Saturday, January 7, 2017
Kiowa CSI or Cy as he became known to us, came to us directly from the race track in Birmingham Alabama. We were regular visitors and sometime volunteers to the adoption kennel at the track where retired racers would be "petted out". I remember passing by the rows of kennels where each and every dog would press up to the front of their kennel eager for a chance to get some attention and meet new people. Each and every dog except Cy. Cy would squeeze himself as far back in his kennel as possible seeming to hope no one would notice him. Cy didn't want attention or to be noticed, he was terrified of everyone and everything. It was sad to see, a genetic anomaly in the greyhound world similar to a K9 version of autism.
To say Cy was a spook is an understatement, Cy was a nervous wreck. Due to his demeanor he didn't present well to perspective adopters and had spent well over a year in adoption, an unusually long time. I remember Cy having to be dragged out of his kennel literally kicking and screaming to be turned out. Thanks to the dedicated staff at the center who always believed that given the chance, and just the right family, Cy would blossom into a great companion, he managed to stay off the kill truck, a fate reserved for dogs with irreversible injuries, terminal illnesses and the unadoptable.
When we met Cy, we already had a greyhound at home. Mickey (WV's McDowell) was a perfectly adjusted pup with the most prize winning personality. Mickey was a true ambassador to greyhound adoption and a much loved member of our family. Thinking if anyone could teach Cy the ropes of being a retired racer, and how to relax and enjoy home life, Mickey could, we decided to bring Cy home and give him a chance to have a pet's life. It was a commitment we made and a challenge we accepted with hope and some reservations, Cy was a mess and not well adjusted in any regards.
We brought Cy home and we set up a crate in a quiet spare bedroom. The door to the crate was left open so he could go in and out at his leisure, but the door to the room was closed for his peace of mind. He was given food and water in the room, but had to come out of his crate to get it. After a few days, we started leaving the door to the room open to give him the opportunity to explore his new surroundings as he gained his confidence. After about a week he eventually ventured out of the room to peak around the corner at us, but if we made eye contact with him he would flee back to the crate and huddle down far in the back. Eventually we learned to pretend he wasn't there and let him "sneak up" on us for a few investigative sniffs. One day, a couple weeks after we brought him home, he came out of the room and started investigating the rest of the house. He took cautious sniffs of all the things he had never experienced before like carpet, TV, furniture, a weird fat little creature with a waggly tail (Karson the beagle), and hardwood floors. One day, not long after, he ventured out of the room and never went back in. Our plan was working.
Eventually Mickey started showing Cy all about home life. She showed him how to lounge on furniture, how to kill stuffed animals, how to sleep on the people's bed, and how to ask for potty breaks. For months we had this game where Cy would get his front half onto the bed, but not have the confidence to make the leap. He would get half onto the bed like a child reciting their nighttime prayers, then look at you with a pathetic sad eye expression and ask to be helped the rest of the way. We eventually discovered this was Cy's quirky way of asking permission, as we would often find him on the bed when we hadn't been in the room, but each time we were present we would go through the sad eye help me up game.
Because of his spookiness, or maybe despite it, Cy was the ultimate watchdog. If anyone ever had the nerve to walk on the street past our house, or knock on our door, Cy would bark, snarl, and growl like no one's business. He would sound mean and extremely intimidating, yet should anyone make it past the door and into the house he would run and hide. Not daring even one investigative sniff of the scary intruder. Even for regular visitors to the house, it would take prolonged and numerous visits before they got the chance to even see Cy, and to actually meet him, they would have to play the sneak-up game and avoid eye contact at all costs. Although Cy enjoyed walks, should someone approach, as walking greyhounds always garnered attention, Cy would crush himself in to us as close as he possibly could and shake uncontrollably. Cy relied heavily on habit and ritual, and would become scared and nervous when things changed in the house. A new plant or rearrangement of furniture could make him nervous for days. Any misplaced object would warrant a full and cautious sniffing investigation. Cy would do things on his own terms, there was no rushing the process, but once he was comfortable with you, you were a friend for life.
Cy and Mickey became inseparable, they formed a tight bond and enjoyed being together. They would lounge together and snuggle in tight, never grumbling or growling, always sharing space, food, and water. Mickey showed Cy how to relax and be a pet, how to enjoy the company of people and how to have fun. While Cy never fully transformed into a well adjusted pet, he did become much more comfortable and somewhat confident. He went from being an almost feral spook to being a timid but mostly happy pup. When Mickey passed away Cy was devastated to the point that he completely shut down. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink and became sad and depressed. To help him out we decided to bring in another greyhound, and then another, and while it worked and brought him out of his depression, Cy never formed a bond with our other hounds like he had with Mickey. While they co-habitated and got along for the most part, in his later years he was just annoyed at these young energetic new kids on the block. He became a grumpy old man who saw them as children playing on his lawn, and there were constant grumbles over lounging space.
A few months ago at just shy of his 11th birthday, Cy became unable to hold in food. He was constantly sick and uncomfortable. Having gone through the same symptoms with Mickey who struggled for months until we got a cancer diagnosis, we wasted no time in performing all the tests available. While his diagnosis never came, hand cooked meals of boiled beef and rice along with medication could not reduce his discomfort. Sadly Cy had been loosing weight and energy, became frail, seemed to be in pain and had lost any joy he once had. We made the hard decision to help Cy cross the rainbow bridge.
Although Cy never seemed truly comfortable in his own skin, he learned to love and trust people, he learned to look to us for comfort and protection, and most importantly, he learned how to be a pet. He had his quirks, but in our eyes that only made him special. And he was. It was a rare and wonderful experience to watch him expand his comfort zone and develop his own personality, and hopefully now, he can fully find peace. We loved you Cy, you were unique and very special to us. God speed and run free sweet boy. You will forever be in our hearts.