Genna at Two Years Old With My Stepdaughter Sarah in New Albany
Peace Piece / Bill Evans
Someone once said that a dog is the only thing in the world that loves you more than it loves itself. This is certainly true with the ten-year-old greyhound Genna we had to put to sleep just two days ago. It seemed like a good time for Steph and I to get out of town and visit the Amish country just an hour and a half north of us from the northeast part of Columbus, Ohio. From our home in New Albany.
I wanted to get Steph away over the weekend. This was her fourth greyhound and she had to talk me into getting Genna as I wasn’t ready for another dog at this time in my life. Ever since Steph and I have been together, I knew that she had a special love for greyhounds. She told me how special they were and did not have the same DNA as other dogs.
When I was dating Steph, I got to know very well her boy greyhound Tommy, a 95 pound greyhound that dominated the couch in the Columbus condo she was living in. I got to know what a sweet animal he was and so gentle and sweet. Indeed, he was unlike the other dogs I had through my life. A fox terrier named Spot. An Airedale named Beverly. Brown poodles named Dolly, Coco, Bruiser and Winston. Coco – the mother – had a top pedigree and her parents were national champions. My mother won her in a raffle at a golf course in Miami Beach in the 1950s. Her puppies were Bruiser and Dolly. Coco was a miniature poodle and her boy Bruiser also a brown miniature poodles while Dolly was a brown toy. Then, there was the gold cocker spaniel Gustav that grew up with my two oldest sons. Or, the white westie named Tucker my daughter and youngest son grew up with.
One day, Steph called me in a panic and said that Tommy had just died. It was so unexpected. But then, this is the way some rescued greyhounds with old track injuries often die. The old injury causes bone problems and other problems with greyhounds. I immediately drove out to her condo. The large shape of Tommy lay still on her floor carpet like a great island in some sea. Her son Drew and I put Tommy in my car and we drove out to a place in Columbus to have him cremated.
* * *
After dating for a few years, Steph’s greyhound Tommy was never replaced. We both decided to leave Columbus and move back to California. I was born there and Steph had lived in LA for thirty years.
We decided to move to Palm Desert, California next to Palm Springs, two hours east of LA. My parents had lived in Palm Desert for more than forty years and it was like a second home to me. When I was growing up in LA, my family would often go on vacations in Palm Springs.
Within a few months of moving to Palm Desert, we drove to Las Vegas and got married. Steph was working as a sales person for the Tiffany store in Palm Desert and I was taking a lot of photos and writing a lot and spending time on the board with the Writers Guild of Palm Springs. Over the years, I had become a so-called “desert rat” with a love for the desert. But Steph wasn’t so sure about it and its summers of 120 degree days. She was more interested in returning to the California in Calabasis. Beverly Hills, North Hollywood and Santa Barbara.
Palm Desert was somewhat a test step for us back to California. My mother was 90 years old and it seemed a good time to be around her and – at the same time – slowly get back into California for Steph and me.
We looked at properties in Los Angeles during our first years of marriage. But were also shocked by the incredible prices for real estate in LA versus what they were back in Ohio.
* * *
Still – picking up on the greyhound “thread” of this story – no greyhound for us during our almost four years living in Palm Desert. This is not to say that Stephanie was not interested in them anymore. This is the opposite of the truth. She would always excitedly point one out whenever she saw one. She knew all their various colors and could identify them quickly. One weekend, we stayed at a boutique hotel in downtown Santa Barbara and Steph excitedly pointed out that out the synchronicity of finding our room right across the street from a Greyhound Bus station.
We had lived in Palm Desert for three years when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She passed away at 93 in October of the year. Over the years since first dating, I had gotten to know Steph’s family very well. Her father was a retired professor at the Ohio State University while her mother a leading real estate agent. Both were getting up in age and I think we both felt it a good time to be around them in a similar way we thought it was good to be around my mother.
By June of the next year we bought a home in the New Albany part of Columbus, Ohio.
