We recently lost our beloved greyhound boy, Tigs Rocket, to bone cancer. For anyone who’s ever loved their pet with all of their heart, I don’t need to describe the pain we feel, but it was quick, he did not suffer and he fell asleep for one last time while we held him in our arms.
He was my heart dog, and this is his story.
This terrible, close-up, phone photo of Tiggy was taken on 27 September 2009; the day we fell in love…and when I say ‘we’ I mean me and Tiggy, for Mr Rocket (the human one) was yet to meet him. Coincidentally, it was also the first day we met. This is the first photo I ever took of Tigs and it made it to Facebook with the caption: “My dog?” This sealed our fate. You see, we’d recently started volunteering to walk the hounds at Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, and that’s where our involvement with these gorgeous beasts was supposed to begin and end. Barely three months later, Tiggy moved in with us and became a permanent member of the family.
In Year One, there were a lot of firsts. We were thrilled when he did his first roach on Day 2, it was a sure sign that he felt right at home. For the uninitiated, the term “roach” describes the sleeping position where a greyhound lies on its back, legs akimbo. It’s a real thing, honest, Wikipedia even says so:
“Particularly common in sleeping among Greyhounds is the so-called “roach” or “cockroach” sleeping position, in which a Greyhound will roll onto his/her back and spread his/her legs at odd angles in all directions, in a position reminiscent of deceased cockroaches who are often found on their backs.”
Tiggy was not only our first greyhound, but our first dog, so there was lots to learn. Luckily, he was as dedicated to training as we were.
The winter we adopted Tigs was a snowy one, and we got out and about together in the white stuff as much as possible. This is where our shared experiences of ‘fetch’ begin and end. On the whole, over the last five years Tiggy showed about as much interest in toys and playing as the average Tube commuter does in chatting with their fellow passengers i.e. close to zilch. There have been flurries of activity in this area, and playing with a squeaky tennis ball on a wintery January afternoon was one of them. However, our boy quickly made it clear that he was a cuddle monster, and cosy, post-walk snuggles were more the order of the day for him. I was more than happy to oblige.
We couldn’t have been prouder when our first year together was marked by Mr. December staring down at us from the annual Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare calendar. Our Tigs, the supermodel *swoon*.
Over the years, there have been no shortage of lady greyhounds lining up for a bit of a bum sniff and a canoodle. Ariel finally won Tigs’ heart a little over 3 years ago, but he was quite a regular on the dating scene prior to settling down and sleepovers were a popular weekend activity for hounds still waiting for their forever homes at Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare.
Tigs was a man of the world. Well, bits of Europe at least. When we made the move to Belgium in 2011, he of course came too, and this was soon followed by the arrival of Ariel. To say they are chalk and cheese would be an understatement, but it just worked. Both turned to the other for confidence, and while she ran circles around him (often literally!), he calmly looked on. I often describe the day she moved in as the day when Tiggy let out a big sigh and let go of his fears – he didn’t like people playing football, or parks with lots of children, or the sound of a tennis ball hitting a racket (a bit of an awkward fear when we were living in Wimbledon – people playing tennis in parks was pretty ubiquitous), and then overnight, he just didn’t care anymore. This was Ariel’s gift to Tiggy, and in return he made her feel safe. One was never walked without the other, and she never let him out of her sight.
Just before Ariel moved in for good, we fostered her for a couple of weeks to see how everyone would rub along together. I made a little movie of their Christmas antics back then. Watching it back, it’s a touch on the Blair Witch side, oops.
The ‘classic’ Ariel and Tigs photo that’s popped up on my blog before is the one of them at our wedding, where they were on ring bearing duty. Mr Rocket and I were adamant that our dogs would be by our sides on our wedding day – we wanted the whole family there. We actually chose to get married at Birtsmorton Court because they would allow our dogs to attend. It was in our top 3 criteria for wedding venue selection (mad, but true!). On the day, they walked down the aisle carrying our wedding rings in little bags around their necks, then they joined us for the drinks reception before heading off home for a well-earned rest. If anybody else is wondering about whether their dogs should be invited guests at their wedding – do it!
Dog parents are no different from other parents when it comes to embarrassing their kids, and Tiggy had his fair share of mortifying moments, namely around his birthday when he was always made to wear a hat and smile for the camera.
There are so many more special memories (and a squillion photos – mainly of us cuddling) I could share with you….that time we jumped the waves together…that time we went cycling in the Belgian forest…that time we all stayed at a 5 star hotel and he still slept on the bed. I love him, and I miss him, but even knowing how much it hurts now that he’s gone, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.