Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category


Saying Goodbye

January 23, 2014

It’s my last night with my boy Chester. Tomorrow the vet will come to the house at 12:30 and they will kill him. The nice thing to say is “put him to sleep” or “let him go” or “euthanize him,” but the reality is that they will stop my boy’s beating heart and all the Chester that is in him will suddenly be gone. And I will never see my Chester again, not the way I want to see him: here next to me. Just in memory, which is not at all a good substitute.

The vet is coming to stop his heart because I called and asked her to, because I can’t bear to see him like this any longer. Weak and falling down and afraid and confused about why his body just doesn’t work anymore. He is almost blind, and mostly deaf, and sometimes a bit senile, but the hard part is that he is still Chester. He is aware, and alert, and wants his crock-pot beef dinner, and wants to go outside with everyone even though he falls on the ice and shivers. He wants to do all the things he has always done. His mind is still Chester, but his body is giving up.

These are the hardest ones, when they are not ready in their own minds. When they are still just going about their days like they always have. The ones that I have lost to cancer have been ready to go, and have told me as clearly as if they could speak words. Chester is not ready. I know he isn’t. But there is nothing more I can do to make his little body support him. He has already fallen badly enough to injure himself more than once, and I am afraid to leave him alone for even a few moments. I cannot let him be hurt and scared and alone.

So I will hold him tight while the housecall vet does her thing and tries not to look at me while I am sobbing into his neck. And I will tell him it’s okay and that I love him and that he should rest now. Even though the first part is a lie, and it is not at all okay, and I am broken. Again. And slowly he will stop breathing and the part of him that is Chester will be gone in that last breath. It will be up to my memory to try to recreate the exact way he moved, and the exact sound of his bark; and maddeningly these things become diluted over time.

At times like these I desperately wish that I could believe in the Rainbow Bridge or something like it. I never have, even as a child, but oh god to have that comfort now. To think that he will be young and whole and playing again. To think that someday I will see him – see ALL of them that I ache for. I wish I could believe it. But as it stands my only comfort in this is the absence of pain. The absence of fear. For him, thank goodness, although not at all for me. With each one lost the pain seems unbearable, but there is no choice except to bear it. And with each one lost, the fear is the same: that I will forget some essential detail that made him who he was. That the quintessential Chesterness will be lost to me, both in reality and in memory, forever.  That he will die, and then keep on dying.

So tomorrow I will give him the only thing left that I can give him: the absence of pain and fear. And I will hold his head in my hands, and I will try to fix in my mind the exact softness of his fur which makes it unlike the fur of any other dog but Chester. The way the top of his head smells, the weight of his paw in my hand, the way his tongue pokes out of his toothless mouth. Things that photographs can’t remember for me. And I will try to wrap my head around the fact that he is really and truly and utterly gone from me, that what I have just done is irrevocable. No bargaining with the universe or god or my own mind can make it turn out any differently. And at some point I will have no choice but to get up from his dog bed, empty now, and go on with the day.

I have 10 years’ worth of memories of him, so many good and funny and wonderful. There will be moments with him that I’ve forgotten that will sneak up and surprise me, little gifts of him dropped into my lap. And in time it will make me happy and sad and then happy again to remember them. But what I want, what I really really really want, is for my boy to just stay here with me.



Oldies but Goodies

August 6, 2013

I was looking something up about Whitey’s recovery from his leg amputation the other day, and came across this post from the end of 2009. Go read it first.

I wrote it, obviously, and in fact I lived it. But I was still in tears reading it. Man, I still miss every last one of them. It seems like it all happened yesterday.

Since then, we’ve adopted a bunch more seniors. Whitey and Apollo both died in 2010, both of their osteosarcoma. Tigger (age 9 at adoption) came in February shortly before Whitey died. And Eyore (age 9 at adoption) came the same day that we let Apollo go. There has also been Boozer (sweet, sweet baby adopted at 13 years old, and gave us a beautiful year and a half), Sarge (age almost 12 at adoption and still with us), two staghounds (relatively young for me, only age 8 and 9 at adoption) named Frank and Kevin, and most recently Marvin Yellowstone (age 11.5 at adoption).

There are so many seniors out there waiting. So many, it breaks my heart every time I see one posted. It’s never their fault. They’ve lost the home they’ve known for most of their lives because of divorces, new babies, job losses, or worse — new carpet. And they don’t understand, and they are sad and scared.

But they have so much love to give, and so much life left in them. Even though their last people may have stopped caring a long time ago, gotten bored, gotten busy, whatever…. The dogs will still give their new people a chance. They will still trust, and they will still love with all they have. That’s what dogs do.

No dog deserves to spend his old age in a shelter, confused and missing his family. You can make a difference in that life. And the difference it will make in YOUR life will astonish you.

MNGR frequently has the opportunity to take in brood mamas from the Kansas farms. Sometimes as young as 7 or 8, sometimes as old as 10 or so. These ladies have put in their time working and raising babies for the racetracks, and they deserve a loving family and a soft place for their golden years. There are almost always brood mamas available, so please contact us if you might like us to bring one up from the farm for you. The alternative for these girls is not always a good one, and we can only take as many as we can place.

I also sometimes post seniors waiting with other groups to the MNGR Facebook page. If you ever want more info about any of these precious babies, please get in touch with me. Most groups are willing to move “special needs” and older dogs out of state to an approved home, and we can help with that! Don’t just look at the photos and feel sad. Or worse, don’t just scroll on by the photos to spare yourself the pain. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, donate. If you can’t donate, at least share the posts and give these sweethearts their best shot at forever.


Adoptions of 2012

December 29, 2012

2012 has been a fantastic year! We have done more adoptions this year than in any year since MNGR started. Thank you so much to all of our adopters, volunteers, friends and supporters. Without you, none of this would be possible. You gave hope to these hounds.

Double D

Sadly, we also had some losses this year. We are grateful that Ally, Bree, Little Bear, Bonnie and Harley knew the love of the Johnson family even for just a little while before the left for the Bridge.

We look forward to finding more families for hounds in 2013. Much love from our families to yours.

The Komatsus: Jen, Lloyd, Sunny, Maisy, Milo, Poppy – and hounds Chester, Brad, Hank, Tigger, Eyore, Beaut, Petey, Buddy, Kevin, Frank, Sarge and Bond.

The Johnson/Kittlesons: Kelly, Brad, Braeden, Alex, Calla – and hounds Paco, Al, Cal, Sally, Pluto, Suzy, Sady, Abby, Libby, Annie, Scoobie, Gracie, Amy, Killy, Daisy, Pilot, Sleet, Jump, and Roo

The Adoptables: Colby, Andy, Lady, Feet, Kacey, Cheech, Gem, Magnet, Ernie, Nova and Candykiss
See us at:


End of an era

May 26, 2011

Well, it’s the end of an era for Minnesota Greyhound Rescue today, and for the Komatsu family as well.  Today, we have a new van.  Due to our ever-growing family, we had to trade in Lola the Eurovan, our trusty Dogmobile, for a larger vehicle.  We purchased a 2005 Ford Econoline 12-seater.  We can get 4 car seats in there for human kiddos, plus take out some seats for furbabies.

While it was a necessary move, I am sad.  I loved Lola.  She has been a part of our lives since 2003.  While in Atlanta, we adopted our 4th greyhound (Tobey, still with us) and could no longer stuff everybody into my sweet little VW Beetle, Lulu.  We bought it new, shiny and beautiful, and then it lived, moved, changed with us as we added new dogs, packed up our lives and relocated to Minnesota, lost dogs, added new dogs, and added children to our lives.  We’ve had her in a million possible seating/storage configurations, stuffed her full of more things than one would have thought possible, driven with her to greyhound events in Iowa, Kansas, Jekyl Island in Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.  She has brought us hounds from all over the place.  Held up through their crazy shenanigans as just-off-the-track hounds.  Lola has been my gal.

Four hounds have died inside Lola.  When we said goodbye to Whitey and Palu (our very first greyhound), Dr M came out to sit in the van with them, and she let them go there, in a place where they were comfortable and unafraid.  My sweet and beautiful Sly stopped breathing in Lola as I frantically sped toward the vet, lost suddenly and unexpectedly to a pulmonary embolism.  A scene I still replay in my head, hoping constantly to arrive at a different ending somehow.  And Jazzy Jeff, a gorgeous fawn boy, left the world in our van after being with MNGR just two hours, never knowing a forever family.  His lungs were congested from something like canine influenza, and he could not cool his body down on the hot day.

