Aloha passed away today.
Her health had been declining for the past 3 months so this was not a huge surprise. While I tried to prepare myself, it’s still tremendously hard to lose your best friend.
I didn’t think it would be this quiet.
(Those of you that met her know how silent of a dog she was; Outside of her deteriorating days making moans from pain, she maybe barked less than 10 times the 8 years I had her.)
I didn’t realized how intertwined she was with everything I do, and especially lately, how much time I spent worrying and watching her.
I hear busses passing on the street and they sometimes make a faint low whine, and I think that it might be her, starting quiet surges of moans when her pain medication would start to wear off these past couple weeks. But it’s not.
I keep telling myself she’s in a better place now. I still miss my friend though.
A missing toe is usually a career ending injury but it didn’t stop her. I was told from the rescue group that she had one of her front toes accidentally cut off as a pup, when her breeder was attempting to remove her dew claws to prepare her to race (so they don’t get caught and cause an injury) and accidentally took off a toe. Losing a toe before even racing though is usually a race career-ender.
She was also fairly small for a greyhound.
She wasn’t particularly aggressive (which usually indicates a fast racer).
She was an huge underdog on the track, but she had a lotta heart and still won.
She finished 76 career races over a year with 12 first places. All the way up to AA class (the fastest class) before she eventually retired and I adopted her.
(Background: In greyhound racing, many dogs don’t even race, the few best get in the triple digits of completed races and then retire for breeding. All dogs have to retire by the age of 5 and most don’t race until they’re around 2. If they don’t win, they don’t continue racing. Fortunately now there’s networks of rescue groups that help find homes for the thousands of dogs that have more than half of their lives ahead of them; 20-30 years ago the dogs were just killed when they stopped being of use to the racers. They make amazing dogs, if you’d like to talk about them, please let me know.)
Her breeder-race owner knew her as, “Ebony,” and he asked the rescue group about her frequently because of her kind and goofy nature, which is kind of odd considering most breeders have dozens upon dozens of dogs in a year. They don’t usually grow attached. He also made her a lot of money, by being such a long shot on the track and winning.
After she retired, taking her to dog parks you could see how she wasn’t particularly aggressive or competitive, she just loved to run in a pack and be around other animals.
When I was in St. Louis and used to travel frequently for conference speaking engagements and to train newsrooms, one of the greyhound rescue group members was my go-to dog sitter. They had a huge fawn male greyhound named Wally with a large suburban backyard for the dogs to run. Wally dwarfed Aloha in size and at least 30 pounds, but when they’d play in the backyard chasing a soccer ball, Aloha would always beat Wally to the ball, but wait patiently for him to get the ball and take it.
She was very beta, and just loved being part of the pack, but when she needed it she had a lot of speed and a lot of heart.
When I was looking to adopt a greyhound in St. Louis, I was having a hard time trying to know who was the right dog; I met at least a dozen fosters before her, but as soon as I met her, it was clear she was the one.
She didn’t respond to her race name, Lotta Heart, since her breeder/owner called her Ebony and it seemed too literal of a name for me. So I debated what to name her and eventually landed on Aloha because of her personality and vibe.
Just saying the word, Aloha, has a meditative feel. Like how being around her calm, peaceful and warm presence was a zen-like state.
Her presence over the past 8 years of my life has helped me through many challenging times filled with a lot of transition and challenges, professionally and personally.
She was always patient, kind and welcoming of new people and experiences. From many, many road trips visiting friends across the country to getting her nails painted by a gaggle of giggly girls she just met that weekend. She always made instant best friends. Her coat was remarkably soft, her body radiated heat and she enjoyed quietly cuddling up on couches and silently sidling up to strangers at parties to make new friends.
Several people had jokingly threatened to kidnap her over the years, and I think at least two were potentially serious about it.
Being around her was inspirational because she was many traits that I hoped and aspired to be: friendly, goofy, cuddly, warm, excitable but also relaxed, patient, stoic, mellow, and always loving everyone unconditionally.
Besides the memories of our time together, these traits are one of the most valuable things I’ve tried and will continue to try and incorporate them into myself.
I also always tried to focus on “being the person my dog thinks I am” as a code of conduct. They love you unconditionally and think you the greatest, most magical and good person ever.
In Hawaiian, Aloha means hello, goodbye and love. Aloha is a way of life.
Since I first said hello, I knew I would always be charmed her goofy and loving nature. I loved her peaceful aura and zen buddha vibe. I admired her stoic nature through adversity and uncertainty, and I admired her unconditional love she held for so many people. I will always carry these memories with me, continuing to try and be a better person, continuing to live the Aloha life, even though this is goodbye for now.
TL;DR: Inspirational Lessons from Aloha:
- Be kind.
- Hustle hard.
- Bark little, cuddle more, unconditionally.
- Always believe in and support the underdog.
- Don’t let people’s perception of a physical characteristic define you and your success.
- Enjoy the limited time you have with each other.
- Live the Aloha life.