For This I Give Thanks….?

OK, yes. Everyone does one of these lists at this time of year. So who am I to buck the popular trend? I fold to peer pressure.

I am thankful for Blue’s horrific dragon breath, which can melt plastic and bend metal.

I am thankful for the 30 plus pounds of greyhound hair that I ingest annually.

I am thankful for two very gassy, smelly, greyhound behinds.

I am thankful for the dog drool stains that grace my couch cushions and all the dog beds.

I am thankful for the chewed woodwork and countertop in the bathroom, a remnant from an early experiment with greyhound separation anxiety.

I am thankful for all the times Blue pees on his own feet (front and back, sometimes at the same time, figure that one out).

I am thankful for the times Blue has peed on Girly Girl’s head.

I am thankful for two cold, wet, drippy noses, which unerringly find their way to the important documents or photos newly set on the coffee table and soak them down with dog snooshies.

I am thankful for the front storm door and all my windows now coated in greyhound nose prints.

I am thankful for a car backseat that is no longer fit for human habitation. 

I am thankful for a greyhound that delights in sidling up to me after dinner on the pretext of a cuddle, only to stretch her graceful snout as close to my face as possible to let out a long, loud, juicy pirate burp.

I am thankful for the many bruises and scratches suffered whilst being kicked on my couch by a stretching, dreaming or roaching greyhound.

I am thankful for the complete drenching received while waiting in the rain for a fussy greyhound to find the absolutely perfect spot to entrust his precious urine to.

I am thankful for the miles and miles of paper towels used in my house cleaning up various oopsies and illnesses for four legged inhabitants.

I am thankful for the nasty sopping wet spot, complete with crumbs left on the carpet for me to step in (barefoot most frequently) after Blue eats a treat.

I am thankful for the loss of ½ the square footage of my house to the numerous and ever accumulating dog beds (how can you ever throw out a good dog bed, right?).

Thankful for all this stuff you ask? You bet. And here’s why: every one of these things means I’m lucky enough to be living with two fabulous greyhounds. Every one of these things has ended up making me laugh (a number of them took some time, but eventually….). These are the worst things I’ve come across in my life with Blue and Girly Girl. I know many people who can’t say the same with their families. And frankly, having humans in the back seat of your car is highly over rated.


This Holiday Season, Here is Our Grift to You

Seems we have developed a bit of a problem. My loving, sweet, social butterfly Blue has never been the brightest bulb in the pack. But he’s not exactly stupid either. Which is probably why he’s been able to fly under the radar for so long.

Girly Girl is the smart one in the family. However, Blue has learned one trick. Down. I taught him this amazing feat of skill using a clicker and food rewards. Only I never really got around to fading out the treat. I hope you are all paying attention, since this is an object lesson for greyhound owners far and near. Finish the job.

Instead, whenever it is time to dispense treats or dinner, I ask for a down. And down he goes like a lead balloon. Like the Titanic. Like the stock market last year. You get the idea. Thus, I have solidified in his mind downtreat. Treatdown. Fooddown. Downfooddinnerdown.

OK, so I’m lazy and a bad dog trainer. My dog knows one trick and he fully expects to be compensated for it. Except I didn’t realize I had a smooth criminal living with me. At first I thought what he was doing was cute. I thought he was being friendly and outgoing and social. I was very proud of my big boy. I thought it so clever that he could do a trick for dog treats. Then, as I really started watching him, I realized he was working each victim over and over again. He had a plan and he employed it the same way each time, in each store. And everyone fell for it. Every time. I had a master manipulator on my hands. I was living under the same roof with a professional grifter.

Maine is a very dog friendly state. We are lucky to have a lot of pet stores, both small independent and big chain. We have a list of our favorites and sometimes during the week, I’ll take the dogs to one or another to stave off cabin fever since we work at home.

Blue carries a mental map of each pet store. He knows from the time we are within a mile or two of the parking lot which store we’re headed to. He knows where the treat bar is located. He knows where the registers are. He also knows where, at the register, the doggy treat bowl is located. His favorites are the treat “buffets” at the chain stores. When we get near one, he’ll commandeer the first store employee he can find and he’ll lean on him/her. Then he’ll saunter over to the buffet and, since he’s tall enough to rest his head on the counter, but not quite tall enough to reach into the treat bins, he’ll rest his head on the buffet and sniff.

Blue has big floppy cheeks and he uses these to his best effect. When he sniffs, he looks and sounds something like a horse snorting. His cheeks go in and out like a spoiled child after a crying jag. It’s much exaggerated and at the end he blows out a big long sigh making his cheeks flap back and forth (with the aforementioned horse noises).

Then he turns, with a quick knowing glance at me, and gives the employee big greyhound eyes, does a little prance and drops to his down position. If that doesn’t work. He jumps up, head on buffet. Looks down at tasty treats. Maybe a little drool. Sniff. Drops to down position. Looks up at employee. This ALWAYS gets him a cookie. He’ll work that angle until I stop giving the employee permission to give him cookies, or until the employee stops the flow of treats out of concern for his or her job or that quarters profits.

At that point, Blue develops a sudden interest in checking out.

