Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bingley! The Survivor is Six Years Old Today

The afternoon of February 16, 2008, John and I were standing with Darren in a turnout run at Greyhound Adoption Center, trying to decide which of two dogs to adopt. Portia had romped and played with both dogs, and it was probable that either dog would adjust to her aggressive play style.

These are terrible moments. Even though the dog you don't choose will have good care from dedicated staff and volunteers at the rescue kennel, dogs need a home, and only one dog was going to get a home that day. Which to choose?

I felt a brush against my leg and looked down into the warmest, sweetest pair of brown canine eyes. "Please take me home." I swear I heard the words.

We brought the big fawn-red Greyhound home that day to be Portia's buddy. Today he is our only dog. He is a Survivor. The Survivor. This is his story.

When Bingley was three weeks shy of his second birthday, on August 11, 2005, he ran and won his first race in Florida. He continued to race in Florida until sometime between June and November of 2006. He won his first race in Tucson, Arizona on November 14, 2006. The last race he won was in Tucson on January 1, 2007. He lost races on January 4 and January 8.

Racing Greyhounds have limited chances to be winners. If they stop winning and no one rescues them, they are killed. Fortunately, Bingley wasn't killed. Unfortunately, sometime after January 8, 2007, Bingley was sold to Gambling Man. Gambling Man thought it would be a good idea to run his own string of Greyhounds.

Bingley was one of five Greyhounds that Gambling Man acquired. I don't like to think about what life was like during the months Bingley and his four companions were being hauled around while Gambling Man tried to set up races for them. Eventually, they were hauled into California, where dog racing is illegal.

The authorities caught up with Gambling Man on October 13, 2007. Greyhound Adoption Center was notified and Rescuer, with many years of removing Greyhounds from bad situations was on hand when Gambling Man's dog hauler was opened. Rescuer reports that it had been years since she had witnessed such a dreadful scene of neglect. Two dogs had died. Three had survived. Bingley was a Survivor.

It's fortunate that Gambling Man was found and the dogs were rescued when they were. A week later, San Diego County was engulfed in fires that would have made such a rescue impossible. Indeed, Bingley and his two buddies were among the dogs evacuated from the Greyhound Adoption Center kennel at the height of the fires.

Bingley knew nothing about houses when he first entered ours. We had put large pieces of paper on windows and sliding doors, so that he would understand that they were not starting gates and try to run through them. We put paper squares on the mirrored doors of my closet. But Bingley could still see the dog looking directly at him from inside the closet. No matter how hard he tried, though, he couldn't dig through the carpet to reach that dog. Each time I opened the closet door, he was poised--then puzzled.

Bingley learned to ask Portia's permission for just about anything. THE kong was the kong that Portia wanted. THE sofa was the sofa Portia wanted to laze on. Of course, as soon as Bingley got comfortable on the other sofa, Portia might--and probably would--change her mind. Bingley would let Portia have HER sofa.

The one place where Bingley ruled was out-of-doors. Houses and sofas and cushion beds and toys were wonderful, but they weren't a part of the world he knew. What he DID know was running--and chasing small or furry critters.

Portia might start a race in the back yard, but Bingley always won it.

Bingley changed--and still changes--from sweet, get-along doggie to SUPERDOG, once the front door opens. So he'd better be on leash. Shortly after he came to live with us, we discovered that he could duck out of a regular Martingale collar in a nanosecond and streak across TWO lanes of traffic in order to chase two Chihuahuas.

Both Chihuahuas and Bingley survived. But Bingley now sports a two inch wide, custom-made Martingale collar (thank you, Laurel) and a harness when he is out and about.

Bingley doesn't understand "Fetch." And certainly not "Bring it here." HE tosses. HE catches. HE keeps.

Bingley cannot always remember what "sit" means. But he remembers where he saw the last bunny in the park and which houses have cats.

The night of the attack, after Portia had been savaged and John had been bitten and fell, Bingley slipped out of both collar and harness and in spite of being bitten, he helped our neighbor, Jim, chase the attacking dog back to his yard. And very uncharacteristically for the high-prey Greyhound that he is, he returned to John promptly when he was called.

These sad two months since our beautiful Portia died, Bingley has been a constant solace to John and me. But we know Bingley is lonely. He's never been an only dog before, and not all the squeaky toys in the world can replace his pal, Portia.

We're thinking about finding another buddy for him. When we're ready. When we find the perfect--or next to perfect pal for our Survivor.

But today, it's time to say, Happy Birthday, Bingley, Bing, Bing-Bing, Bing-a-ling, Mr. Bingley, Mr. B. And many, many more.

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