By John Parker
Today we said good-bye to Golden Girl. She was 12 and at the end of a struggle with cancer. Golden Girl never liked the vet’s office, so our very compassionate vet came out to our place to end her suffering. Her last conscious sight was of the land where she enjoyed running and playing the last five years of her life. May we all be that lucky.
Golden Girl was my second Greyhound, and quite a contrast to my first, Brandy. Brandy was calm and serene; Golden Girl was silly and vivacious. She believed that you should never walk when you can run, whether the distance was ten feet or a thousand. We spent nine years together, and Golden Girl made me laugh almost every day of it.
She had a short and undistinguished racing career. Only her last race was memorable: in the middle of the race, she jumped the inside rail and went running and playing in the track infield. It was a portent of things to come in her second athletic career.
Golden Girl's great-grandfather on both sides of her pedigree was the great Downing. Like her famous ancestor, Golden Girl was sweet and loving with people, but brooked no foolishness from other dogs; they got in her face at their own peril. Each of my other Greyhounds bore what we called "the mark of Golden Girl" – a single small scar from a lightning-quick nip by her, after which each one knew just how much space to give her in future.
We had just gotten hooked on lure coursing when we adopted Golden Girl, and had great hopes for her lure coursing career. She was quite fast when she wanted to be, and at 48 pounds she had the ideal size and build for Greyhounds in the sport. She was, however, an inveterate playful interferer, and nothing we tried could convince her to keep her eye on the lure instead of on her running mates. So, we made her our star of the Singles stakes, and she competed there for the rest of her lure coursing career.
Running alone was fine with Golden Girl for awhile, but she soon decided to add interest with a variety of comic antics on the field. When she felt like making her own course, she would peel off the established course, or race alongside the lure rather than pursuing it. A favorite trick was to take her eye off the lure just long enough to come unsighted, spend the rest of the course bounding around the field looking for the lure, and then re-sight it for a "big finish," right in front of the judges, usually with a self-satisfied smile on her face. Her reputation preceded her as she became a mainstay at Region 7 lure trials, and folks would stop what they were doing to watch Golden Girl run and see what her trick of the day would be. Though she never earned a title, she was given an unofficial one: Clown Princess of Singles. For the entertainment value to the humans and the obvious pleasure she derived from her version of lure coursing, the entry fees would have been a bargain at twice the price.
Golden Girl was one of the last of the Greyhounds adopted in the early days of SEGC (and pre-SEGA), when a group of us “charter members” who were also lure coursing enthusiasts caravanned together to trials throughout the Southeast and once a year cross-country to the ASFA International Invitational – the Alleys, the Birchfields, the Kuhns, the Lawsons, the Morrises, and the Schildroths among them. We planned trips together, cheered for each others' dogs, and sweated every bump and bruise. It was great fun, for humans and Greyhounds, and thinking of Golden Girl will always put me in mind of those days. Now, only the Kuhns’ Thunder is left of that original group of Greyhounds, and it’s hard to believe that all are gone except him.
In addition to her athletic "skills," such as they were, Golden Girl was a very pretty and petite Greyhound. She was chosen as the "cover Greyhound" for the Spring 1998 issue of Celebrating Greyhoundsmagazine, and rarely failed to draw admirers at Greyhound events. She charmed every human she met, I think. The one obedience command she ever learned was "sit," and she used that as a prompt to me whenever she wanted a treat. She would come when called, unless she had found something interesting to sniff (or eat), in which case it always took three tries with my "I mean it" voice to get her to break off and run back to me.
Golden Girl remained fit and active even into her later years. She regularly won the “seniors division” in the 100 yard dash races we held at several Greyhound gatherings. She could hold her own with our big lug Merlin, and it was amusing to watch the 48 pound dynamo intimidate the 85 pound freight train while free running. If Merlin had her favorite bed, Golden Girl would just go and squeeze in beside him, while he would get a very put-upon look on his face, knowing that there was nothing he could do about it but suffer her presence, or move.
As her cancer drew her strength, it was hard to watch her lose much of her trademark zest for life. We lived for her good days, when she would still run a little bit, or take our usual afternoon exercise walk all the way around “her” pasture. When she lost the desire to run even a short distance, and then stopped eating, we knew her time had come, and that she no longer could have the quality of life that she wanted. She died peacefully in the shade of a tree that she often enjoyed exploring under, and we buried her next to Brandy, her old traveling buddy, at the top of a hill with a commanding view of the farm.
Rest in peace, little girl, and run in joy.