01/13/2011 9:58PM

Badger Popeye, 1999-2011

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Badger Popeye, the retired racing greyhound who was a poster boy for adoption and made many appearances on this blog, died Wednesday at the age of 11.

The Oklahoma-bred, black-and-white son of Minaki Zeke and Iron Episode made over 100 starts at the now-defunct Plainfield Greyhound Park in Connecticut between 2001 and 2003. Early in 2004, he was retired and reunited with one of his littermates, Badger Pluto (Badge), whom we had adopted 18 months earlier. 

Popeye died from the same disease that claimed Badge (right) two Januaries ago: osteosarcoma (bone cancer), the leading cause of death among older greyhounds and believed to strike over 35 percent of them. He was diagnosed with the disease 10 days before Christmas, and spent his final weeks at home seeming to enjoy the company of his humans and especially his other greyhound companion, 6-year-old M’s Giterdone (Donnie).

Badge and Popeye appeared in several advertising campaigns promoting greyhound adoption tied into the sport’s twice-a-year Night of Stars, where profits are donated to national adoption efforts.

 Whereas Badge and now Donnie were bold and mischievous alpha males, Popeye was a shy and quiet companion, except when the doorbell would ring and he would bolt into action in his self-appointed role as gatekeeper. He would rush the door on Halloween, terrifying and delighting neighborhood children, who sometimes asked if he was a Dalmatian or, in one case, “a milk dog.”

Popeye underwent surgery in 2009 for an abdominal growth that turned out to be a massively engorged spleen, which had swollen from two to 17 pounds. After the surgery, he developed an entirely new demeanor – playful, bright and interactive, instigating backyard races with Donnie and demanding a vigorous nightly headrub.

He will be sorely missed. Donations in his memory may be made to Make Peace With Animals, an exemplary non-profit adoption and animal-welfare group.