Many people ask me where Mario, my little Italian Greyhound, came from and what his past is. Here is the story of how we met and who he is.
I knew I wanted a dog for a long time. My very own dog. I was old enough to have children, but I didn't (and still don't), and I was single, living with my mom. I worked for a dog magazine, which gave me the perfect opportunity to do research on what type of dog would work with me and my lifestyle. After about three months of research, I decided on an Italian Greyhound. I originally wanted a girl, preferably a puppy, from a breeder. I let it go for a while, because I got busy and I wanted to make sure I had all the perfect stuff to bring a puppy home. Also, I got cancer. It was not the right time to bring a dog home, when I would be unable to take care of it.
While I was in the hospital getting treatment for weeks at a time, I did more research on rescues and places that would find me the perfect puppy. Nearing the end of my treatment, I emailed in an application to the Italian Greyhound Club of America http://www.italiangreyhound.org/. I don't remember how long it took to be answered back. But a wonderful woman named Debbie, emailed me right before Thanksgiving about a dog that sounded perfect for me (according to her). I agreed to come meet this little one.
I was disappointed that this dog was a male, but I did fall instantly in love with him. Debbie was fabulous in our introduction. I was pretty much in the midst of treatment, so I was weak, bald, and possibly smelling of chemo treatments. I had recently had a heart attack, but at long last, I was able to walk to the front door and through the house to the living room to meet this angel. He looked like he was in worse shape than me! He ignored everyone else that came in, including my mom, and instead went directly to me. He did not jump, he just looked at me. Until I sat down on the floor to be with him. Then, he just cuddled up to me. The only time his attention wavered was when he saw himself in the mirror, but he soon grew bored of that and he came back to me. He just wanted me to pet him. He didn't bark, lick or jump. He would stand on his hind legs when we were standing, but he was very gentle.
His poor little body looked like it has been through the ringer. I had pictured this perfect little puppy, and here he was – not quite LOOKING perfect. He had almost no hair, and his little blue (his coloring, more of a grey color) body was all freckled. He had a little rat tail, with small wisps of brittle hair surrounding the tip. He had a few cuts on his legs and on a few other spots. But he was as sweet as can be.
At this point I was told what he had been through to come to me. He was found the weekend before Thanksgiving on an offramp in Southern California, wandering around. He had no collar, license or microchip. No one knows how long he had been there, but he had the obvious markings of living in the wild for a bit. He also had Color Dilution Alopecia - Which is congenital and due to breed and his blue color. There is no cure or treatment for it. Because of the loss of hair and probably being in the sun, he was freckling on his little body. From the vet inspection, they guessed he was about three yeas old. Not quite a puppy. They were working on having him potty trained and ready for adoption.
There was one slight problem: I was still in treatment. I had until the end of January before I would be released from the hospital. Debbie was wonderful about agreeing to keep my new dog until I was out of the hospital. It would give them a change to work on the potty training, and giving him his health back. So, I signed the paperwork and gave her $100 for the fees. I left the little dog and went home, ready for the rest of my treatments and to dwell on my newest addition to my life.
While in the hospital, I dreamed of my new dog, did research about the breed, it's illnesses, bought stuff and tried to decide on a name for him. I went through website after website looking up Italian boy names. I had a terrible time deciding. I recruited my friends to help me decide or come up with their own names. So many of my friends wanted me to name him Santa's Little Helper, after the Italian Greyhound in The Simpsons. Well, Debbie and her family started calling him Mario, after Mario Andretti, and the name stuck.
Right before Valentine's day, I was finally released. I was done. I had a grueling stem cell transplant, and I was ready to move on with my life. One of the first things we did was pick up Mario. I actually think we picked him up on the way home from the hospital. I was thrilled. I wasn't sure how he would be in the car, since all of our former dogs had bad car sickness. He was wonderful, he just stood up on my legs and looked out the window and eventually, just curled up in my lap and slept the rest of the way home. He was very sweet and cuddly. When we got home, he walked into the house, found the tallest pillow on the couch in the sun, jumped up on it, curled up and went to sleep. He was like little royalty.
I was really lucky to have him. When we brought him home, his coat had grown in a bit, his little cuts had healed up, and he was alert and beautiful. I was told recovery from my stem cell transplant could take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. Mario really helped me with this. If i had not had him, I would have had no reason to get off the couch. With him, I had to take him for walks every few hours so he could potty and just get out, which helped me with the fresh air, and energy. But he always wanted a cuddle.
We may have gotten a little more insight to his background when we moved. He started seeing boxes, and freaked! His reaction to all that was going on made us wonder if he hadn't run away when his family was moving. He still freaks out at the sight of boxes or even deep cleaning, when I move things around in rooms. But he's getting better. His former family must have trained him or something, it doesn't seem that he was abused in anyway, although, occasionally, he ducks a little when I lift my hand to pet him. He knew basic commands, still doesn't lick, and rarely ever barks. He is wonderful when playing and feels bad if he accidentally scratches or bites. He is amazing with little kids and sick people. He only has about 5 minutes of straight energy a day. He is a brilliant little dog and knows more words than most dogs.
Once we moved, he really started gaining a vocabulary. He knows who I mean when I tell him to go get grandma – he runs right to her, no matter where in the house she happens to be. He knows, cookie, walk, treat, breakfast, dinner, food, walk, ride, go, Bailey (my mom's dog), daddy, mommy, get, baby, puppy, his daddy's name, bed, bedtime, nap, “your room,” (his kennel), and several other words I am forgetting. And now, he seems to even know Obama (His reaction is that he chooses Obama over Hilary or McCain). He's very sweet and everyone seems to love him.
We have been together for a little over 5 years. He was easily adopted by my husband – they just love each other. Mario and I have been through some bad stuff together, and he still loves me. He has a slight seizure disorder, but I am happy to report that he was getting them once a month (the vet said, for the price, it isn't worth the meds for the amount of mild seizures that Mario was having), and now he had one in the last 4 months, and it was even milder than the past ones. He has tooth problems which I understand is normal with this breed. And it seemed he has some sort of ulcer issue, and that was taken care of with some medication and now he looks healthier than ever. Other than those tings, he has been healthy as can be.
I am really lucky that I have him. He really saved me from being sick again, or lapsing into a life of laziness. We love him so much, he was even in our wedding. We are so happy with our little man that we want to get a whole bunch more and possibly even start our own rescue someday. I can not tout this breed enough. I can't believe my luck with him (as he is shoving me off the couch right now, because he is slightly cold and wants to cuddle). I can't imagine my life without him. He is the best dog ever!