Allow me to introduce you to the world's longest nose and the sweetest dog to ever live: Gina Bernadette. Gina got cancer last summer, and we had to say goodbye to her after almost ten years. I'm glad to have immortalized her and her unique breed in The Senator's Youngest Daughter. Potiphar, the family dog in my story, is black, while Gina was what is called "fawn" in coloring.
Matt and I "rescued" Gina before we had our babies, so neither of our boys could even remember life without her when it was time to say goodbye. Her passing was harder on our then-five-year-old than I expected. I am glad we took them along to put her to sleep, as our kindergartner really needed to see that it didn't hurt. She just heaved a sigh and curled up with us the final time; her collar and ashes are still in my bedroom.
We have a different dog now, but he's a little more traditional. He plays catch, barks, sniffs butts, freaks out when he sees other dogs, and does all the things normal dogs do. But these things are all new to me since Gina wasn't into "normal" dog stuff. Gina was very passive, even for a greyhound, so with her as my first dog ownership experience, there was a steep learning curve that poor Boomer (Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever mix from a shelter) had to walk me on.
Greyhounds are incredibly special dogs. I mean, take a look at the picture. NOSE NOSE NOSE for a mile. LEGS LEGS LEGS for ten miles! They are long, lean dogs -- designed for running. (Watch the Top Gear where **spoiler** the dog beats the car.) When we first got Gina, within weeks of retiring as a racer (Ronagena), a woman actually stopped me on the sidewalk to yell at me for starving my dog! Aside from "mind your own business, weirdo," it was not the last time I had to explain to someone that greyhounds should usually be showing a couple ribs, or they're overweight.
Gina was the ideal picture of a greyhound: sweet, loyal, and protective in a mild, non-confrontational way. Twice she took the brunt of awful, violent attacks by groups of much larger dogs (one event nearly killed her but the vet put her together in a three-hour surgery, the other resulted in 20+ stitches) to protect members of her human family. The first time, her skinny little self stood between my father and FOUR hell-hounds (two pit bulls and two nasty mutts) and the second time between me & my kids and TWO psycho great danes. #controlyourdogs
Each time, it was 400+ pounds of poor/no training, growling, anger, teeth, and spit against her 60 pounds of quiet, mild-mannered tenderness. Oh, and did I mention that she'd had two root canals so she only had two of her four canine teeth? This is why my Gina will forever be special. (Ask my dad for the full story of the first attack; he reached into a pit bull's mouth to pry the beast's death grip off her jugular and ended up with stitches.) #greyhoundrescuesquad
Two particularly funny greyhound memories:
- On a walk during Lancaster's First Friday, a slightly intoxicated man announced, "Look! It's a groundhog!" When we corrected him to "greyhound," he was like, "Right, that's what I said." #awkwarddrunk
- A new friend of ours overheard me talking about greyhounds (but missed the context that it was MY dog) and commented that greyhounds were so ugly that he considered them to be direct products of the fall of man, when God cursed the earth with death due to sin. #neverlivethatdown
I started writing The Senator's Youngest Daughter before Gina got cancer, and it was natural for me to include a dog. Everyone loves a dog in a story! But more importantly, I wanted to honor this special breed of dog.