Attempted Catricide and the Cure for What Ails Ya

Girly Girl and Blue’s Grammy recently fenced in her fabulous flat, obstacle free back yard. This has been a great boon to us all. We have always liked to visit Grammy but now there is even more reason to sneak over there every time we’re in town for a few quick hot laps before heading home.

These visits are always quite fun. Sometimes Grammy’s boys join us and Girly Girl, Blue, Fox and Crandall have a free for all for about 5 minutes. Then everyone stands around looking at each other until we give up and go inside for some treats or the three of us go home.

So one night last week we decided to sneak over to Grammy’s for a quick run. It was already dark but we knew the back yard so well by this time that I didn’t think much about it. I let the furry kids off their leashes and urged them off to work out the excess energy. They took care of the obligatory investigation and took care of covering over all the spots where Fox and Crandall had marked. They jogged back and forth a couple times and then they disappeared around the far side of Grammy’s house.

A way to tease the hounds suddenly presented itself to my diabolical mind and I turned and headed to the far side of Grammy’s garage so as not to be seen when they came back around to the backyard. This, I knew, would send them into a frantic search for me. I was giggling to myself when I heard the first cavalcade of canine feet begin from the far side of the house. Any moment they’d come flying around the corner of the garage and barrel into me, all in a panic that I had left them behind. Hey, I love them, but I’m still an evil, evil girl. This, I might add, is one of the many reasons I don’t have human children. Except it turned out the joke was on me and that was not even close to what came into view.

As I peeked around the corner of the garage, there came streaking from the side of Grammy’s house, Girly Girl. She was moving as fast as I have ever seen any greyhound move. That includes the greyhounds I saw running in the live races at Raynham when we were at the adoption expo. This was a hound that seemed not to have been told that she had a fractured hock. I stood marveling at how fast she was running. Then I marveled at the absolute beauty of her movements. The art and grace of a greyhound running at top speed with full intent and purpose.

Then I realized there was a reason for her laser focus, and she was NOT ALONE.

Not quite one whisker’s length ahead of her was a white ball of fluff, running for its poor, pathetic, furry, soon to be cut short, life. My brain started the calculations and I quickly ruled out the possibility of reaching the pair before Girly Girl had the desperate cat at the far corner of the yard in the 90 degree bend of the fence. I looked around and saw Blue trotting out from the side of Grammy’s house. His ears were up and he was watching the proceedings as I was though his expression was one of mild interest and amusement while mine was one of dawning horror as my mind rapidly went through and discarded the possible actions I might take. Run real fast and save the cat-yeah right. Stand there and pee my pants while covering my eyes and twisting my mind around the fact that I’m going to have to collect the pieces of someone’s cat in a plastic bag-that’s probably more like it.

I yelled for Girly Girl to break off the chase. I could almost hear Blue laughing to my left as he watched events unfold. If Girly Girl even knew of our existence at that point, she showed no sign of it. My ability to influence the outcome of this play was essentially nil. My brain started working up pictures of the murder scene complete with crime scene photos, a tape outline (actually many little tape outlines of the various pieces) and Girly Girl being led away in muzzle and cuffs. What is the protocol in a case like that, do you bring the plastic bag and try to find the owner or give the remains a decent burial and let the poor owners wonder what happened instead of knowing the awful truth?

Within a split second, Girly Girl had covered the distance between the side of Grammy’s house and the corner of the fence. She was upon the cat and like some very bad African documentary where they actually show the lion making the kill, I watched as she grabbed the cat by the back and began to shake it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I was just emitting squeaks. Possibly supersonic. Blue was looking at me strangely instead of watching the drama in front of us and there were a large number of bats gathering on the eaves of the garage.

At the last possible second Fluffy the White gave it one last college try and reached up behind him firmly attaching his front claw to Girly Girl’s cheek. This was enough to startle her (What? It bites back?) and she opened her mouth dropping said kitty who wasted NO time in beating feet. Girly Girl recovered her composure quickly enough and was soon back on kitty’s tail as they raced up the back side of the yard, along the fence line.

Kitty, apparently not one to make the same mistake twice, saw the approaching corner at the opposite end of the yard and decided he may not be as lucky a second time. He made a dive for the fence and scrambled underneath it. There was a small clearance there but without a doubt there is a white cat wandering around this week with newly coiffed reverse Mohawk who might be a bit tender and whose caretakers are probably very puzzled as to his disheveled state. If they only knew.