Lola is tied up in so many memories.  She’s been a constant.  I’ve spent my first minutes with my newly adopted daughters in her, cried with a broken heart in her, sat with shaking hounds on seemingly endless middle-of-the-night rides to the emergency vet in her, welcomed new dogs in her, spent the early years of my marriage with her for the good and the difficult.  Hell, I’ve even made love in Lola.  I’m sure if you combed through her upholstery, you’d find dog hairs from my heart babies Crisco and Tanner, both gone now since 2009.  I had my last ride with Crisco the day before he died, to go pick up Apollo in Iowa.  Laid on Lola’s bed with him and tried to cajole him into eating just a little bit of peanut butter Blizzard.  What we’ve had to leave behind.

I hope her new family loves her as much as we have.  Yes, I know she’s a van.  Really, I do.  But she’s been there with us for a long time.

The new van’s name is Evangeline.  And we’re hoping to make a lot of good memories with her.


2010 Wrap-up

December 27, 2010

Another year is almost gone, and to 2010 I have to say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Three of our babies gone this year – Our brave Whitey, our very first greyhound Palu, and our gentle Apollo. I’ve learned more in the past year than I ever wanted to know about osteosarcoma, but I am at least grateful that the “What to Expect” blog seems to be helping some others in our same shoes.

Our pack has been reshaped again and again this year, losing both of our 3-leggers and our oldest member, and adding Tigger and Eyore. I love everyone in the current crew, of course, but it’s not our best mixture in terms of personality matches. The pecking order hasn’t fallen into place quite as well as it has at other times, and we often have little snips and snarks around here these days. So much shuffling, and no one really knows their place yet.

I still look around for dogs who have been gone 2 years. My beautiful Tanner. When I call their names to come in from the yard, I need to stop and think about who is alive and who is not.

It’s almost impossible now for me to go about my days without reminders of days I wish I could forget. Today on the way to a home visit, I drove past the clinic where Whitey and Apollo’s amputations were done. To go to the post office or Dairy Queen, I need to drive past the clinic where I raced with Sly, as he stopped breathing in my car. Dear little Sly, gone over a year now. I still turn my head as I drive past and try not to look at the building.

But I dearly love my Eyore and my Tigger. Tigger, so wiggly, with so many silly reminders of Sly. And Eyore, the first greyhound I’ve ever known who reminded me in the least of my heart-boy Crisco. Sometimes I feel like he is channeling Crisco for me, even to the look on his face. Each one breaks my heart, and the next one puts it back together in a different configuration.

My greatest hope for 2011 is for no one to leave our pack. No osteo. I could really use 12 months of absolutely no excitement.

I will remember 2010 for the closing of Dairyland Greyhound Park, and the tragedy of the 32 Ebro hounds. I hope that 2011 brings more and more track closing, but with safety nets in place for the hounds who will be displaced.

In 2010, MNGR took in our 100th hound since we began doing adoptions in Minnesota. The economy has made for a slow year of adoptions and donations, plus some sad relinquishments, and I hope that 2011 brings forever families to many of our hounds — ESPECIALLY DEAR BEAUT who has waited so long. I hope that 2011 is the best year yet for MNGR!

In our furless family, 2010 brought our new daughter Maisy from Beijing. And 2011 will hopefully bring another little one from China to join our family. I hope that Poppy will be happy and healthy and love being a member of our “pack.”

Wishing a wonderful 2011 to all our greyhound friends and families.


Goodbye, Larry.

October 19, 2010

Many of us loved you, sweet Larry.  I’m glad I got to play a tiny little part in your life.





September 21, 2010

I wrote this to my sweet Slider on the day he died, one year ago today.

To my sweet baby Slider,

You’ve been with us for 6 of the hardest months of my life.  When you came here, I was in so much pain from the loss of Tanner that I didn’t know if I’d ever be okay again.  I saw something in your photo on the Michigan REGAP site, and I knew you were meant for us.  And you were perfect.

