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Nelly Belle, retired racer, succumbs

Nelly Belle, Oct. 22, 2003-April 18, 2016. Nelly Belle, Oct. 22, 2003-April 18, 2016.

Nelly Belle Moss, a black greyhound who raced in Florida before relocating to North Carolina, died on Monday, April 18, in Hendersonville, where she had retired. She was 12.

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She was survived by brothers Tater Tot and Charlie, a sister, Cricket, and her human family, her sitter, Denise, and her boyfriend, a whippet named Scout, who lives with Kim and Bill McKibbin.
Whelped in West Texas on Oct. 22, 2003, to Iruska Zederiah and Marilu Henner, Nelly was not always called Nelly. She started out with the track name of Floozie, was renamed Phoebe in foster care and finally christened Nelly for her final 10 years in Flat Rock.
The adoption of Nelly into her forever home was not a certainty.
One of her humans thought that the household dog census — then two — was plenty high. The human mother, as was her way when it came to bringing home dogs, ignored the man’s hesitancy. When Nelly starred one week in the Adopt a Pet feature of the Hendersonville Times-News the mother cut out her headshot and showed it to the man. The man said he’d rather put his dogs in the Adopt a Pet column than get a new one from it. He was bad to tease about dogs.
Of course the boy, 15, and the girl, 12, were strongly in favor of adding a “big dog,” so the canine caucus overruled the man as usual. One summer night the mother and the girl drove to Asheville, where Nelly — then Phoebe — was harbored at a greyhound foster home. The man in Asheville held Phoebe’s head in his hands and spoke softly to her. The mother and the girl wondered if they would be able to take Phoebe home to Flat Rock. The foster dad cried when Phoebe left.

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The humans always had to call a family meeting when it was time to name a dog. The first dog, a black and white mountain feist, was named Daisy, which the man’s father had suggested. The next one the boy named. A brown furball with crooked teeth, the PekiPom mix had been christened Rocky. The boy named him Tater Tot. Tot was the only one that was not a rescue; in fact he is the one that needs to be rescued. The man always threatened to put Tot in the “Free, come get” section of the want-ads.
At the family meeting, the humans decided to discard Phoebe as a name. There was already a popular dog in the neighborhood with that name. The humans tossed out dozens of names, none of them quite right, until the girl came up with “Nelly.” A good name for a horse would also be a good name for a dog that seemed as big as one. A couple of rounds failed to top Nelly so Nelly Belle she became, receiving a middle name out of respect for the fact that the family had never owned a dog with papers.
The family had been told the interesting characteristics of greyhounds. They love to eat. They’re bad to have gas. Drop them into a house with a cat and the cat might become the rabbit the greyhound had never managed to catch. That happened one time on the trail, when Nelly swooped down and caught a baby rabbit, snapped its neck and dropped it on the ground in the blink of an eye. That was quick! the man thought. Even Nelly seemed surprised that she had done it.
An unusual characteristic of racing greyhounds is that they’ve never seen stairs. The family surmised that they come out of their crate, walk down a ramp to the track, wait for the bell, race to catch the rabbit and go back up the ramp to their crate. Nelly’s new family had a deck with one step to the ground. As far as Nelly could tell, she might as well have been jumping off the Empire State Building. Her keepers had to teach her about steps.
Although they love to run, greyhounds are sprinters and not marathon runners. They’re widely known as 40 mph couch potatoes.
Nelly was on the heavy side for a racer. She weighed 68 pounds when she retired and 78 pounds when she moved to Flat Rock, with no ounce of fat. The man called her slowpoke, because she got waived after just one season at Melbourne Greyhound Park. When they first got Nelly, the man called her the WD in the WWW — the worst dog in the whole wide world — just so he could hear the girl howl. “Nooo!” she would cry. “The best dog in the whole wide world.” They all suspected that the man really thought so too.

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Nelly became the senior dog when her big sister, the feist, dropped dead of liver failure on a January night in 2010 when it sleeted. Daisy’s death at age 10 stunned the family.
Nelly’s passing was much longer coming. The man reminded her for two years that she had better start picking out her hymns.
Over the last six months that Nelly was on the planet, Dr. Patrick McKee tried everything to coax a little more life out of her degenerated spinal cord. In the end, when Nelly could barely walk, the man would take her out to the driveway. She tugged to jump in the car because she associated a trip to Apple Valley Animal Hospital with feeling better. Nelly loved to visit Dr. McKee and nurse Taylor. Her last trip would be one-way, of course. No one carries a greyhound into the hospital expecting to carry her home.
Her exit was as gentle and peaceful as it is possible to be. We usher our animals out with more humanity than we do our people. At five minutes until 9, Dr. McKee administered the shot that would put her in a deep sleep. At 9:17 he pushed in a solution that would stop her heart.
Dr. McKee gently touched a stethoscope to her chest and pronounced her. “9:21 a.m.,” the man wrote in his notes. “Running.”
And catching the rabbit. Every time.

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Contact Hendersonville Lightning editor Bill Moss at billmoss@hendersonvillelighting.com.