Casey was an only child. Sometimes she pined for a sibling then changed her mind, preferring to get all the attention and possibly more Christmas presents for herself. Moon in Leo. But like so many kids she wanted her own pet who would be her loyal friend, who would never betray her and stick with her at her worst when she’d stomp off to her room to cry, scream and pound it out.
Erika and I stalled for time. We got her a pet rat named Banjo, but rats don’t live long. We had our cat Grimsby, but Casey looked at him as our cat. We got her a Tomogotchi digital pet. We went to dog shows and got her books on dogs which she devoured, falling in love with a half dozen breeds until she got to W – whippets. They’re sprinters bred to chase rabbits, 35 MPH couch potatoes, skinny, quiet and gentle.
We got Igor from a gay couple in the East Bay who mostly bred boxers when they had a litter of 10 whippets from 2 champions from Ohio. Igor was born with a twisted foot, thus the name Igor, like Dr. Frankenstein’s crippled assistant. Casey was also reported to have been born with a twisted foot. But in both cases their feet were fine.
In our first month together Igor didn’t make a sound, and then he barked at something, a deep bark that surprised us all, probably over a squirrel. He loved going to the Mill Valley dog park where he’d goad the other dogs to play chase. They never caught him. One day he ran off to the far side of the park where a woman with fiery red hair and a white streak tended to her little dog. Casey ran after him and we saw her talking to the red haired woman. It was rock star Bonnie Raitt. But then Igor got attacked and bitten by other neighborhood dogs and he didn’t want to play chase anymore, preferring to stick to himself. Igor never ever bit or hurt a flea (well OK except for Sandra’s bird); he was a beta dog who loved to sleep under Casey’s covers up against her stinky feet.
Then one January morning Casey literally disappeared.
Igor became our prosthetic to survive. He endured injuries, more dog bites, heart disease and old age until his running days were over. He lost 10 pounds which would be like me losing 50 pounds. He labored for breath. Erika doted on him because she needed to dote on something. It’s so hard to read an animal in distress and Igor hung in there like a trooper until his enlarged heart and massive tumor in his abdomen made life too painful.
Yesterday we sent him off to the dog park in heaven where he rejoined Casey, but also Grimsby, Lola, Ruby, Rosie, Dakota and Hunter, among others. He’s no longer in pain and can run to his whippet heart’s content.
As for Erika and me, we wake up to his empty bed and half finished food bowl. The house is still … again. We have to find new routines. And at least for now we can’t allow ourselves to fall in love with another pet only to endure the pain of loss again.