I found myself sat in a small, wooden chair within a good sized cage. Behind me, sat outside the cage were three dogs eyeing me intently. Inside the cage in front of me was small wooden box with an opening facing me. Through that opening, by the light of a bulb lit within, I could see pieces of newspapers spread like a kind of carpet on the floor. Resting in a heap to one side was a seething mass of puppies, making those funny chirping sounds that fat, contented puppies make. Then, from one side of the opening came a single puppy. He was about the length of my hand, unsteadyish on his feet still. His eyes were a beautiful shade of blue. He tumbled out of the box, regained his composure and walked over to me. He gently took the end of one of my shoe laces into his teeth and stepped back until he had successfully untied my shoe. He then walked back over between my feet, sat down, curled up, and went to sleep. This was my first encounter with my future brother, Cosmo.
That was the Spring of 2012. It all started some weeks earlier when, out of the blue, Lari announced that she thought we ought to have a dog since two of her three rescue cats had recently died of old age. Larissa had never before owned or lived with a dog. My mission was clear – find a jkind of dog that was as close to the behaviours of a cat as possible.
I had first spotted him on the internet. He was quite a unique looking chap with his bullseye patch. Miraculously he was still available even though most of his littermates were already spoken for. You see, his testicles had failed to drop and so that meant a costly operation was in his future and many people balked at spending that kind of money. Once Cosmo untied my shoe it was a given. I would gladly pay for that surgery if that meant he would become my brother.
He came home in the back seat of the car in a half crate. He cried solidly for the first 20 minutes or so. He had never in his 10 weeks of life been separated from his mum or siblings. This trip in the car was also his first. So much change in a single day.
After those long 20 minutes, Larissa reached back and, without a word, lifted him in her hands, along with his little blanket, and placed him gently on her lap. She rested her warm hand on his back and he immediately curled up and went to sleep. When we got home he began to explore the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. We showed him his bed, and where he could poop and pee if he had to.
The next week or two offered us very little sleep as he didn’t think much of having to spend the night alone with no mum or siblings or even us to comfort him. We sat with him until he fell asleep and eventually snuck back to our own bed until either he woke us up crying or the alarm woke us to go down the take him out for a wee.
But after a couple of weeks he knew he was safe in his new home and that we would regularly feed him, exercise him, and keep him safe and warm. He learned how to tell us when he needed to go out and he became familiar with our local walking locations.
He learned how to come when called or whistled, how to sit and to stay (for very short periods) and even lay down as long as the treats held out.
Three months later I got a call from Mike Brown, last breeder of the full-blooded Laguna whippets. I had contacted him months before when we were on the hunt for a whippet. He had told me then that he had a little coming but that all were taken. We went on to find Cosmo and thought nothing more of it. But then Mike calls and tells me one of his buyers had fallen through as he had lost his job. He asked me if I wanted this female puppy. I told him we found Cosmo and said I would have to ask my wife and thought that would be the end of it. I turned form the phone and yelled, “Hey Lari, Mike Brown on the line. He has a female pup available after all and wants to know if we want her.” At this point I fully expected her to say ‘no, we have our hands full with Cosmo now.’ Instead what I got was, ‘Yes! When can we pick her up?’ My forecasting skills were clearly not up to scratch.
Cosmo joined us on our drive to north Wales to fetch the wee darling. Like all full-blooded Lagunas, Luna was all black. Sadly, she was also all alone as all her siblings had already gone. She was sat in a kennel in the back garden and looked awfully forlorn. We brought her into the house and sat with her and Mike and Cosmo and watched as she padded gently around the room, staying on the rug. She had never been indoors before, said Mike. He inspected Cosmo closely and cooed and complimented him. He told us we had a very special dog in Cosmo. We were only just realizing that at the time.
Within a few moments Cosmo lay down and Luna curled up like a little spoon next to him. We packed her up in the car with us and set off for home.
As it turns out, female whippets are significantly different form male whippets. Though slightly smaller than the average male, they also seem to consistently more assertive than the males. We did no know this. So as she grew up, Luna became more and more assertive, and Cosmo became more and more suppressed. Cosmo is no shrinking violet. In fact, he can be quite a force with other dogs, particularly other males. But he just cannot seem to get the better hand when it comes to a female whippet.