No one could be around you and be sad for long.  You were irresistible.  You gave us so much in these past months, more than most people get to have in a lifetime.

Thank you for your tooth chattering.  It made everyone laugh.  Everyone at the Meet n Greets was instantly charmed by you, instantly wanted to hug you tight.  It sounded like you were going to rattle your teeth right out of your head.  But we know you did it when you were happy.

Thank you for being such a great Meet n Greet dog.  I know you helped a lot of dogs find homes during your time with us.  Everybody loved you.  They thought you were so pretty and so soft and so sweet.  You let little kids crawl on you, and helped me eat my French fries and cheese curds all summer long.  I’m sorry we kept bringing you to places with balloons.  You really hated the balloons.  It would have been better now that the festival season is over.

Thank you for your wiggly ambling walk.  You had such loosey-goosey hips, and you waved your tail all around.  It made us smile just to watch you trucking around the house and the yard.

Thank you for your paper shredding.  You went at it with such joy and abandon.  And persistence!  You really wanted the paper shredded right now.  Tissue paper was your favorite, but newspapers, napkins, whatever you could get your teeth on would do.  I loved to watch you do it, obviously enjoying yourself so much.

Thank you for your runaway-freight-train run.  You ran sideways, without regard to where you were headed or what might be in your way.  You ran out that way today to the yard.  When I came back to get you, I expected you to run back that way to me, like you always did.  You would run past me a little, turn, dance a bit, and run back up to me.  When we’d played that game once or twice, you’d come to stand next to me and nose my hand for pets, and we’d wait for the other dogs to be done.

Thank you for putting up with your brother Crisco.  He’s old, and achey, and grumpy.  He grumped at you an awful lot, but you never grumped back.  You just sat there calmly and waited for him to get over it.  He did love you, in his way.

Thank you for the way you snarfed down your bagel sandwiches like you were a snake swallowing a rabbit whole.  You’d be done with yours before Crisco had even managed to get the top off his.  It made us happy to see how enthusiastic you were about it.

Thank you for sleeping next to me, and helping to fill the empty space that Tanner left.  I could not bear to see that empty bed every morning.  It made me happy to see you there, curled up or sprawled out.

Thank you for your excitement about car rides.  Whenever you thought you had a chance of getting brought along on a trip, no matter to where, you were so excited we could barely get out of your way.  You barreled down the stairs and through the door….Only to stop and wait for us to lift your back end into the van.

Thank you for your soft bunny fur, and your little pudgy greyhound belly.  You were like a stuffed animal when I hugged you.

Thank you for putting up with Sunny, and maybe even liking her a little bit.  She called you Si-Si.  She always wanted to bring you along in the car, and she laughed at all your silly tricks.  You were just such an easy-going, silly, goofball.

Thank you for trusting us, after so much transition and loss in your life.  I really, really hope you knew how much we loved you and that we would have been with you forever.

Sly, thank you for saving me, when I was in such a dark place after Tanner died.  You brought smiles back to everyone, brought me new hope.  You brought back thoughts of happy times to come, when I had wondered if all my happiness had died with Tanner.  You were so much like him, that if I believed in such things I would believe that he sent you to me when I needed you the most.  Neither of you had a mean or naughty bone in your body.  You were both just pure goodness.  Maybe that’s why I lost you both so quickly.  No one deserves to have that much pure goodness in their lives for long.

Sly, I loved you so much that I even thought I might be able to stand the loss of Crisco.  You made me smile even today, as I sat with him and tried to wrap my head around the idea that I will lose him soon too.  He’s been my best friend for 7 years, and losing him will be like losing a part of my body that I need to survive.  To lose him so close on the heels of Tanner’s death is just too much.  But I thought that if I had you, my sweet boy, I could get through it.  It was too much to ask of you.

I don’t know what I will do without you, my silly old guy.  I truly cannot believe that you are gone.  So fast.  You were acting goofy and playing with your bunny not five minutes before you left me.  I just hope you know that you were loved beyond measure, and that you were finally home forever.

I love you Si Slider, Sly dog, pudge monkey, fuzzy little noodle.  I will never, ever forget you.

If all this rainbow bridge stuff turns out to be true, or some version of it anyway, please take care of Tanner.  You would really have liked each other.