For her part, Girly Girl transformed from the steely eyed killer to my sweet Boo-Boo the moment the cat was out of reach. Like a miracle at Lourdes, she could hear again and came trotting over to cuddle up to mum who was on the verge of a breakdown, squeaking about “No Girly Girl, noooo…..” over and over again. She spent the rest of the evening hyped up on adrenaline, pacing back and forth. Alternately abusing toys and panting like some overgrown schoolyard bully. Then curling up with mum or Grammy and smiling in self-satisfaction over the successful hunt, making sure to show off the war wound where kitty had sunk claw in flesh.

And the next day she remembered that she had a racing injury which retired her and oh yeah, that’s why I don’t run so fast anymore. Girly Girl continues to recuperate from the adventure. I still have nightmares about white cats and Grammy says her yard has been cat free since that night. Seems cats talk and word is out in the neighborhood. The feline miracle cure is not recommended for anyone, not hound, not human, and especially not cat.


Retirement is Hard Work!

Greyhounds can only legally race until they are aged 5 years. Then they must be retired and, if they are lucky, they are placed with a rescue group where they find forever homes. Most dogs don’t end up racing that long however. Many things can happen to end a hounds career early including catastrophic injury, refusal to race (anything from running the wrong way on the track to refusing to enter the starting boxes), being a nuisance on the track (menacing other dogs, pushing, bumping etc), and most commonly, a downward slide in performance. Racing is, after all, a business and if the asset does not pay for itself, then it must be written off the books.

As cruel as the business of racing can be, many greyhounds truly love their jobs. My big lummox Blue is one of those boys. He was blessed to be born at a good greyhound farm with an owner who cared about her hounds. He ended up with a trainer who cared about all his dogs at a track that was, relatively speaking, among the best in the country for treatment of its racers. Blue has no bad memories of his racing career.

Retirement wasn’t easy on the old boy. He was retired because his performance began to dip and then slide and eventually bottomed out. I don’t think he was ready.

Blue the greyhound at a Sea Dogs game
Blue cannot hear the notes of the “Post” without going into full flashback mode. Every muscle in his body taught and quivering. He, on alert, looking all around for the starter’s boxes, wondering, I’m sure, when his race starts. We first discovered this, of all places, at a baseball game at which they allowed pets. I brought Blue and Girly Girl. Over the loudspeaker came the familiar trumpet notes of the Post (or Charge for those of you who may not know it as the Post, or Tally Ho for the polo set). Blue was frantic to get to the field and take his place in the box. When they played it again a while later, it was ‘sixty seconds to the next race, place your bets, place your bets.’ Diagnosis confirmed.

We had the opportunity to view some live greyhound racing when visiting Blue’s old stomping grounds. It was a reunion of sorts, so there were about 100 other retired greyhounds also watching. Picture this scene, if you will. The race is about to begin, the tired dirty ragged piece of fur that serves as the lure (fondly known as Senor Speedy we find out later during the Kennel Tour) has begun it’s course around the track. The humans cannot yet hear it. But like a wave, from one end of the grandstand begins a ruckus of barking and rooing and howling and dogs dancing and jumping around. At first you wondered why, then you caught sight of the lure and you heard what to the hounds was old news. It was a chain reaction down the crowd of hounds as each one caught the sound of the lure coming, ahead of humans.

Blue the greyhound back on Raynham race track
Then the sound got to Blue. I have no words to describe his reaction. The noises that came out of him. The gyrations and leaps. He managed to drag me and Girly Girl across the apron from the grand stand to the fence at trackside and nearly managed to clear the fence to get back on the track. Had I not sacrificed my rotator cuff, he would have made it. When I peeled him off the fence, not only were the rest of the humans staring at us, but all the hounds had stopped barking and rooing to stare at us as well. Strangely, there was a wide perimeter around us for the next race. I think Girly Girl was thoroughly embarrassed as she has no good memories of racing and finds these annual pilgrimages to Blue’s track singularly distasteful. She won’t poop for three days before the trip and waits until we get back on track for the parade. You can guess the rest. I’ve learned to bring a large shopping bag to accommodate the clean up. But I digress.

So my poor boy lives in a state of denial. Being forced into early retirement when he had many a good (in his mind) race left in him just didn’t sit well. In his dotage Blue is working harder than he ever worked when he was a professional. Blue is currently running a race just about every day. When its post time and he’s heading into the box his breathing gets heavier. When he’s getting jostled around he grimaces and growls a bit. When he wins, after he is done running, he wags his tail (he always wins). And then he always wakes up from his race with his tail still wagging. Now if I could just figure out a way to bet on those races….

