Monday, February 23

My Best Girl

She knew who her master was. She proved it by bowing down to me when I'd come home at the end of the day. She greeted me on weekend mornings with the biggest smile, showing me how much she loved me. When I stole the bedcovers she never complained. If I wanted to sit where she was currently perched, she would always graciously move out of the way. When I was sick, she would stay by my side, doing everyting she could to make sure I was warm and comfortable. She never talked back. She was a good traveling companion.

She was my first greyhound, and I loved her like I'd never loved any animal before.

She wasn't a very good racer, so she was retired at age two. Her name was Miracle 2 B Alive, Miracle for short, because she had pulled through some catastrophic illness as a puppy. She was a gorgeous tiger stripe orange and black brindle. When she ran, she looked like embers on the wind. I named her Blaze. She smelled of hay and fur and summer and living things.

She was very much a girly girl. In the spring she did a strange slow-motion dance around flowering shrubs, mooooviiing thiiiis foooot theeeen theeeee oooootheeeer, nose deep in the blossoms, inhaling the sweet intoxicants, a gangly ballet dancer gliding at 1/20 speed round and round. She delighted in joining my wife and daughter in nail painting sessions. They would coat her toenails some gaudy color, and Blaze would prance through the house, lifting her paws high, and show Daddy what a pretty girl she was. She loved comfort. If there was an expanse of tile or wood, you could lay a washcloth on the floor and she would lie on it. She played with the other dogs, a skinny, goofy clown all legs and ears and nose, but when the boys got too rough, she would steal away for a nap or watch from a distance. She had a great mothering instinct, putting up with all sorts of indignities when my children were small.

She turned 13 in December, a redwood tree for a greyhound. We know how old she was because greyhounds have their birth month and year tattooed in one ear. We didn't know the exact day, so we made it Christmas because she was such a gift.

It has been a rough time these last 12 months. When my brother went AWOL and was later found almost dead, I felt the world on my shoulders. Blaze still greeted me with a bow, not quite as deep, but beautiful with her paws stretched forward, nose to the ground, tail held high. It made me know somebody loved me no matter what. When finances became so tight I thought the world would collapse, Blaze lifted and pulled back her doggie lips in a comic facsimile of a smile. It made me know that love is more important than money. When layoffs arrived at work and my department mutinied against me, Blaze snuggled against me on the couch and rubbed her long-nosed head against my chest. It reassured me that love is stronger than hard times. Two cancer scares, strange minor maladies, a recovering brother that brought tremendous family stresses, bounced checks, parenting worries. Through it all, beautiful brindle Blaze was there, more grey than black, slower but no less wonderful, a constant in my life when everything else was change, uncertainty, exhaustion, and fear.

Three days ago it was plain there were no better days ahead of her. She had lost control and couldn't make it outside, she limped on a front leg, her hips quivered when she stood, she would stand vacant eyed in the middle of the room and whimper at nothing. She wouldn't eat and became a stick of a dog. My daughter went with me on Blaze's last trip to the vet. Just before her final moment, Blaze looked up at me with confusion and love. I felt my heart burst in a nova of grief and guilt. My daughter held me as I sobbed and sobbed.

Her name was Blaze, and I loved her like no animal before. She was my best girl.

Goodbye, my Blazer girl. I rescued you and you rescued me back.