Friday, August 2, 2013

Greyhounds: A Breed Apart

Greyhounds are dogs, for sure.  But they are in a class of their own. They are the fastest dogs on the planet.  However, they are sprinters, not endurance runners.  They run after prey, but it is the thrill of the chase.  They are not natural born predators.  They vere more towards catch and release, vs. catch and kill.  They have been mummified in tombs of Egyptians.  They have been revered by aristrocracy throughout the ages.  There is something both etheral - and feral about them.  When I see their elongated faces and beautiful brown eyes, I am reminded of the graceful beauty of deer. 

While I have cared for other greyhounds in my nine years of petsitting Pdx, I haven't known one quite like Leo.  It has taken time for him to get to know me and trust me. I've been walkng him five days a week for the past few months.  Now  he does his "happy dance" when I show up.  Then he runs for one of his toys, pounces on it, and chews.  I am so happy to observe his playful side because when he was a runner at the track he didn't have toys and didn't have a life that included play.  Rather, he and the other dogs were stacked on top of each other in fairly small pens.  They were treated well enough because they had utilitarian value.  But it's unlikely they knew love.  Now he has a great Mom who dotes on him.

Yesterday I was dismayed because heading out the door Leo's foot got caught, and he cried out.  It was an accident, and I felt terrible.  It bled a little, but not a lot. So I took him on a shorter walk than usual; the day before I had given him a lot of extra time at Mt. Tabor Park.  When we returned, I asked him to lay down, which he did.  I then gently dabbed at his foot with a tissue and warm water, and gave him a biscuit.  He remained perfectly still.  He gave me several licks.  It was the first time he had kissed me, and I knew it wasn't because of the treat.  He simply understood I was trying my best to help him.

Most greyhounds, like Leo, have a difficult time being alone.  His way of stalling a return to his condo is to lay down on the grass in the middle of a walk.

Greyhounds are affectionate, inquisitive dogs, who crave the company of people. Now that it's summer, garage sales begin on Fridays.  Last week there were two in his neighborhood.  By taking him along after our walk he captured the admiring attention of neighbors, which he enjoyed.  He is inquisitive, and as a sight hound, simply looked at what was on the tables. Sometimes, he's lucky enough to get the attention of both people and other dogs.  I am glad to add some variety to his weekdays.  It feels like we are both teachers for each other.


Martha G said...

When greyhound rescue had a kennel for greyhounds for adoption at the Greyhound racetrack, Lyn and I walked them on Saturdays. This is a breed that I hope to adopt or foster one day. They are wonderful.

Petsitter-Portland-OR said...

Martha, I so admire what you & Lyn are doing raising guide dog puppies. If you ever decide to adopt greyhounds, my advice (corrorobrated by a book I am reading about them) is to get two. They have a difficult time being "only" children, as Leo is.

Carrie said...

Thank you for your sweet words about greyhounds! I was a foster home for a few years and currently just have my one "foster failure" who does okay with just me and the cats (she was 'cat trainable') but is a velcro dog and certainly loves company, canine and human. Some greyhounds are better than others at being "only dogs." After growing up around their own, they really get excited about other greyhounds. And it does take them a while to learn how to play. A little sad, but very rewarding when they come out of their shell!

I'm glad Leo seems to just be stalling on walks only because he's not ready to be alone - Jackie was sluggish and started to lay down on walks during the months before her leg broke due to osteosarcoma, which is all too common in these guys. Dogs really don't complain much about pain or discomfort (unless it is acute injury, then Jackie will cry just like Leo did!) so I didn't know...but I'm hyper-aware now when something is "off!"

Anyway, I appreciate people who let others know how wonderful greys are as pets. My Jackie is snuggly, sweet, gives 'hugs' and kisses, and loves her people. She picked me - and I couldn't have asked for a better friend.

PS: Kudos to the folks raising guide dog puppies!! Such wonderful work.