the industry don't be fooled but they have a crap life. They live in cramped conditions, sensory deprived, made to get super agitated before a race, then shoved back in the cage for 20-23 hours a day. An example is watching how dog handlers treat racing greyhounds' right before a race. The way they are trying to get them super-amped.
Cruel methods are often used to dispose of unwanted dogs, and the dogs that do survive in the industry are forced to live in cramped conditions. These social creatures are forced to spend most of their time alone, confined to cages for 20-23 hours a day and denied the opportunity to walk or play.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand said in its 2018 annual report released this week that the 353 dogs were euthanised after failing to be rehomed. That is almost a dog a day. This from New Zealand, a small island nation with over 4 million people. I can't imagine what those numbers are in a country like the USA.
Also, understand that a report found that 1447 dogs had been euthanised in just four years, and it is thought the figure would be much higher because trainers were often not reporting the deaths.
The New Zealand Government report found that the outcome of a majority of greyhounds is "unknown". The report also states that rehoming estimates are "generous and likely more than there is, but we can still prove greyhounds go missing using conservative numbers".
Partway through 2012 the greyhound industry also stopped releasing their numbers on how many greyhounds get euthanised at the racing track.
Evidence of racing greyhounds given drugs like steroids, caffeine, codeine, 'canine EPO' by their trainers is documented as having occurred in New Zealand.
Is this a bit of a rant, yep. But Indie deserved that. Her story matters, and her story is not just about the time we shared. And much of her story is not unique. She mattered to many people, and by hacking away on a keyboard helps me, but at least for me, it is important to share her story. This is Indie's story, and her story is part of my story. And I hope this helps me because it hurts so badly right now and I miss her dearly.
A bit of a backstory, I love dogs. I grew up with dogs. My partner doesn't like dogs so much, well I think it would be more factual to say that I'm a dog person, while she isn't. She doesn't hate them, but she wouldn't choose to have an animal as a pet. She is also allergic to animal hair. So to get her to allow me to have a dog, it was going to need me to employ all my convincing tactics I could use. And did I pull out all the tactics.
For her to allow me to get a dog it was going to have to tick many boxes: not a shedder, not 'dog smelly', not a barker, compliant, and not too 'doggy'. The criteria was basically, 'a dog that isn't a dog'. Armed with these criteria, I began my search for my fur friend…and then I stumbled upon greyhounds. From what I could tell, they ticked those boxes.
Greyhounds tend to shed minimally (or so I'm told…I have my doubts from the amount of hair Indie shared with the family), don't have the level of oils in their fur as other dogs therefore tend not to have that 'doggy smell', come reasonably well trained, don't tend to bark, and are known as the couch-potatoes of the canine family. Pretty much just like me.
So the charm offensive began…and she relented. And we went to look at some greyhounds available for adoption. Another caveat…the greyhound had to be cat-friendly—another potential spanner in the works since we have two cats.
We arranged an appointment at the adoption centre and was told we would see around 4 greyhounds that fit the cat-friendly criteria. The first one was Indie. Sold. Didn't need to see another one. That was it. It was weird too since we saw a few pics and a short bio of the dogs we were going to view, Indie wasn't the one I thought we would choose. But saw her and the connection was instant. She was really, really shy, but kind. And those eyes! Man, don't get me started on those eyes! Greyhounds seem to have these perpetual 'puppy dog eyes' and pierce my heart! But there was so much more beyond the physical cues. And take what you want from this but that initial connection was deep, man, so instant. We just said, 'Cool, she is the one. We don't need to see the others'. The adoption place felt we should see at least one other, and we relented, saw one other, but knew Indie was the one. And she was, she was for us.
A bit more backstory: I'm a 48 yr old man. I don't have any kids. My wife has two kids and she shares custody with the father. I never really wanted kids. I'm more of an animal person. Not saying I don't love my stepkids, because I do, but if you are placing people in a camp, my camp is with the animals. I relate better with animals than humans. I'm also quite (very) introverted. Would rather chill at home than socialise with others. And besides my wife, would rather hang with Indie that go out on the town. My response on Friday to "what are you up to this weekend" was "hangin' with my dog". That was enough for me.
Nothing wrong with either approach in life, whether you are introverted, extroverted, or other 'verted. I am what I am. And I am cool with that…and with Indie I found my introverted spirit animal. Many situations in my life where I look around and think, 'Nah, too many people, too much stimulation…I out'.
I hate saying 'animal'. She was not just an animal to me. She was my friend, my companion. She was my routine; she was my buddy. She was my couch potato partner in laziness.