Blue the greyhound napping at Best Western Smithfield Inn


The Usurper

My first greyhound was (and is) Girly Girl. I did a lot of research and preparation before I got her because I lived in apartments for a long time before I finally got a house and was in a position where I could have a dog. I knew all those apartment-dwelling years that my dog would be a greyhound.

I read all the books (come to my house, they’re on my bookshelf, well thumbed through). I bought bowls, beds, toys, leashes, collars, a crate and all sorts of other gadgets and gizmos designed to make life with your new best friend fun, easy and carefree. Most of those bowls, beds, toys, leashes, gadgets and gizmos are still downstairs still stored where I carefully stacked them.

One of the many decisions I made in preparation for my first fur pants wearing child was that Girly Girl greyhound thinking about getting on the couchthe animals would not get on furniture. Not on the couch, not on the bed-not on any furniture. I am in no way the first person to have made this decision. And definitely not the first one to now say, what on God’s green earth happened!?

I’m not even sure when it started, or how. For a long time I stuck to the rule. No dogs on the furniture. I slept in a lovely dog free bed. My couches were dog hair free and there was plenty of space to sit, or stretch out. When Blue joined Girly Girl here I continued to stick to the rule.

But then one morning Girly Girl was sleeping with me. She was curled up and at first stayed near the edge of the bed (so near that at one point she even fell off). Eventually she started stretching out pushing me further and further to the other side of the bed. I’d wake up and find myself at the other edge of the bed. A family meeting was called and we had to come to an understanding about whose bed it was. She simply started sneaking up onto the bed again after I fell asleep. Being a very smart girl, she stopped pushing me to the other side. She will take care to look very surprised to be on the bed every morning. “How on earth did I get here? I’m quite sure I don’t know mumma. But since I am here, could you rub my belly?”

One day I realized she was also laying there next to me on the couch. What! At first she wGirly Girl greyhound couch usurperas such a polite little lady. She’d demurely wait for my permission (implied most of the time by a glance her way). Then, if I was on the couch, that was permission enough and she’d join me there.

Now if I am in any way blocking access to her “spot” at the very end of the couch, she will begin whining at me. Should I rudely take no notice of her, she will correct my oversight by barking in her “indoor” voice. If that gets no response, she will let me have it with a barrage of barks at full volume (sure, greyhounds never bark-I remind her of this ALL the time). Should I not move to let her up, look out, she’s coming up anyway and I’m going to get 60 plus pounds of flying greyhound on my shins or possibly knees if I’m laying down, in my lap if I’m sitting there.

If I still won’t move, she’ll settle herself down as best she can on top of my legs or knees laying at an odd tilt, all akimbo and stay that way for the evening.

Should I rearrange her to save my knees from dislocating or my shins from snapping, or to get my quilt out from under her, she shoots me a dirty look. “I gave you every opportunity to get yourself situated. Now you want to disturb me?” Wait a second. Whose couch is this? Who paid for it? Who worked to get the money to pay for it? Why am I apologizing to a hound and begging her pardon?

Isn’t the rule no dogs on the bed or on the furniture? Sure it is. I can hear all the other greyhound owners out there laughing now.


Commoditizing the World One Hound at a Time or A New Modest Proposal

Today Google noted that it was the birthday of the ubiquitous barcode.

One of the links they provided to round out our education on the oft overlooked workhorse of commerce was for a site that would allow you to generate your own barcodes. For FREE!
I started generating barcodes for family, friends and of course, the furry kids:

Blue the greyhounds UPC code

Girly Girl greyhound black and white

Girly Girl greyhounds UPC code
I wondered if the National Greyhound Association was aware of this free bar code generator? Instead of tattooing numbers in hounds ears, give each one a barcode. One scanner at each track and it would be very easy to ensure that each dog in a race was truly the dog that was registered under that name.

And at the finish line, instead of cameras, they could install something similar to the price check stations in Target and Walmart. It would read the racer's barcodes as they crossed the line. No waiting around for official race results. A matter of seconds for the scanner to post the winners to the big boards and make or break some pensioner's day.

Just imagine kennel management efficiencies. Scan each hound as they receive their food. Scan again as they head out the door for their potty breaks. Scan again when they leave for training. Simple inventory management software and you have a record of all kennel activity.

