Whippets are at the centre of everything we do at Redhound. In the last 12 years we have made many friends through our love of whippets.
We have a close community online sharing the excitement of a new arrival, all the naughty stuff and sometimes sharing sad times too.
Rascal’s story is a sad one but a tale I feel worth sharing. I asked his owners Sara and Martin to tell his story for you.
You might need a box of tissues and a large cuppa for this one.
How did Rascal come into your life and what was his character like?
“First, I had to convince my husband to have a whippet. His answer was always “Not now", until one day he said "Yes"! I was so excited! After much anticipation we met Rascal our Brindle Boy! Rascal seemed to be shy staying way back and being very calm. A little aloof. Meanwhile his brothers were excited jumping all over us until they lost interest. After much observation Rascal walked very calmly to see my husband and sat beside him. I thought maybe a quiet whippet will be nice for Martin!
Well, Rascal was everything BUT a quiet Whippet! He had so much personality! He was smart and clever. Very vocal too, often talking to us! At 10pm, Rascal would go upstairs and bark that it was bed time and don't forget his cookies! He was a little bit bossy! He didn't like clutter and everything needed to be in the right place. If a door was left half open, he would bark at the door calling us to open it properly. If a guest visited he wouldn’t tolerate any handbag on the floor, pushing it all the way to the front door. He surprised us every day with the things he did. Rascal loved cats and the beach, it was his happy place. He loved meeting new dogs, also popular with kids. A sociable and happy boy.
At 14 months old, Rascal did an amazing thing - waking suddenly he came to tell me that something was wrong! With his nose he kept pushing me with insistence and wanted me to follow him upstairs! I went upstairs with Rascal. To my surprise he went to the back window. I opened the window and to my horror I saw the neighbour’s house on fire! It was not visible from the ground floor. The windows were already broken and the fire was inside the house. Because of Rascal the house was saved and nobody was hurt. I was so proud of him.
When did you first suspect something was wrong with Rascal?
It was a drastic behaviour change. At first, we were focused on making him feel better having been told that Rascal’s difficulty breathing was due to an enlarged heart. What we didn't know at that time was that Rascal also had a brain tumour.
He always loved his bed in the bay window, it was his favourite place. But Rascal started to hide in the shade, bury his head and press it against things. Sometimes when I walked in the room he would face the wall. As Rascals illness progressed, I often found him crying. The hardest part was that Rascal, a very gentle and loving dog, became aggressive for no reason at random times. His eyes became suddenly glary like he didn't know us and he snapped and tried to bite us. Then, suddenly, he snapped out of it and remembered us, feeling guilty and really sorry for his behaviour, putting his paws around our neck to give us a hug pressing his head against us.
These episodes were worrying and it became hard to predict his behaviour which also changed towards our other whippet, Oslo, having to separate them at night. It was so difficult not knowing why it was happening.
When did you know that you had to make the heart-breaking decision to let him go?
We noticed that Rascal would wake in the morning his normal self, that would last all day and it was only in the evening when he was in pain, but as time progressed it got to the stage that by 11am he was in pain, so he only got a couple of hours being happy. I always said, when it was more bad time than good for him, then that was the time.
Rascal was always so brave and never showed us how much pain he had. I took so many pictures of Rascal and could see that one of his eyes was slowly getting smaller. I had no idea at that time that it was a brain tumour. The beach was Rascal's happy place, but even though he wanted to run and play like a puppy, after 10 minutes it was difficult for him. He was sleeping more and was not even interested if the door bell rang with a treat delivery. Then, the last few days, I found Rascal crying a lot, in tremendous pain. We tried to comfort him, but that was not enough. It was time to let go of our beautiful Rascal and it was hurting so much. I cried to the point that I couldn't breathe.
We left his red jumper neatly folded in the car for 5 months because it was too difficult to accept that Rascal was not there anymore. Everything in the house reminded us of Rascal. His toys, his empty bed, his favourite place outside on a sunny day. We didn't go back to his favourite beach because it hurt to be there without him. We had planned to move to Devon just for Rascal, so that he could enjoy the beach every day. He was only 6 years old...
What advice do you have for others in this sad situation?
It is such a difficult decision to make and everyone’s situation is different. We tried every possible way to help Rascal even using our savings when the insurance reached the maximum, always hoping tomorrow will be better because we didn't want to see him suffering, we wanted our old Rascal back.
You must always think of the dog, and how it is for him, you always have hope maybe tomorrow will be better, that you can manage and make life good for him, but though it hurts a lot, it's your dog you need to put first.
How did Oslo react to losing Rascal?
We got Oslo our Blue whippet, because we thought Rascal needed a friend and company. Rascal always wanted to play with other dogs. We didn't realise that Rascal was independent! Oslo adored Rascal but they were only best friends at the beach. Rascal liked Oslo in his own way, but liked his own space. Oslo looked up to Rascal. Because Rascal was often at the vet for the night, Oslo waited by the window for him. Then when Rascal didn't come back he cried and looked for him in every room carrying Rascal's dinosaur with him. When Oslo got his morning treat, he waited for me to get one for Rascal too, even when he was no longer there. I found him curled up on Rascal's jumper. Oslo was sad and scared of everything without Rascal; he lost his confidence and stopped eating for days after losing his best friend.
He was very withdrawn, all he had known was Rascal, who was the lead dog, it robbed him of his carefree attitude, now a much more timid dog, he’s a lot quieter than before, but is gradually returning to himself, occasionally he will find one of Rascal's toys or coats, and he just sit sniffing and cuddling it.
What emotions did you have when Oska came along?
Due to Oslo’s extreme sadness, we started to consider getting another whippet – in no way to replace Rascal but to help us focus on something that would make us all happy again. We worried that it was too soon. Then, I found Oska, a black and white whippet and we decided to give him a home. We took Rascal's name tag on a key ring when we went to collect Oska. On our long drive, we saw 7 rainbows! I never saw so many rainbows in one day and on our way home even more rainbows – like Rascal was with us, blessing our choice.
We see Oslo teaching Oska the same way that Rascal taught him. Oslo is finally coming back to his old self, it’s a lovely friendship that they have.
We were very worried that it was too soon but for Oslo and us getting Oska so soon after was the right thing to do.
We remember Rascal every day, what he did, how he was, and how to us he was the perfect dog in every way, we can never replace him, and don’t want to, but we know in our hearts that letting him go was the right thing for him.”
What a story, I’m sharing it for two reasons – if you notice sudden behaviour changes in your dog – go see a vet – aggression in a normal placid dog can be a sign of pain, something can be done about it. And I’m sharing for those who might have lost a much loved dog and are feeling guilty about getting another – you might still feel guilty but the love that new dog brings will help your grief and sadness only in a positive way.