For me, Indie was my 'child', my fur baby. She got me out of the house for her daily walks…man, she loved her walkies! She got me down to the beach to let her run around in the sand and splash in the water. When my wife was away for work she was there. I wasn't lonely with Indie. And she wanted so little from me and gave me so much unconditional (and sometimes conditional when she would look at me for treats…she was wise!) love.
I remember those first times taking her on walks that lasted a few minutes as she was so scared…building up the time and length to build up her confidence and allow her to adapt to her new surroundings. Watching her see or hear something for the first time (I think it was the first time, who knows) and as she gradually let her guard down to understand she wasn't captive any more, that this was her home and that she was loved.
I remember when she did her first 'roach' (sleeping on his back with all 4 legs in the air, looking much like the dead insect of the same name), after about 6 months. I was stoked! I was stoked because I wanted her to be 'ok' and free and comfortable. She was at home and it was as much her home as it was mine. And I was going to protect her and I was going to give her a good life because she mattered and I loved her. You were safe Indie, and you deserved to be treated right. And this is hard to write, and I'm crying, and my heart's not smiling…my heart is heavy, and my heart is sad. Sucks man sucks to feel this much emotional pain.
Indie was lovely with other dogs and other people, however, she was shy and would retreat when dogs/kids/people would come barrelling up to her. She would hide between my legs and rub her nose against my leg. She was shy at first, but that shell was easily cracked.
We have some paths through the woods where I would take her and let her off her lead to smell EVERYTHING. I remember many a time walking along in my world, noticing a dog/dogs/people way ahead coming towards us and turning around to see Indie saying, "nope, too much for me I am off in the other direction". She avoided. Much like me. It was funny.
Man, she was a sweetheart. Loved going between the legs and having her bum rubbed. And her ears! She would snort at a vigorous ear rubbing. And sometimes she would lay next to me and put her paw on me. She was a good dog. A really good dog.
And my anti-dog wife loved her too! Indie had that effect.
Yesterday on one of her walks we were at a park, and two small dogs came barrelling up to her, chasing her and she took off. She ran back to our house. We live across the road. She got hit by a car running back to our home. She wanted to be safe. I thought she was just on one of the lower fields at the park. I thought she was around the corner, smelling something. I walked down to the lower areas at the park and didn't see her.
I live across from the park and noticed people gathered around something. I couldn't tell what. But I got scared. I started to run. It was Indie. She had been hit by a car. People helped me move her off the road into my driveway. She looked dead. She eyes were open. She didn't appear to be breathing. I felt for her heartbeat and it was beating. Someone called the emergency vet. I just told her to 'hold on Indie, daddy's here, it's ok', and I could feel her heartbeat get slower and slower, and I was crying, and part of me hoped she was dead so that she wasn't suffering. Far out. But then the beating stopped. But I put her in the car and took her to the emergency vet clinic, and I cursed at the traffic lights, cursed at other drivers, saying to Indie to please hold on, but knowing she was dead. Arriving at the clinic jumping out seeing her, no heartbeat, nothing. The vet coming out and confirming she was dead. And I don't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. It's hard to breathe, I'm crying…and I'm sorry, Indie. I'm sorry I didn't take you out a few minutes earlier or later, and maybe we wouldn't have run into those dogs, and perhaps you wouldn't have got scared and run home and maybe, maybe…and it sucks. It sucks. I want more time with you. I feel like we only just began our journey together.
And I left you there. And I have to go back to the vet soon and decide what to do. And that time is today. But last night I came home, and there was your bed. There were your toys. You loved the bear and tiger and orangutan. It was sweet how you softly carried them around. And your bed and your bowl. And now it's just an empty space. And I'm so sad.
I can see the boxes where I stored your stripy PJs, and I can see the boxes with your various wet weather and cold weather coats. Look, before Indie the thought of one of my animals wearing clothes was not a thought I ever entertained, but dammit, I wasn't going to let my Indie be cold or wet!
You were never loud. And it's too quiet now. I want to stop crying, but understand grieving is a process. But I hate it. I miss you. You were cool.
I'm going to see you one last time. To get your collar and say goodbye. But I don't want to. But I have to.
I'm scared to stop writing because there is so much more to your story, and stopping writing feels like an end.
And the reality is you're gone. And I am sad. And in time it will be less painful. But today I grieve and today my heart feels so very broken. And it sucks. And I cry. They say remember the good times, but I miss you too much.
I'm going to buy a plant today. I am going to plant it in the garden and put your lead around the base. It feels like such an insignificant gesture, but it's something because I have to do something.
You were cool, my friend. You were so very cool. I loved your doggy smile. Thank you for all the joy and happiness you brought to this crusty old dude. I tried to give you an awesome life, and you were never my pet, you were my compadre, my mate, my friend, my Indie.
Love you Indie