Monday, July 30, 2007

No, It's a Whippet

When we leave San Francisco, Cleo stays there. This is one of the few kinks in our otherwise manageable lifestyle.

We've thought of bringing her on board disguised as an ugly baby. We have, in fact, debated every way to get her to Kentucky...other than stashing her in the cargo hold of our plane. Our lives aren't quite right without her.

Whippets are indeed the best kept secrets of the dog world. When I decided to get a dog, I began with a dog search engine. Sims and I entered all the significant adjectives: medium-sized, short-haired, quiet, gentle. No yappy dogs need apply. The answer came back the same each time: Whippet, Whippet, Whippet. I couldn't remember what a whippet looked like. Sims vaguely remembered the lanky hounds from reading the encyclopedia as a child.

Though her moods are mercurial, she's never disappointed us. We start the morning before Cleo does, particularly during San Francisco's foggy season. At daybreak she's usually sleeping soundly between us, having migrated there when we're in our deepest sleep. Later she'll lope to her chair and curl there like a brindle doughnut. With no padding whatsoever, she's always hunting a warm spot.

Heat-seeking, yes. A heat-seeking missile. The sound of leash-janglings transform her. In a flash she's at the door, ready for a sprint. As she loops in circles at Marx Meadow we continually explain: No, she's a whippet. this is our mantra as again and again passers by comment on her greyhound-ness. Whippets, in fact, were bred from runty greyhounds. Their lines stretch back to Egypt, and in Wales they were considered the poor man's greyhound--chasing rabbits for food and competing in spontaneous speed-matches.

When she's off-leash at Ocean Beach, she becomes Miss Congeniality. She flirts with small dogs, big dogs and occasionally meany dogs. When black labs bound into the surf she follows, the fabric of her dog-limbs translucent and kite-like. My heart stopped once when she racead away from me and sprinted alongside two horse-drawn sulkies trotting at low tide. It was like a scene from The Iliad, our graceful sight hound bounding beside the chariot racers. I was terrified for her, but transfixed by the timelessness of these graceful moving forms backlit by the sun.

When I'm in Kentucky I miss her amber eyes, too light to qualify for breed standard; I miss her occasional (and intentional) vocalizations--too speechlike to be considered barks. Most of all I miss her gentle spirit and ethereal nature--she enters the room as quietly as a shaft of light.

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