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“It was a dark and stormy night…,” or at least some literary giants would have you believe that’s the way a great story should start. But since I am just a story-teller, and not a literary anything, this yarn begins with joy rather than anything sinister.

The focus of our joy is Phil, our retired, racing greyhound. He was born October 4, 1998, and called Footsy. His dad was Wigwam Wag and his mom was Kiawah Foot, both with impressive bloodlines. Because of leg injury as a young puppy, he never received a racing name due to the eventual reality that he would never be asked to race. Lucky for us, he was given to Greyhound Pets of America/Houston to be put up for adoption at one-year of age.

The breeder had indicated that even though his front leg was crooked and shorter than the rest, he was in fine shape. Due to my husband’s inquiring-minds-want-to-know attitude, we took Phil to Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists to see the orthopedic vet. After 2 surgeries and a rod, a plate and 6 screws, Phil’s leg was still crooked and shorter than the rest but he could now chase a tennis ball with the speed of any racing champion, pain-free.

At around 6 years old, Phil had his first episode of cluster seizures. The horror we felt was indescribable. Nothing had prepared us for Phil’s suffering with the onslaught of seizures again and again and again. We were familiar with VERGI through our previous greyhounds so we called ahead letting them know we were on our way. The prognosis was not good if medical attention could not stop the seizures. Phil’s temperature was 108. How could our beloved Phil survive this assault.

True to their calling, the caring and knowledgeable team at VERGI brought Phil from his anesthetic-induced sleep (the only way to stop the seizures) to a controlled awakening with no more seizure activity during his 6-day stay. The unfortunate reality was that a year later the veterinarian angels at VERGI would have another test of their skills when they would again save his life after another bout of cluster seizures. Phil now had multiple tenure in VERGI’s “Survivor’s Celebration” held at the end of every year.

Phil definitely has someone watching over him. He is my inspiration for survival. So much so that I have a tattoo of him on my forearm showing him not of this earth but more of an ethereal being.

For a number of years more mundane visits to VERGI involved minor injuries and mishaps when our regular vet’s office was closed…natch! But last year, Phil’s 10th, we brought Phil to VERGI with severe pancreatitis. After another week’s stay, Phil was weak, skinny, and wobbly on his feet but we welcomed him home with the thoughts that our family was whole again and VERGI was a God-send.

That summer of 2008, Phil survived pancreatitis thanks to VERGI, had knee surgery at Gulf Coast, and recovered from pneumonia. But the final insult to our Phil Bert Curlytail, so called because his tail curls up when he runs, was his diagnosis of bone cancer in the fall.

I am aware that VERGI can’t help Phil this time around but I can’t say that it hasn’t crossed my mind to the possibility. They have worked miracles in the past giving us so many more years of pure happiness and love with our handsome and oh-so-charming grey-pup but now Phil’s future will be dominated by boundless comfort and pampering. And I do believe that every time he lies on his back with all 4 legs in the air, he knows that is always guaranteed to bring a smile to our face and joy to our hearts.

I would be remiss if I don’t thank Drs. Hays and Tharp of Voss Road Animal Hospital and Dr. Robinett of the Veterinary Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Clinic for their loving care of Phil when needed.

Note: Sadly, we lost Phil on May 26, 2009. It is amazing to me that a dog of such a quiet and gentle demeanor could leave such a huge void in our hearts and home.