It was then that Steph started thinking seriously about getting a rescue greyhound like her others. We started visiting “meet and greet” events with greyhound rescue groups at local Petcos around Columbus. It was a chance for potential adopters like us to meet greyhounds just off the tracks. Most of them around two years old. And most had spent their first few weeks at the women’s prison in Marysville. It was a chance to meet other greyhounds looking for homes. Steph and I spent a number of weekends meeting greyhounds at Petcos.
One weekend, Becky from a greyhound rescue group in central Ohio called and said she had a few two year olds and to come on out. We drove out to Becky’s home in Granville only ten miles from our home. There we saw a few young greyhounds available. The one that we immediately caught our eye was a black 70-pound girl. Her official racing name was Brasaka Genna.
We took her home and got a large cage where she went a lot. Greyhounds were kept in cages and she felt safe in a cage in her new environment. But then, tragedy struck. Steph’s mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer but took a terrible fall that led to her passing in just a few days after her fall. Steph’s father was very much shaken up and Steph lived with him much of the time during the first few weeks we had Genna. The two of us really bonded during these few weeks.
Move ahead almost eight years. My doubt of having another dog has been totally smashed by my affection and love for Genna. Each morning, she wakes me by putting her head under my arm. After each mean she comes and stands next to me while a rub her back. Her favorite thing in the world is getting what is known as a Greenie.
* * *
Genna was relatively healthy for a greyhound. I took her to the dog park a lot and she amazed everyone when she would have a burst of speed. For the most part – though – she walked slowly around the perimeter of the dog park as greyhounds are taught to follow these perimeters on the racetrack. She wasn’t that sociable with other dogs but the few days that other greyhounds were at the park you would think she had found long lost siblings.
But she did have episodes of seizures related to old spinal injuries. Her seizure, we took her to the big emergency place in Columbus. Last New Year’s Eve she had another and we took her back there and waited all night to see a vet. After all, it was New Year’s Eve.
The one that took her happened only three days ago as I write this. She was perfectly normal the day before it happened. Eating fine and acting her usual self. Lying on the couch in her roach stance of legs up in the air. Watching me check my email in the morning. Doing her usual ritual of circling a few times before taking a pee.
* * *
I knew this was different. Genna stood frozen next to our dining room table. Not even wanting a Greenie cookie, I said to her. But this didn’t get her attention. Her eyes were distant and she breathed heavily, saliva coming out of mouth, her long tongue in her long mouth hanging out. She stood next to me for a few minutes as Steph quickly got ready so we could take her to our vet.
Then, she collapsed and began thrashing about the flood. Her brown eyes distant. Not really seeing what is close around her. I’m not sure she even saw me. It was hard to tell.
She lay by the leg of our dining room table. Not moving. I thought it was bad enough that we might just lose her right now. Her condition had deteriorated that much in the half an hour she had gotten us up.
In ten minutes, Steph’s son Drew arrived and we carried her on a stretcher into the back-seat of my Jeep. Then, rushed to our vets where they were waiting with a stretcher to get her out. The vet came out and told us that Genna had almost lost a tooth in the fall and that she needed to operate so that the tooth would not dislodge and go down her throat and potentially choke her. But putting her under in her condition – she said – was risky as she was showing signs of a seizure or stroke.
My Oldest Son Alex With Genna in Downtown New Albany
We left and went home. The vet said she would call us when she was going to operate to remove the loose tooth. She said it would be around noon. But she called at 11:30 am and said Genna was showing signs of several seizures with her eyes wondering. She was becoming increasingly concerned with Genna.
Steph and I listened together on the phone at what our vet told us. Things kept going downhill with Genna.
Then, there was the call from our vet around 1:30 pm. Genna has shown severe seizures. She still has a call into the vet neurologist at the big emergency center in Columbus. But so far, he has not called her back. We both looked at each other and mentioned having her put to sleep, putting her down, to the vet. She said it was of course our decision but it was the reasonable thing to do she felt.
Steph shook her head and I told our vet we would be out there in about ten minutes. That we wanted to say goodbye to Genna.