This is not to say that Luna was a bully, but she could come close to that and Cosmo would only occasionally tell her off. So the die was cast between the two of them. They got along famously most of the time, but Cosmo was not the same after Luna arrived.
We all moved to Hawaii and Cosmo and Luna seemed to like the bigger property, but the heat and humidity took a lot of energy out of them. And then, when Lari died, it affected them both deeply. One of the alphas in the pack was gone and never returned. And when a pack gets smaller, it feels more fragile. This was no doubt reinforced by my own state of mind as I faced the magnitude of what had happened. Both dogs became quite clingy with me. Amongst the guys helping me build the guest houses, we agreed that Cosmo stole our sandwiches, and Luna stole our hearts. Cosmo slinked into the background, and Luna came forward and gave and demanded love all the time.
And then, one day, Joe, who was helping me on the property, opened the back of my car to get something from it. He left it open. When no one was watching, Luna jumped in and lay down on the back seat and fell asleep. It was a month of record high temperatures. It didn’t take long, even with the back door of the car wide open, for the heat to take her. She never woke again. I still have night terrors of the moment I found her. Much like when I got into my car in the parking lot at the hospital the year before after having received Lari’s diagnosis, I bellowed like a wounded animal. Now it was just Cosmo and me. Not long afterwards, Joe took his daughter fishing up the coast. A rogue wave came and snatched him off the rocks and he was never seen again.
I kind of cocooned for a while after that. Seldom leaving the property, or even the house. Cosmo was never out of sight. Even I knew this was not healthy. My shrink prescribed Cosmo as my Emotional Support Animal. This allowed is to travel together and shop together and dine out together. I felt more open to going out and about, and even began to travel a bit more. And as time passed, Cosmo became his old self again, becoming more joyful, playful, and open. So a new chapter in my friendship with Cosmo began. We became inseparable. We became known in our own little universe. We would be recognized around Hilo. People who I did not know would come up and chat first with Cosmo, then me. Cosmo silently invited people into our sphere and into our lives. It came not a moment too soon. We needed friends more than ever before and Cosmo brought them in.
After three years of Cosmo and I living alone together, I found out that His sister was having puppies. I made my desire known and in November 2017, little Eartha arrived in Honolulu where Cosmo and met her and brought her home. She was confused and lonely and slightly poorly when she arrived form her marathon journey. Cosmo wasn’t so sure about her but once I gave her a bath Cosmo warmed up to her and they were like two peas in a pod soon after.
Eartha followed Cosmo wherever he went and copied his every move. Cosmo helped her understand how to be a whippet. But, as with Luna, she eventually began to push Cosmo around. He pushed back and she got more aggressive. This sparring went on for a month or two. Eventually Cosmo just avoided her. She wanted to be with him but he wanted nothing to do with her. When they were together she would constantly bit his neck and steal whatever he showed any interest in. Over time, Cosmo went back into his Cocoon. He stopped chasing the ball, or running of any kind of she was around. He took to hiding in the lanai room as it was a place Eartha never figured out how to enter due to the dog flap. It was so sad to see Cosmo who had helped me so much in my hour of need, now becoming more and more of a recluse.
Then in 2018 Pele came and took our home and everything in it. We evacuated to southern California. It was a time of great tumult as my relationship dissolved from my own fault. Since me and my partner were both in such pain, it made sense for us to share out the support of the two dogs – Cosmo stayed with me and Eartha stayed with her. When it came time to leave California and return to Italy, it seemed completely logical for Eartha to stay where she was. She was happy there, and she was creating happiness there. And in Eartha’s absence, Cosmo blossomed once again.
And now here we are, back in Italy. There are lots of worries and unknowns hanging over my head, but the health and wellbeing of my brother Cosmo has never been in doubt. He has become a happy chap all over again. It is like he has become a puppy all over again. He runs and frolics and enjoys the company of our friends here both human and canine. It is so obvious that he is happier now than he has been since we left for Hawaii in 2013. I feel sorry for what he has been through. But I feel glad to finally be giving him the happy life he truly deserves.
I am still very much a work in progress, but without my whippet brother I know I would not be here today to tell the tale. I have learned to listen more carefully to him and everyone else. He teaches me things all the time now, especially being more observant and understanding of others and their wants and needs. *I owe this and so much more, to Cosmo.