It was Father’s Day on 15th June, the first we’ve had to get through since dad died in April. It was not an easy day to face, but as it was the second Whippet Club Racing Association Championship race meeting, and we haven’t been for almost a year we packed up the dogs and pootled off to Moreton-in-Marsh. To explain the title of this post, I’d like to add a bit of back story….

Background

Christmas 2008, my father was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after having a mole removed. About 6 months after this they found tumours in his underarm lymph array, which caused him to have the entire array removed on that side. Six months after that, it re-surfaced under his other arm and he had to have the second array removed. Unlucky is probably an understatement, as in March of 2009 he started to suffer from visual disturbances that were not diagnosed properly for at least a year when the diagnosis was melanoma associated retinopathy. He was effectively going blind because his immune system had attacked his own eyes. It would take a far longer post than this to explain how this impacted on my mum, on their lives together and on his life in general so I won’t attempt to do so right now.

Lucy, one of mum and dad’s whippets, had a litter in 2007; just a little over a year before all this started. They kept two bitches from the litter – Katy and Gypsy. They are super little dogs, racing whippets like their mum. Unlike their mum though, they never really had the same sort of concentrated training that mum and dad were able to give Lucy. Dad persevered with driving mum and the dogs to the racing as long as he could, but by 2010 it was getting very difficult for him to drive with confidence and by late 2012 with his eyesight declining further he gave up driving altogether. I took up the mantle of whippet-transporter and took mum racing at weekends, and we used to go to the WCRA Championships as a family – with my hubby bringing dad and the ‘oldies’ (the other whippets) in our car.

Lucy's Puppies photo

Three of Lucy’s five puppies

Dad found it harder and harder to go racing for various reasons, not the least of which was because he “couldn’t see the girls” (Katy and Gypsy) and it was heart breaking for him to not be able to what he used to; pick up the dogs at the finish line. By the middle of 2012 he was being ‘treated’ for depression. I use that term loosely as it’s hard to describe anything that happened over the last few years as ‘treatment’. He was told his confusion and other associated problems were down to him “grieving for his lost eyesight”. As it turns out, that wasn’t remotely true.

On 1st March 2013, my dad was admitted to hospital for psychiatric assessment. Four weeks later we were told he had dementia. Dad’s ‘treatment’ is something I have a lot to say about, but this is not the post I want to do it in. That one will be even harder than this is to write, and I’m not strong enough to do it yet. Three months after dad was diagnosed with dementia, while he was still under the “care” of the hospital, he contracted an almost fatal case of sepsis. Before he contracted the infection he could walk, talk (albeit without making a great deal of sense) and still use utensils to eat. He was on IV fluids and antibiotics for three weeks until he was released to a nursing home, by which time he could no longer verbalise, had to be fed with a teaspoon, have his drinks thickened and was completely immobile. Dad nearly died in the hospital, six months later he passed on in the nursing home – probably never knowing who we were for all that time. It’s hard to say if he did or not as we couldn’t talk to him properly any more.

It’s sad to see that I can fit all that into four paragraphs, but I can’t say everything I want to say in this one post as it’s about something specific.

The Champs, and why I can celebrate a hollow victory

We hadn’t been to the WCRA Champs for a year until the 2014 second Champs (bend racing), mostly because of all the things that had been going on with dad. Indeed the first Champs this year were on 13th April, one week after dad passed away and it would have been his birthday that day. So it’s understandable why mum and I didn’t want to go.

Katy and Gypsy are technically veterans now, being over 6 years old. However, I convinced mum to keep Katy in the main racing for this year so Gypsy can run in veterans without the risk of them messing each other up. They’re both fit and healthy, so that’s what we did. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know whippet racing – in order to become a Racing Champion, the dog has to win two finals at a Championship race meeting. Katy and Gypsy have run at the champs for most of their adult lives, and come close on more than one occasion. This time, we got to the Champs and discovered that Katy was the only entrant for the Not Exceeding 16lb group, which meant she would have to run solo and would be guaranteed a win as long as she finished her heat and the final; in this case it was a bend. Finishing meant she was awarded her ‘Half Coat’, which is half the way to a full champion.

Gypsy and Lucy racing

Gypsy and Lucy racing
© Maurice Piper

So, most people would consider this a hollow victory. A race won, with nothing to run against is not really a race. While this is true, I don’t really look at it that way. So many things could have gone wrong – a solo dog has nothing to compete with and can lose it’s focus, not run, stumble or not bother to go across the line. Katy did none of these things. She didn’t trap as well in the final as she normally does, but she still put the effort in and got round that bend in a time not that different to her last couple of bends when she was competing with other dogs. Also, a couple of years ago she ran a bend final and it was so close that it took at least fifteen minutes of looking over the photo/video to decide who won, and she wasn’t given the race. So yeh.. karma. She deserved it, and no-one can ever tell me different.

To add to this, the winner of the NE 18lb final was Jett Black, owned by Garry Comber. Jett is the grandson of Lucy, and the nephew of Katy and Gypsy. Dad would have been so proud to see both of them get their half coats.

As a last note. This year I was lucky enough to be allowed to have a puppy from a litter by RCH Cornish Tinker, Lucy’s daughter; owned by Lee Pascoe in Cornwall. She was born exactly one week before dad passed away. While I sat with him in his final days I told him all about her. Whether he could hear or understand me, I’ll never know. But he would have loved her just as much as we do.

As I said, this one’s for you, Dad. I’m so sorry you had to suffer for so long. We love you and miss you.

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