* * *
We arrived at our vet’s place and were directed into a room right off the lobby. We went in and saw Genna lying on her side with her tongue hanging out. Steph went over and put her hand on Genna’s head for a second. I followed by putting my hand on her head. Her eyes were distant. Even more distant than before.
There were two nurses and the vet in the room. One of the nurses asked if we wanted Genna’s ashes in an urn. No, Steph said. Or, what about a paw print? No to this also Steph said.
I left the room in our vet’s office and went to pay the various expenses for Genna. Then I left the vet’s office and saw Steph standing out by my Jeep in the parking lot. She wasn’t looking out on anything it seemed to me. Just looking out on a major road project in town making room for the influx from the $20 billion Intel investment at their state-of-the-art chip plant in New Albany. There was a major upgrade program on roads in preparation for the huge Intel operation.
Genna at 8 Years Old / Relaxing on Her Favorite Floor Pillow
The passing of a beloved pet is a tragic event. One has a number of these “aliens” from another way of viewing life living with one during a lifetime. They come and go into one’s life sometimes by mere luck or coincidence. Or, related to certain events as in my life. Our family decision to have dogs. My mother and her poodles. My oldest sons and Gustav. My daughter Cassie, Matt and the Westie Tucker. Or, Matt’s dog Biggie, an English Bulldog.
Everyone takes dogs as some common experience and taking it as such never gives it much thought. As Marshall McLuhan observed about the invisibility of our surrounding environments of contexts or mediums, dogs are so taken for granted so that few consider the relation between humans and the animal kingdom dogs symbolize.
But this was different for Genna and me. There was an unspoken love between us that I’ll never be able to explain. As if explaining it all even mattered in the first place.
* * *
Telling our vet to put Genna down was wearing on both of us after the event. In some ways I wished Genna had just up and died by herself after all of this without the intervention of Steph and me.
A day after the event, I suggested to Steph that we should get away for the weekend. It would be good for both of us. A method of stress reduction that was much needed at the present time for both of us.
The best place for this?
I had always wanted to go up to the Amish area just an hour and a half north of our home in New Albany. It was Holmes County, the largest congregation of Amish in America.
Relatives had also told us about the incredible museum of the greatest wood carver in history Warther in Dover, Ohio.
I made a reservation at the Berlin Resort on the western edge of the town of Berlin in the heart of Ohio Amish country for Friday night. We drove up to the famous Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio on Friday morning.
* * *
It was one of the saddest drives of my life.
Stephanie felt the same way.
To be clever, I thought that making a great loop of the area would be best rather than going up the traditional 62 out of New Albany through Johnstown and other towns like Utica, Danville and Killbuck. So, rather than going northeast on 62 out of New Albany, I took 161 straight east into Newark and then SR 16 up to Dover.
My goal was the Warther Museum in Dover which housed the work of the world’s greatest wood carver. I had everything all fixed on my iPhone as to mapping the trip to the Dover and the museum.
The road north from Newark toward New Philadelphia and Dover passed through some of the loneliest countryside I’ve ever seen in Ohio. It was almost as if we were in some different state or country. Stephanie felt the same way. No signs or any way off the little two-lane road that wound through a long valley all the way up to Dover. The little road seemed to invade private spaces of farmhouses along it. Here and there, we passed an Amish buggy on the road.
Maybe it was Genna’s presence that dominated that morning drive?
Our getaway trip to Dover and Amish country was filled with memories of Genna.
Our plan was to visit the museum of Ernest “Mooney” Warther in Dover and then drive over to spend the night in Berlin in the heart of the Amish country. I had never been to Amish country and decided to take the long way up through Newark and then on what seemed like the endless winding SR 16 that went through tiny towns of no more than a few homes and an intersection.
An hour into our drive we passed an Amish buggy pulled by a horse. It was a cloudy day and there were hardly any other cars on the road. The sky was darkening and rain was forecast. We drove in silence without the car radio on. Both of us thinking about Genna.
In the silence of our drive the quote that a dog is the only thing in the world that loves you more than it loves itself bounced around my memories of Genna. But there was another part to the quote. A dog is something loved more than so many other things in life.