When it comes time to retire, the newly minted retirees could be scanned out of stock. The rescue organization receiving the greyhounds easily scans them in, compare them to the printout they received from the track or the kennel in question and add them to the rescue's inventory....

Hmmm, upon further reflection, I hope that the National Greyhound Association never finds out about the free barcode generator.


Please Mom, Just 5 More Minutes...

Greyhounds have unerring internal clocks. And they love routine. They were born to routine. They were raised with routine and they spent the majority of their adult life up to the point they joined their forever homes living in a comfortable routine.

Woe is you if you don’t continue to provide them with a semblance of routine. Actually, I take that back. If you don’t continue to provide them with a semblance of routine, no problem. They’ll provide one for you.

In their racing life, Blue and Girly Girl, the two furry loves of my life, would rise very early. They would be fed, taken out and then they would go back into their crate, or, more than likely, they would go for training or to the race track for pre-race activities.

In Mumma’s world, there is a lot of sleeping in whenever it can be managed. Except that now, I have two furry alarm clocks. At 5:45 am sharp, every morning, Girly Girl’s cold, wet, nose pokes its way under the covers to announce it’s time to get up. Thus begins a round of pleading (yes, pleading) with my dog for 30 more minutes to sleep. She will lie down beside the bed and give me 15 more minutes to sleep. Then she will get very close to my ear and begin whining. Soon Blue joins her with his dragon breath.
Girly Girl greyhound naps on the couch
I begin pleading again. “Come on guys, just 10 more minutes. Then I’ll get up and get you breakfast. I’ll even give you extra.” That sometimes works. I get 10 extra minutes. But no more. Some mornings I may wheedle up to 30 minutes extra out of them and sometimes no more than 15 minutes. But there comes a time when they will not leave the side of the bed and I know it is time to get up.

There is a similar process at 5:30p when it is time to quit work (I work from home). And I have to promise my life away in order to work any extra time. Another process to keep me in line about their lunch time snack, and their dinnertime. They herd me around all day long. But if they seem a little obsessive compulsive, you can’t blame them. It’s just the way they were raised. Schedule = good. Chaos = bad.

More than once they’ve saved my bacon when my less than reliable alarm clock did not go off. But more than once I’ve seriously considered whether a beagle or a miniature schnauzer might have been a better choice when that nose came poking in at 5:45 am. “Come on guys! It’s SATURDAY!!!”


Your Dogs Look Funny!

Oh just a dollar for every time I hear that! Girly Girl and Blue greyhound out in the snow

But the jokes on you all, because Greyhounds aren't really dogs. Not in the sense that other dogs are "dogs". Because most greyhounds spend their entire lives being trained to race, or racing, and thus they have an entirely different sensibility than the ordinary household pet. They don't learn how to play with toys or other dogs. They don't ever see other dog breeds and know only greyhounds. They see few people other than their caretakers and that is for a few short hours a day.

Coming to retirement for a greyhound can be traumatic at first. They don't know about stairs, glass doors, windows, tile or linoleum flooring. They may be the only dog in a home when they've spent their whole life with no less than 30-50 dogs at all times. They probably have never ridden in a car before. Some may be dealing with career ending injuries in addition to this whole new world of retirement.

This unique life experience combines to create a creature with a gentle soul (yeah, go figure). A couch potato who sleeps most of the day but who can reach 40 miles an hour given the chance. A creature who will be absolutely devoted to you, heart and soul. Who will capture your heart in return. Who will ruin Girly Girl and Blue greyhound in the back of the Kia Rioyou for other dogs and make you a fanatic and unapologetically so.

Since the first brindle girl came home in my back seat with her tail tucked tightly between her legs, I have had more adventures than I can ever relate. Adding her "brother" a breathtaking amber-eyed white and blue behemoth only added to the laughs we've had every day. I changed, on that day I brought my girl home from being a person who always liked dogs to someone who was completely nuts about greyhounds. Someone who began living, breathing and dreaming about greyhounds. Someone who began photographing only greyhounds. Someone who began collecting all things greyhound. Someone who began reading every book about greyhounds she could find. Nuts. Absolutely nuts.

In this blog I hope to chronicle my change and how much better my life became as a result. To put down the daily ridiculous things that happen to us in order to remember them. Time being such a thief and memory a fickle thing at best, I hate to lose even a minute. And with that...let the blog begin. Oops, I think it just did.