Sunday, August 3, 2008

Momentos - Part 6

I was especially saddened by the news of Travis' illness and death at too young an age because, as they say, he and I go way back. Jigmo, as I shall always remember him, was one of the last Greyhounds of the original "JCKC 21", the original group of dogs that Pam Davis and some other Florida panhandle volunteers saved and brought into adoption, and which led to the founding of SEGA/GPA - Tallahassee. Well before the days of the Perry, Georgia meet-ups, Pam and I had agreed to meet up in Columbus so that I could take back a couple (I think) of Greyhounds. I'll never forget first laying eyes on Jigmo. Not only was he very physically handsome from a conformation standpoint, he seemed to just exude an incredibly vibrant athletic vigor and a bright-eyed, keen expression. They call it "the look of eagles" in racehorses. He moved with an effortless, lithe grace. You just knew from looking at him that there was something out-of-the-ordinary about him (and sometimes that can be a negative thing). It speaks volumes that I remember nothing about the other Greyhound that I was transporting that day. I kept up with him after Jen took him home, and was just a little disappointed when she changed his name to Travis. Nothing wrong with Travis, but I just thought Jigmo fit him. Jen always indulged me and let me call him Jigmo. We knew from day one that Jigmo was going to be a challenge. He liked little dogs . . . . for dinner. Jigmo stayed with me at the farm overnight once (I don't remember why), and a friend's pug was also there. I had Jigmo on lead, and we were standing in the dog pasture talking, with the pug on the other side of the gate. Unbeknownst to us, the pug had squeezed between the rails of the gate and silently wandered over to be with us (he lived with Greyhounds, and no doubt didn't think anything of coming over).Equally silently, and in the blink of an eye, Jigmo reached down and snatched up the pug and held him in his jaws. Only when the pug stared squealing did we realize anything was amiss. I immediately set about trying to secure the pug's release, to no avail. I shouted at Jigmo to let go; I took him by the collar; I whacked him on the back of the head. Nothing. Finally, only one thing to do: put my hands in Jigmo's mouth and pry the pug loose. Amazingly, though Jigmo kept a vise-like grip on the pug, he didn't growl at me or try to bite me, and didn't shake the pug or bite down harder like he was trying to administer the coup de grace. With all the strength I had, I pried Jigmo's jaws apart enough for the pug to simply drop out. The pug, no worse for wear, immediately got the hell out of Dodge and ran down to the house. He was completely uninjured -- his thick fur and body fat, combined with whatever bite inhibition Jigmo had exercised, had spared him from injury. I was the only casualty -- in prying Jigmo's jaws apart, I had dislocated a pinkie finger. Now I knew what Greyhounds with dislocated toes felt like. No big deal -- I held my breath and popped it back into place, and just had to be leash walked for the next 6 weeks . Clearly, Jen and Jigmo were a match made in heaven. Lord only knows what might have happened to him if she had not been willing to adopt him. (Possible answer: I might have adopted him and tried him at lure coursing, at which I'm confident he would have excelled.) Jen took what otherwise could have been negative energy and channeled it into Jigmo's several avocations. It truly would have been a shame to have limited his talent to running the 68 races of his career. I surely did enjoy following Jigmo's career, and always got a kick out of asking Jen, "Who brought you that fine hound ?" She always humored me by giving me partial credit. I credit Jigmo with our having Tuck on our team. When Tuck got off the truck here at the farm, my eye was immediately drawn to him precisely because he put me in mind of Jigmo. I knew I wanted to have a Greyhound like that around, and even though he doesn't have all Jigmo's talents, Tuck is great fun as a companion and runner. Jigmo was one of those Greyhounds who comes around only rarely. All Greyhounds have intrinsic value and worth, but Jigmo was one of the great ones, well and truly. I will miss him. - J.P.

Travis changed my life. If you told me four years ago that cargo vans, obedience and agility trials and dock jumping would be part of my life I would have raised an eyebrow and waited for the punch line. When I first met you I had no idea the level of achievement you aspired to reach. Earlier that year, you had accomplished what no other Greyhound owner had ever done. You and Katie had earned the very first Master Agility Champion title for a Greyhound. Not knowing a thing about agility I still recognized the importance. I saw you compete several times thereafter. Definitely something methodical and controlled about your movements. Nevertheless, I was impressed. My dogs at the time knew their name (barely) and when to go for a ride. Then I saw you compete with Travis. Katie was the equivalent of a Honda. Efficient, reliable, hard working. Watching you run with Travis was like watching someone steal a Ferrari. You two covered the agility ring with such speed and power. Accelerating over every jump and turning on a dime to hit the tunnels, chutes and contacts. I was floored. I knew that I was witnessing something special. I had to be a part of it. Over time, you and TJ perfected your skills and proved to be formidable competition to anyone who ventured into the 24" height class. With camera in hand and a mule-like stubbornness, I committed myself whole-heartedly. Whether it be early-morning scrambles to get one of the coveted parking spots at a Wills Park trial, or pulling the mother of all-nighters to shock the folks in upstate New York, or keeping the castle safe and sound while Long Beach gets their look, I'll be there, "making the hot chocolate". I will remember Travis best for the looks he put on people's faces. Whether it be a trial, a clicker class, or just out and about somewhere, TJ garnered attention anywhere he went. My heart swelled with pride listening to everyone cheer your runs or hearing the compliments that always followed. I truly feel honored to have been part of such an awesome force. I'll always miss Travis - such a good boy. I love you, Jen. - Stephen