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Happy 12th Birthday Violet Rays!

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There she is . . . my girl.

She has beaten the odds and made it another year.

The life expectancy of greyhounds is 12-15 years. If they’ve raced, you subtract a year for each year of racing. Violet Rays was a very successful competitor and the offspring of a Hall of Famer, and she made someone a lot of money, winning race after race for the two years she was hauled between Oregon and South Florida.

I’m told that her performance was likely enhanced by injectable steroids, which had the unfortunate effect of shutting down her pancreas and rendering her diabetic. Of course, that also rendered her defective and she was therefore immediately “discarded.” She was adopted immediately, but returned almost as quickly because the people didn’t realize how inconvenient diabetes can be. Violet was just under four-years old.

Diabetes shortens the life expectancy of human and nonhuman animals, by years. If we conservatively say that it would shave a year off Violet’s life, and add that year to the racing years, that puts her life expectancy at . . . 12. However, once you add in her going blind from cataracts (which we replaced), and her retinas detaching (one completely, one not), and her glaucoma and cornea issues, her life expectancy dwindles further. Then there’s her hideous gum disease that has left her few remaining teeth in bad shape but without much to do for them (the vets won’t touch them).

She’s our 62-pound miracle.

We spent the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005 getting fired by vet after vet. And the ones who didn’t fire us gave us the pleasure of firing them. The problem was that Violet’s diabetes wasn’t regulated and no one could get it regulated. She spent week after week at the vet, day in and day out. Violet shrank to 43 pounds. We’re fairly sure she was about to die, and that was after spending $10,000 trying to save her. Her head hung low. She didn’t look anyone in the eye. Her eyes were vacant.

And then I met an internist named Dr. Toll at a veterinary specialty hospital about two hours away. He told me to stop going to the vet because that’s what was killing Violet Rays. She needed to know that I was committed to her life and the way I would demonstrate that was to keep her by my side and regulate her myself, using the same glucometer and test strips people use. He charged me $120, and within a month Violet was gaining weight and full of life.

And though she’s had her minor obstacles and surgeries, she’s been in remarkable shape for eight years. She’s slowed down a lot. And by a lot, I mean during the summer sometimes she’d go outside only to relieve herself twice a day. And by outside, I mean ten feet into the backyard.

Now that it’s cooler (under 80 most days), she’s perked up and on Thanksgiving she even whizzed around a baseball field with her new brother Stanley (more on him later!) for 10 minutes. And at top speed for about half that time. She’s still got it, and it’s beautiful to watch.

Violet’s not too keen on food these days, which is problematic for a diabetic because the insulin dose is contingent upon the amount of food consumed. And the dose can’t fluctuate by more than one unit at a time, therefore getting her to eat a whole meal is important. Unfortunately, Violet doesn’t like her vegan food or most other food, but will eat food that smells terrible for some reason. So I went through bag by bag of everything at our small pet health food store until I found the perfect combination of dead animals and their parts.

We do what we must.

For the past couple of months I’ve been saying that I’d be the happiest person in the galaxy if Violet Rays made it to winter and her 12th birthday. But now, of course, I want more.

Whatever Violet wants is the priority, though. She’s weak and tired and she should be! We had a rough start, but she’s had seven-plus years of vibrant life. She runs when she wants to run, she sunbathes when she wants and for as long as she wants, and she loves riding in the car so much that I take her around the neighborhood a few times a week just to see how delighted she is. And recently, she has allowed Baby Sky to sit next to her and gently touch her face. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

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Happy Birthday Violet Rays! Mommy loves you!

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. CQ #

    What a precious face peeking out from the couch.

    Is that Baby Sky or a doll lying in front of Violet Rays in the bottom photo?

    These lines warm my heart: "She runs when she wants to run, she sunbathes when she wants and for as long as she wants, and she loves riding in the car so much that I take her around the neighborhood a few times a week just to see how delighted she is. And recently, she has allowed Baby Sky to sit next to her and gently touch her face. I couldn't ask for more than that."

    So sweet. Happy day to your special girl, and happy many days ahead.

    Bemused, I wonder when Sky will say: "Mommy, my name is Skylar. I'm not a baby any more." (Did I get the spelling right?)

    December 2, 2011
  2. Happy Birthday Violet Rays – such a lucky greyhound to know the hand of human kindness but your Mum is even luckier to know your gentleness and warmth.

    x x x

    December 2, 2011
  3. That's Baby Sky, CQ! Sometimes she just lies next to Violet and touches her gently. Violet's not really kid friendly, and for years she'd growl if kids came at her face. We've taught Sky to avoid Violet, but lately Violet's been approaching Sky and standing next to her to be petted. Even on her face. So we've been allowing Sky to approach Violet, not touching Violet until we say it's okay, and then only with one finger at first. It's very sweet to watch.

    December 2, 2011
  4. Deb H. #

    While I love ALL your articles, this one really made me MAKE time to comment! First off, a HUGE, fuzzy, Happy Birthday to Violet Rays!! Woo-HOO, baby girl!! Way to go! And wishes for many more!

    Secondly, I think you, Mary, are one of the all-too-few epitomes of a REAL "animal person" there are in this world. The devotion and perseverance, understanding, compassion, duty and true, actionable LOVE you've shown to (all) your babies, is remarkable, too rare, and truly deserves a medal….but then, you have Violet, who is so much more precious than any such silly trinkets ever could be!

    Yours and Violet's story through her numerous health challenges reminds me SO much of mine and my own (feline) furson's and furdaughter's journeys with me and their daddy; now both transitioned, yet forever One with me still. And I'm so very happy that you've found one smarter vet to help you *keep* each other in your lives for as long as possible. Those, too, are a rare breed. I'm also reminded, with Forever Tears in my heart, of the ambiguous feelings of joy and relief of another birthday milestone achieved, mixed with the anxiety of the "I want more." I get that.

    But for now, let the bells peal, enjoy, celebrate the day, and bask in that blissful togetherness — why the "Present" of another birthday is here!!! Maybe an extra long car ride today would fit the bill? ;-)

    December 2, 2011
  5. Aw, happy birthday Violet Rays! That's so wonderful that she's had such a full life with you. It's amazing what the right vet can do, too. We've been through that with previous vets in similar ways. One of my kitties turned 19 in August and at that time, I was happy that she made it to her birthday, but like you, now it's always more. I just try to focus on the short term with her and enjoy every day I can. Our love sees them through. :)

    December 2, 2011
  6. Happy birthday, Violet! Lucy sends a nose-bump. She's 4, and I hope we get to have as many happy years with her.

    December 2, 2011
  7. Happy birthday, Violet! You're my canine superhero!

    (Also, I don't blame you for not wanting to move during the Florida summers. I probably wouldn't peel myself off the couch but twice a day in that heat, either!)

    December 2, 2011
  8. The Happiest of Birthdays to you sweet Violet! You've given your human family so much to be thankful for! And I am grateful too to know more of your amazing and special story.

    Huge, loving hugs sent your way! xox

    December 8, 2011
  9. Oh she's just beautiful. What a glorious face. My old cat got to nearly twenty-one.

    December 22, 2011

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