I am preparing to grieve for my beloved greyhound Geordie – Helen Martin

When parents have retired and don’t have to go to work every day, and their children have grown up and left the family home to live in their own house or flat, the urge for many is to buy a puppy or rehome a dog.
Helen Martin's greyhound, Geordie, has cancer and may only have a few months to live (Picture courtesy of Helen Martin)Helen Martin's greyhound, Geordie, has cancer and may only have a few months to live (Picture courtesy of Helen Martin)
Helen Martin's greyhound, Geordie, has cancer and may only have a few months to live (Picture courtesy of Helen Martin)

I’ve always had a cat, but they’re independent. Dogs can’t be left alone for more than say, four hours, which is fine if only one of a couple is out daily to earn money.

For the retired, walking a dog several times a day is a healthy occupation. But also, as many admit, having the canine pet is like having a child again.

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The list of toilet training, feeding and treats, teaching them to recognise their name call, vaccines, washing, creating their bedroom, providing their rain coats, playing games with them, buying them toys and much more, does become partially similar to the days of one’s young kids. And, like human bairns, many dogs grow up to “adulthood”.

Children, apart from horrific tragedies, are likely to outlive us. But loyal, loving dogs with their own personality, usually become aged and problems can start from about ten years old.

That happened to our first greyhound whose back gave up and he had to be put down at 11 years old by our local vet. We sobbed.

The worst tragedy was our second greyhound who we had only for one year before he died suddenly of a fatal gastrointestinal condition, even with Dick Vets trying to save him.

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To be honest, I had to see my GP because I couldn’t eat, sleep, stop crying or deal with the mysterious, sudden loss. He’s a dog lover too, and gave me diazepam to cope with the bereavement.

Back in a November column, I wrote about our current greyhound, Geordie, having been diagnosed with cancer. He was a racer for four and a half years, our pet for the next four and a half, and later this year he’d be ten.

We discussed with our vet and agreed to reject amputating his leg or so much of his paw that he wouldn’t be able to walk. Now his paw tumour has grown and bleeds, he’s on painkillers and other medications, but still loves his food, enjoys short walks, lets us know if he needs to go outside again for the toilet, sleeps happily a lot during the day, spends time with the cat, and is excited with treats after his meals.

I’m doing the tumour bandaging twice a day which doesn’t hurt him but his energy has fallen, and some of his movements are limited. We know we’re going to lose him, probably within a few months (maybe earlier or later) when he’s not well or happy enough to go on.

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We’re hoping that we might be somehow more prepared for him being put down than if it was a sudden, shocking tragedy. There’s no guarantee.

Will we get another dog? Maybe, but this is not a time to decide. Will we always remember him? Yes, of course. He’s a member of our family. Even when he retired from racing, like many greyhounds he went through the household puppy phase he’d never had a chance to enjoy. He’s our beloved boy.

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