It was love at first sight. In December of 2020, my husband, Tim, and I were helping NBRF with some year-end fundraising. I lamented to Liz Duncan that we could never have another borzoi. Our beautiful Oksana, my eighth ‘zoi, also a rescue from NBRF, had died earlier that year at age 12. We had a borzoi-sized hole in our hearts, but we still had our “tweenie” long-haired dachshund, Watson, who could be, frankly, obnoxious. I was not sure that another borzoi would tolerate him. Liz responded that she thought that the international rescues arriving from China and Korea were often good with small dogs. Did I want to have one tested? I did not take time to ask my husband. Yes!
Very soon after that, I was e-mailed a photo of a young tri-coloured bitch, who in the picture was being bathed before transport to the US. Even dripping wet, she was clearly beautiful. Rather sheepishly, I took the picture to Tim, who asked, “Who’s this?” “This is Luna. She has just arrived from China.” To my relief, his next words were, “I am in love!”
In mid-January, we flew from Savannah to Philadelphia, rented an SUV, and drove out to Harrisburg to pick up our new family member. We had Watson with us – might as well find out if this were going to work. All was fine between the two hounds. As her foster family were getting back into their car, they mentioned that one of the males with whom Luna come over from China had been howling piteously as they pulled out of their driveway. Oh, no! We felt terrible. We’d broken up a pair! (Lorenzo joined us a month later.)
Luna slept almost the entire drive to Savannah. It was not until the second day, when we were just a few miles from home, that she perked up. The tide was low, a breeze was blowing, and Luna was smelling a salt marsh for the first time. She pointed her snout directly up and turned her head from side to side, taking in that distinctive and unfamiliar scent.
We quickly discovered that Luna, who was only 2 ½, had periodontal disease to an extent unusual in one so young. She had a glorious smile, and her teeth were sparkling – until one looked above her lip line, where it was evident that her teeth had been badly neglected. Disease had eaten two fistulae through gum tissue and bone into her nasal cavity. Two emergency extractions were necessary, following which we began making a twice-yearly pilgrimage to a dental specialist in Florida, in the hope that no more extractions would be required.
Her mouth must have been painful at that time, but nonetheless Luna was cheerful, energetic, cooperative, funny, and sweet. She had a mischievous, elfin look about her that often preceded her stealing the dachshund’s supper or leaping onto a sofa or chair that were supposedly off limits. She loved her new home and us, her family, and we loved to watch her bow and prance to get a game of chase going with Lorenzo. Luna was tiny, smaller much smaller than my previous three females had been, but she ran like the wind and leapt and turned like a ballerina. At their bedtime most nights, I would sit between the two borzois on their beds and tell them exciting stories of Prince Lorenzo and Princess Luna, the Czar’s favourite hounds of the Imperial Hunt, and the many times they cleverly saved the Imperial Family from ravening wolves that had come out of the woods to spoil an afternoon picnic or sleigh ride. Maybe they just enjoyed being petted, but both hounds always looked attentive and smiled.
Not long after we got her, we began to notice blood in Luna’s stool. At first, the streaks were infrequent and so slight that I wasn’t sure, but before long, it was evident that there was bleeding somewhere in the lower GI tract. Diagnosis took months. Anxiety was one possible cause, although she seemed happy and calm. Anti-anxiety meds and Flagyl were tried. This seemed to help for a time, but the problem returned and gradually worsened. Allergies were suspected and ruled out. Bacterial infections and cancer were also considered and rejected. Blood work revealed only a somewhat low B-12 level. We gave her weekly B-12 shots and vitamins. A colonoscopy found only a slight thickening at the upper opening of the intestine, consistent with Irritable Bowel Disease and a low B-12 level. Every hopeful remedy that was tried seemed instead to make the problem just a little bit worse. A series of immune-suppressant pills, usually reserved for patients for whom chemo is not working, was prescribed. Luna hated the huge pills and fought me daily about taking them. There was no tricking her by concealing the giant gelcaps in hamburger or pill pockets, and I felt awful about making her take them, especially when they, too, did not seem to be helping. We switched vets, but still no luck.
When summer came, Luna began experiencing spasms that I was told were common in IBD patients. Her appetite had decreased a bit, but she remained playful and apparently happy. Then the spasms began, as her body told her constantly (but usually incorrectly) that she needed to poop. Blood and diarrhoea were intermittent. We made arrangements to take her in August to the University of Georgia vet school to get a good diagnosis and treatment plan.
Luna went with us the last Saturday in July to look at an old house we were considering buying. It was empty, and Luna ran excitedly around the first floor, then raced up the stairs, picked out a bedroom with a big closet, and sat grinning and tossing her head in her chosen spot. She seemed so much better, and so joyful. Sunday was uneventful. Early on Monday, when I went to let the hounds out, Luna did not raise even an ear in response to my summons, and I knew even before I knelt that she was gone. The vets said that a necropsy would not tell us much, that probably she’d had a heart attack or stroke and died in her sleep. She was curled up in her bed, looking so peaceful and pretty, with not a mark, stain, or drop of blood.
We miss Luna terribly, much as we love our boys. She was such a graceful, spritely, sweet spirit. I think, I hope, that she knew how much we loved her. I hope she is twinkling down at us, from somewhere near Orion. Dorothea and Tim Coy