Tag No: 3538
Race Name: Fig’s Treeka
Born: February 1997
Went to the Rainbow Bridge on June 2014
Rika came into my life on October 14, 2001. Ted and I had travelled with our greyhound, Chas, to a greyhound rally in Monroe, Wash., sponsored by the rescue organization from which we had adopted Chas.
The Petfest, as the rally was called, was held at the fairgrounds in a very large agricultural building. There were five hundred greyhounds and three hundred people. We were all milling around shopping for every greyhound item you can imagine, bidding on the silent auction items, getting portraits of our dogs taken, and in our case, checking out the greys available for adoption. We were not planning to get another dog until the following spring when I had a scheduled sabbatical but for some reason we made several visits to the pens in the adoption section.
We noticed Rika right away. She was so beautiful and so scared. She was all by herself in the X-pen. The only information about her was her name (Figs Treeka), her age (4), and the word “Jumps”. As it turned out she had not yet been fostered so no one knew if she was good with cats, kids, other dogs and so on. She had been spayed only four days before.
On about our third pass of the adoption pens fairly late in the day, we noticed that Rika was still there. She was one of about three dogs that had not been adopted. Ted was petting her over the side of the pen and when he stopped she stood up. The volunteer manning the adoption desk, said to Ted, “You are the first person she has shown any interest in. One guy wanted to adopt her but she wouldn’t have a thing to do with him.” Ted looked at me and I knew we were going home with another dog.
We took Rika outside to the exercise area to see how she and Chas got on. They tootled around together like they had always been pals. Chas eventually stopped to look at something and Rika stood at a right angle to him and rested her chin on his back. The feeling that Rika was choosing us was so powerful and we could not resist.
We found out after we got home that Rika was born in Pueblo, Colorado, one of nine pups. Her owner, Dick Figurelli, was a teacher who raced greyhounds as a sideline. After a bit of Internet research I found Dick last year and telephoned him. I learned that while he did not remember Rika, he remembered her breeding. He had leased her mother and paid $1000 stud fee for her father.
Rika raced twenty-eight times in two seasons, 1998 and 1999. She won two races, was second five times, and third seven times. Her fastest time was 31.74 seconds over 550 yards, which works out to 35.44 miles per hour. When I asked Dick what Rika had been doing between the end of her racing career and his giving her for adoption two years later, he told me he could not remember but he figured he had kept her because she was a really nice kennel dog.
We thought Chas was the perfect dog until we met Rika. She fit seamlessly into our home and family. She learned all the rules from Chas and never did a thing wrong. When our little cat, Sweetpea, asserted herself, Rika was forever respectful and at times terrified.
Beautiful as she was to behold, Rika’s personality and temperament were even more beautiful. She was the most joyful, fun-loving, generous dog I have ever known. Always shy, she took her time to warm up to new people. So many of those who made the effort to gain Rika’s trust told me they would have stolen her away from me if they could have got away with it.
The only thing Rika would not share was her bed. If a person approached her in her bed, she would get up and move. If another dog approached, however, she would not budge and her little face would go from looking like a gentle deer to looking like a werewolf. She would utter a blood-curdling snarl. The transformation was so startling that the approaching dog would back off instantly.
Rika was very playful, energetic and athletic. With the tailgate still up but the hatch open, Rika could jump from a standstill cleanly into the back of our Toyota Landcruiser without crashing into the back seat. When we walked, she would not pull but she would lead the charge and she would go as fast as you would go.
The sight of a leash or the sound of the words “Road trip!” would send Rika into an ecstatic dance and sometimes a song. She loved to chase balls and especially her Frisbee. She would amuse herself for hours with her Frisbee, happy to toss it herself and dash around with it. Unfortunately this led to three colossal wipe-outs and we finally had to put her Frisbee away for her own safety and the sake of our bank account.
Rika was a super healthy dog, but typical of her breed, she began to develop back issues just before she turned 15. Over the last year and a half, she lost more and more ability. We had a couple of crises in the last six months that brought out the heavy duty painkillers. Last week she took another turn for the worse but this time the painkillers did not work their magic. So on June 10, our wonderful vet came to the house and helped me say farewell. Rika was sixteen years, four and a half months old.
I am so grateful to everyone who brought Rika into my life and helped me care for her. I am so thankful to my beautiful Rika who gave me so much unconditional love, joy and fun. She was my dolly, my “heart dog”.