One year ago today my home became warmer and brighter. It was when Tiger Jack Burke and I opened the door to our new love, Needa. We first met the lovely Anita Wood a few days earlier at one of the many Greyheart foster homes; this one was that of greyhound goddess, Robin Wittner.
Anita was a 3 and a half year old blond-brindle greyhound who had just been sprung from the Jacksonville racetrack a few days earlier. When they met, Jack’s first move was not a traditional butt sniff. . .he walked over to Needa, put his chin at the back of her neck and said nothing. Some people say this is a sign of dominance and I don’t dispute it, but it was also a sign of love.
Anita Wood was named after one of Elvis Pressley’s girlfriends, an actress from the 1950’s. After contemplating a name change to Jill or Diane, to better couple with Jack, I decided to stick with Needa to make her transition easier. She had never seen a mirror or a TV and most likely, never had been inside a house before she arrived at her foster home. She had never walked up stairs when I got her so it took a little coaxing with treats. She caught on quickly and then milked the whole thing for a couple weeks long after she got the hang of it.
Her adjustment period was fine but some things took a while longer through the winter. We were visiting my brother in Ada for Christmas and she experienced her first snowfall. As we went outside to walk, Jack stopped in his tracks and demanded to go back inside. Needa, on the other hand, loved the snow so much she almost walked the whole walk on her hind legs.
After Christmas she was still getting up at 4:30AM. . .no doubt kennel time for her in her previous life. When she’d wake up she would make playful chirping noises as she waited for me. It has always been her way to face the day with a smile and excitement. She dances like Snoopy when she sees I am awake with her face pointing upward and head turning side to side like she can hear Vince Guaraldi. This is usually followed by her “hi-ho silver” dance on and side swiping me on the way to the kitchen to make sure I know she’s there.
As for the 4:30 AM wake up? I needed it.
I went along with it though some days it wasn’t easy. She would tend to shift bowls half way through her meal to see what Jack was eating. He would let her but I didn’t think it was a good idea, so I’d reach down gently steer her back to her side of the feeding stand. You would have thought I had poked her with a rusty nail. She’d run into the other room and Jack would follow. I’d try to coax them out but neither would move.
This happened more than once and I’ll admit that part of dog rearing was not fun all fun and games. But soon it got better. I’d feed her and Jack, let them out and be AIS (ass in seat) by 5 AM to write every day. I’d break to take them for a walk and for lunch and would resume writing until about 8PM every day. This went on until late March and I can say with conviction I never would have finished my book without this early rising routine. I’d probably still be in bed, or worse.
Every day I tell people we meet that I could not imagine my life without them. I say that because it is true. These dogs brought happiness into my home again. Here’s to another milestone in the lives of two of the greatest champions of the heart.
If you are thinking of adopting a dog, please consider a greyhound. Unlike dogs you’ll find in shelters, this is a highly exploited breed; friendly, loving, grateful and waiting for you. Visit www.Greyheart.org to find out more, or stop by and see us sometime if you're in Royal Oak, Michigan.