The day we took Portia to Greyhound Adoption Center kennel to choose a companion for her, the first dog we considered was a large black male who had retired at five years of age, having completed a full racing career. A rare feat in the harsh world of Greyhound Racing. Jumble and Portia played and played and played. He brooked no nonsense from her, but she never backed off. I assumed that we would be taking Jumble home. But John was concerned about Jumble's size, combined with his assertiveness. He doubted that I would be able to control Jumble on walks. So Darren, the dog behaviorist and profiler, asked the kennel volunteer to bring out another dog. He was a red fawn with a slightly shortened tail and about ten pounds lighter than Jumble.
I didn't pay much attention to him at first, but he eventually stole my heart and we chose him that day: our dear, sweet, funny Bingley.
A few weeks later, Jumble was adopted by a young man who was much better suited to his rough and tumble style than we were.
Yesterday I received the sad news that Jumble has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A victim of cancer.
I have shed some tears over the big, courageous creature that might have been my own companion. And as I told my friend Marilyn, who delivered the sad news, I might have been prostrated in grief right now instead of merely sad.
Thursday, the day that Jumble died, I had a serious dog conversation with a very nice, thoughtful lady who is applying to adopt a Greyhound. Several years ago, she lost three dogs in short succession. The experience had been so painful, it has taken years for her courage and love of dogs to outweigh her fear of losing a dog she comes to love. She was trying to figure out a way to protect herself from that eventuality.
She had no way of knowing that I, too, had lost three beloved dogs in a relatively short period of time: Daphne, Zephyr, and Portia. Their names and images clear in my mind as I was listening to her.
So, at the risk of losing what sounded like a really nice home for a needy Greyhound, I told her what I believe to be the truth:
"It's a crap shoot."
Dogs bring many graces to our lives. But one of those graces is a Tough Grace. It's the lesson that loving always risks painful loss. But Dog People know that dogs are worth it. Dogs lives are shorter than humans' lives. So when you bring a dog into your home, puppy or senior, the odds are good that one day you will feel the searing pain of the loss of that rare creature: a creature who doesn't criticize, is always happy to great you, will never gossip about you behind your back--and that's just a short list of a dog's virtues.
Today, a young man who adopted a big, active dog--just perfect for his lifestyle--is grieving. My heartfelt condolences go out to him. And so does my gratitude. I know that that young man gave Jumble the best years of his relatively short life.