Over the last few days I have thought a lot about what to write about Izzy, my best friend who joined my life in October 2014 and sadly had to leave it on 27 December 2021.
When I first met Izzy, she didn’t pay me much attention. She was staying at the kennel base of Greyhounds as Pets and, because she was in season, she was unable to come home with me straight away on a foster-to-adopt arrangement. I would drive out to the kennels every couple of days to walk with her and she plodded along by my side with a confident indifference.
I would soon realise that her seeming aloofness was from her independent nature – which was an asset in a dog that would need to spend periods of time alone while I was out working and to be confident at public and social events.
(She would also assert her independence at inopportune moments such as when I needed us to take a shorter walk and she wanted to go the long way. I would remind myself that she was matched with me because of that independence; it was unfair for me to be upset with her simply because she was being herself.)
Izzy was by my side as I expanded my dog massage and rehab practice, leaving full-time employment to pursue my passion to help other dogs and their families with an exclusively in-home practice. A constant presence, she was happy to settle for the day after her walk and breakfast – with an activity toy of some sort to reward her.
She benefited from a number of modalities to treat her corns and developing arthritis over the years, including massage, laser, PEMF, swimming, water treadmill and the use of a pram. This made her a great advertisement for multi-modal health care.
One of my best investments was her pram, which I purchased in 2019 when Izzy started to be troubled by painful corns – that pram would see her achieve mobility and support engagement through to her last days, including one last greyhound Christmas walk just 8 days before her passing.
Izzy was also an ambassador for her breed – meeting the public at numerous events such as the Riccarton Sunday Market, organised greyhound walks, our charity garage sale for Greyhounds as Pets in 2017 and our Greyt Fashions fundraiser in 2018, where she strutted down the runway with her friends in numerous greyhound outfits (raising almost $5,000 in the process).
In early 2020, before the pandemic took hold, Izzy also led a doga class with some of her fellow greyhounds and this featured on Newshub. It was a shame we couldn’t continue these classes after lockdown, but business priorities had changed.
During our lengthy lockdown in March and April 2020, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on our Facebook page to keep our clients and followers entertained.
In 2021, since I sponsor the 4 Paws Marathon, her photo was featured on the 5 km finishers medal and we were also filmed by accounting software company Xero in a customer story about the business.
I will forever be grateful for the professional photos and video that resulted from the Xero campaign because they show Izzy at her finest – at home, in her pram and at her beloved beach.
Izzy was the demo-dog at my Learn to Massage Your Dog and Greyhound Massage and Stretching classes; she taught countless dogs and their owners the benefits of regular massage including in the online version of Greyhound Massage and Stretching, which we filmed just prior to the 2020 lockdown.
Her friend Spot will now teach class with me starting later this month – plans we put in place in earnest when her health started to decline.
Her last contribution to her kind was to welcome deaf foster greyhound, Rosie, into our home – something that was planned from early November. We decided to proceed with fostering in the hope that another dog in the house would provide a diversion and, possibly, some competition for food to encourage her to eat. Izzy was a capable mentor to Rosie for only 10 days before she passed – but I would often find Rosie laying next to Izzy and in the same body position.
As a dog parent, you are never ready for your life’s journey to end. Yet, when we sign onto the lifetime commitment to a dog, we are in the privileged position of being able to end suffering (something that in most places around the world we are unable to do easily or legally for our human loved-ones).
Izzy was diagnosed in August with chronic kidney disease as part of an annual check-up. She was not showing any outward signs of disease at the time and, through diet changes, medication and herbal supplements, we did our best to preserve the kidney function that she had remaining. In November, she suffered an attack of canine vestibular disease and had two more of these in the weeks that followed. Looking back on the last five weeks of her life, I would have to say that her health was in a steady decline starting with that first episode of vestibular.
Ironically, the vestibular disease presented on the evening following a beach walk and birthday party for two of her greyhound friends, Spot and Luke. Izzy’s happy place was at the beach and we were able to get in a few more beach walks, including on Christmas morning and again on Boxing Day (her last walk). I had hoped we would have one final summer together this year and celebrate her 13th birthday with a princess-themed cake.
As they say, man plans and God laughs.
Izzy left in me in no doubt that she was ready to go – refusing to eat and drink with a stubborn turn of her head. As the day went on, it was clear she was in end-stage kidney failure and in pain. Thanks to in-home euthanasia service Our Pet’s Goodbye, we were able to be together to the final second in the comfort of our home where she was surrounded by her loved ones – me and her beloved Mr Caterpillar.
She is now over the Rainbow Bridge, at the beach, where it will always be a breezy and warm summer day so she can splash in the waves to her heart’s content.
I will join her there someday.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand