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Happy Birthday Violet Rays!

During the second half of 2004, I slowly became unhealthily preoccupied with greyhound racing, and more specifically, with adopting a retired racer. Each day, I’d check, hoping for the magical moment when I’d see a dog and say, “That’s the one.” As with Emily, I was looking for an older creature or one with special needs (not special needs as in “doesn’t tolerate cats”). The special needs dogs are marked with a green heart on, which makes locating them quick and easy. 

I spoke with a woman who allegedly reads auras during the time I was searching for a dog and, truth be told, convincing my husband to come on board with the idea. The woman told me that my aura could be Indigo, though that would be unlikely as Indigos my age are uncommon (they would more likely be young children at the time), and recent ones, such as Michael Jackson and the Columbine killers, were evidence that I probably wouldn’t want to be an Indigo who's over 30 anyway. More likely, she thought, I was a Violet, which seemed about right. When I saw Violet Rays, a diabetic, red brindle on Petfinder, I knew she was the one, and I began campaigning for her adoption. 

I detest the racing industry and the stupid names they choose for the dogs, so I was surprised that she had such a nifty one. Though I was sure I was supposed to save Violet Rays, to say the adoption process did not go well would be a grave understatement. I inadvertently offended the rescue group when I told them that Violet was not as healthy as they claimed, and that her teeth would cost nearly $1,000 to clean. They threatened to take her away from me, and after mediators, pet psychics, three veterinarians, and six thousand dollars of veterinary care and supplies, I evidently demonstrated my fitness as a greyhound guardian, and was permitted to keep her. 

It took a year to regulate Violet’s diabetes, with fifty percent of that year spent at the vet and Violet dropping to under 50 pounds (her racing weight was 61). After having my third vet say, “I can’t help her,” I proceeded to specialists near Miami. Internist Dr. Toll gave me the best advice yet: "Stop going to the vet and regulate her yourself at home." And I did, and she gained nearly 15 pounds and was joyous and playful until . . . she went blind. We replaced her cataracts (via phacoemulsification) and she was delighted to have her sight back. For four months. Then her left retina detached and she began to go blind in that eye. Then she developed glaucoma.

Ah, but that doesn't stop her from running at top speed at the baseball field or the beach at sunrise, or leaping around the house while tossing her toys in the air and catching them, or correcting the behavior of any dog in the neighborhood, no matter how large.

The Great Food Wars
One thing I was thoroughly unprepared for when I adopted Violet was the controversy around what to feed her. I was shocked to discover that there’s an entire subculture of people who spend a lot–and by that I mean too much–time talking about poop, omnivore versus carnivore versus herbivore, raw food, and whether kibble is the food of the devil.

At first, I was swept into the cult-like energy of the raw foodists, who believe that raw meat and meaty bones should be the basis of the canine diet, as it replicates the diet of wolves in the wild. The idea is that if my dogs were in the wild, they’d maybe catch a rabbit, go for her stomach, which would contain some partially-digested veggies and maybe fruits (but no grains), then proceed to eat her, bones and all. However, if my dogs were in the wild, they’d be dead by now, either due to predators or choking on bones or stepping into traps meant for fur-bearing animals. They probably wouldn’t live past ten-years old, and they’d be hungry most of the time. I’m not quite sure why we’d want to replicate that.

Furthermore, just because a creature does something in the wild, doesn’t mean he should do it in your home if you want maximum health benefits and longevity. What’s the goal, here, to get greyhounds to live as they would in the wild, or to help them live happy, healthy, disease-free, long lives? (And the same goes true for people.)

This conundrum hit me when I was deep into raw food. And I mean deep. I would buy carcasses of chickens and rabbits from butchers, and procure oxtails and cow marrow bones to clean the teeth of my hounds (and I must say they did a fabulous job). I ground up greens and fed them no grains, and they produced what my husband called “diamonds” in place of poop. “Time to make the diamonds,” he’d say, inviting them for a walk.

But Violet’s blood sugar was way up during the raw food phase, despite all of the “experts” telling me that it was grains that would be a problem for her. I decided to ignore the raw food “experts” and feed Violet whatever appeared to make her the happiest and healthiest, as evidenced by her bloodwork, coat, skin, breath, energy, and of course, poop. And that hasn't been one type of food. She thrives on a diet without animal products as well as one with some animal products, but not on the diet of a carnivore.

My favorite Violet Rays story of all time occurred two years ago. I was walking her and Charles on a walking path that's like a corridor, where there's nowhere for them to go and they know almost everyone who might show up. I unhooked their leashes so they could run at full speed for a couple of minutes, and they had a grand ole time. On their final run, Violet was speeding toward me and her hind legs slipped on mud created by the virtually-nonexistent Hurricane Ernesto. She plowed into me and knocked me over and unconscious. When I came to, two wet noses were nudging my face and I had a pounding headache, a cut up knee, and a cut up, sprained arm, which was later put in a splint and sling.

The following exchange occurred between the woman who did my CAT scan and me.

CAT scan woman: Wow, you look pretty good for having gotten hit by a bus!

me: I didn't get hit by a bus.

CAT scan woman: They told me you got hit by a Greyhound bus.

me: I was hit by a Greyhound DOG, not a Greyhound BUS.

CAT scan woman: In that case, you look really bad.


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks so much for sharing this lovely story, Mary, with such an amusing ending. 🙂 Ella, the rescued greyhound who lives here, and her 5 four-legged housemates wish Violet Rays a very happy birthday.

    December 2, 2008
  2. Happy Birthday Violet Rays! And what a grand life you've been given a chance at having… From all that you've been through having Mary as a guardian was like hitting the mega-lottery! Lucky Violet Rays!

    That's funny with the "Greyhound bus" – I often pass a station here in town… with their blue racing dog logo and think how nice it would be if they just had a simple bus to symbolize their business. Oh well.

    Knock on wood, if all goes well in February my Midas will reach his 18th birthday. He is my vet's oldest patient. He's deaf, half blind and senility has set in. He forgets where he is, what door to come in from outside and has been known to just face a wall and stare… blankly.

    His body tells it's age not only with the grey but with moles, growths and warts not uncommon to the elderly in humans. Fourteen years ago he had ligament surgery – I carried him nearly everywhere and it healed just fine. Still, he has hip dysplasia and arthritis – the rimadyl is bad on his liver, but at his age it won't really matter…

    He's nothing fancy… no pedigree or bloodline – a pound mutt from a Georgia shelter. But I imagine (someday) when there are no more birthdays for him, I will reconcile that he had as best a life as I could provide. And he will be dearly missed.

    I hope Violet Rays Martin has a wonderful day with lots of sunshine, running, playing and napping in her cozy, safe world. But who we really honor today are her kind human companions whose generosity and compassion make it all so. What wonderful folks they are indeed! 🙂

    December 2, 2008
  3. Connie Graham #

    That exchange made me laugh so hard that it hurt! I am going to share this with my rescue friends. Violet Rays certainly has been fortunate to find a couple like you and your husband who were willing and able to put so much effort and money into getting her healthy. Wishing you and all your family members (regardless of the number of legs they have)much joy and many happy years together.

    December 2, 2008
  4. What a great post! Happy Birthday, Violet Rays! Much love and happiness to you and your family!

    December 4, 2008
  5. Bev #

    Roos to Violet Rays on her birthday from Beau (he'll be 11 in April)the Greyhound Miracle Boy.

    December 5, 2008

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