“Madonna” (Nitro Madonna)
To The Rainbow Bridge April 10, 2014
On October 22, 2011, a tentative greyhound wearing a green basket muzzle was handed to me as the GAGR volunteer cynically muttered, “Good luck with this one.” Apparently she had not traveled well during the last leg of her journey to Rochester, distracting the volunteer by aggressively trying to climb from the back of the van into his lap for the duration of the drive. I didn’t have a response to the volunteer’s comment. I was too busy thinking, “what have I gotten myself into?”
Turns out, that what I had gotten was the best friend anyone could have ever asked for. Before that first day was over, Madonna and I were bonded. It was a brisk fall day, with some overcast, and it also happened to be the same day that my Grandma Mary passed away, just hours before Madonna arrived. Madonna’s first days with me consisted of driving back and forth between where my family lived in Rochester, and where I lived in Syracuse, and being left alone for many hours, while services for my grandma were being held. To this day, I still can’t believe how easily she adjusted to her new life with me despite the inconsistency of that first week. Madonna was an instant joy at a time of deep sadness for my family. Her gentle nature made her the kind of companion you felt lucky to have around during such a difficult time.
Madonna’s retirement was filled with many adventures, coupled with as many naps as her heart desired. She lived with me in Syracuse, but we often frequented her Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Rochester, where she was spoiled more than any two-legged grandchild could ever hope to be. Her other adventures included hiking all over central New York, wine tours, dog parks, trips to Petsmart, trips to Woofies Gourmet Dog Bakery, Christmas parties, birthday parties, Super Bowl parties, summer barbeques, ice cream parlors, nursing homes, first dates, a Syracuse Chiefs baseball game, volunteering through Big Brothers Big Sisters, visiting the Passantino family business in Rochester, as well as greeting the dancers at the next-door dance studio as they arrived for class. She even came into the dealership with me as I signed the paperwork to purchase my first brand new car. Madonna went everywhere a dog her size was allowed to go, and everywhere she went, people fell in love with her. But one of her favorite places to go was Fairmount Animal Hospital. At the time that I adopted Madonna, I was just beginning my career as a new veterinarian and was lucky enough to be able to bring her with me to work, so that she could spend her days napping and socializing in the office she shared with her doggie friends: a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Miniature Pinscher, a Labrador mix, and several Britney Spaniels.
Madonna was not without her culpabilities though. She never got the hang of playing with toys. She went from initially inhaling her food, to eventually eating piece by piece, carrying each individual kibble from the kitchen to the living room, so that the carpet was thoroughly sprinkled with crumbs. The slightest roll of thunder sent her into a panic attack and there were many sleepless nights trying out white noise machines, thunder shirts, different crates, and even antianxiety medications. She has been gone for several months now, and I still find myself instinctively waking up to comfort her during storms.
One day, Madonna refused to eat her two meals and within 48 hours she was in liver failure. The team of specialists at Cornell University informed me that lymphoma had invaded her liver and spleen. Her prognosis was grave. It was then that I decided to end her suffering and held her in my arms as she made her way to the Rainbow Bridge.
Madonna left behind an enormous number of friends and family who miss her, and countless happy memories. She has also left a greyhound-size hole in my heart. She was my first greyhound, my co-pilot, my hiking buddy, my co-worker, my storm-watcher, my comedic relief, and by far the best friend a human could ever hope for. Cancer stole her from me entirely too soon, but I will always be greytful for the time we shared, however short-lived it had to be.