He has two strategies at the check out counter. He invariably starts by deploying his “Sing for Your Supper” scam. Here he attempts to induce the employee manning the register to believe that he is either A) an actual store employee and thus, it is OK to give him unfettered access to treats or B) willing to work by assisting with check out operations such as bagging, money counting or merchandise inspection in exchange for biscuits. To accomplish this he deftly steps behind the counter, joins the employee at the register and begins his attempt to assist with various tasks. He pokes his nose into bags, sniffs customer merchandise, sniffs money as it is handed over and generally makes a nuisance of himself. Employees find this so endearing that they throw handfuls of treats into his open gob. When the flow of treats begins to slow down from that side of the counter, Blue steps back around and rejoins his Mumma in line.

He now employs the Hail Mary Play. He has worked the employees in the store and at the doggie buffet. He has already worked the employee at the register. However, there are two sides to that check-out counter and by dog he’s going to make sure he has squeezed every last treat possible out the store before we exit. Here he again employs the head on the counter and the Mr. Ed sniff. That usually will get him a treat or two. But the main component of the Hail Mary Play is simply a repeated series of downs. The downs themselves are not special. But add in that the big giant goofy white and gray hound is willing to set the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of downs completed at a check out counter in a pet store all the while staring at you unblinkingly with amazing amber eyes and generally Blue can induce any register operator to pour the remainder of the treat bucket directly into his waiting gullet.

Having thus accomplished his mission he contentedly waits for Mumma to finish paying for her purchase. We head out of the store the kids have a quick sniff and a pee and I load them into the car. Blue stands at the edge of the seat and waits, staring at me. “What?!” I say. But I know what he’s waiting for. He wants one of the treats I’ve just purchased in the store.


Indy and the Great Greyhound Family

Adopting a greyhound is not a singular event. You don’t pick up a dog, take it home and begin life as a pet owner. It’s a little like getting married. You also end up with a whole network of greyhound caretakers, fanatics and rescuers as well as their hounds that become part of your extended family. You add friends all over the world who are connected via the internet and the various social networking outlets, all who share the love of greyhounds with you.

In my greyhound infancy, I actually thought myself quite clever and groundbreaking when I set up Facebook pages for Girly Girl and Blue. That lasted all of 30 minutes until the first 15 or 20 friend requests came in from other greyhounds, whippets and iggies. Since then we’ve friended more sight hounds than I can count as well as tons of other dog breeds and even a few cats (if they had the right attitude-or should I say “cattitude”).

The tightest group I’ve developed within my larger greyhound network is my “Meet and Greet Family”. These are the people and hounds we see every weekend at the various meet and greets in the Mid-Coast Maine area. Everyone goes to everyone else’s event to support each other and, let’s admit it, as an excuse to get together. This group has ended up holding Christmas parties together. We’ve had summer barbecues together. We’ve been to each other’s birthday parties. We’re in touch via email and phone when we’re not together on the weekends.

We as greyhound caretakers adopted our hounds because we love greys. While our own furry babies are like our children, we love those of our extended greyhound family as well. Heck, we love strange greys we meet for the first time. We love photos of greys we see on Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to drive to Georgia to pick up one handsome guy I fell in love with via photos shared on Twitter. That was just last month.

That’s why it hurts so badly when one of the hounds in your extended family becomes seriously hurt or ill. We all worry as if it were our own. Recently one of the hounds in my “Meet and Greet Family” began suffering from some problems with his stomach. He was not eating well. Visits to the vet didn’t seem to turn up anything. Eventually poor Indigo (known to all of us who knew and loved him as “Indy”) was vomiting everything he tried to eat. His mum was beside herself with worry. Events seemed to move so quickly from here. Poor Indy went to the vet where they found a number of masses in his abdomen. The worst was suspected and his mum was faced with the horrible prospect of saying her goodbyes to him before he went in for his exploratory surgery.

The suspected cancer was indeed found and Indy’s mum gave him the last gift that she could give him though it broke her heart. She let him go during the surgery. Though you can never really know the full pain of this loss unless you are the unfortunate soul who has to suffer it, the news of Indy’s passing shook our circle to the core as though the loss had happened to each of us in some way (and in fact it had, in a way). We all looked at our own hounds and thought of them in the same place. We worried about hearing the same diagnosis. If you are a greyhound caretaker, you always live in fear of the dreaded “C” word.

And we felt the loss of our sweet Indy who was a little bit each of ours just as our hounds belong a little bit to the others in our Meet and Greet Family. Indy had the softest fur of any greyhound you have ever met. He was a mellow character who got along with all creatures, four legged and two. He loved peanut butter and got a peanut butter bone every day from which he would wear a little bit on his cheeks as if to save it for later. He was his mum’s only “child” and the apple of her eye.

Our Meet and Greet Family, and the greater greyhound network will all huddle in a little closer to help Indy’s mum and indeed us all to bear the loss of another gentle soul. That is one of the incredibly sad things about life with greyhounds but it is one of the many great things about being part of the Great Greyhound Family.


Fire Dog Tryouts

We recently had to travel to Plattsburgh, NY for my job. This is where the “home office” is and so from time to time, we travel there so they remember what I look like and why they hired me to begin with.

Now I did say “we” went to Plattsburgh. Among the many things I love about my job is that they let me travel with the four legged kids. In fact, Girly Girl and Blue may very well be better traveled than the motif/mascot on the sides of those buses….

My pups are pros at staying in hotels. In fact, I suspect that Blue would rather live in a hotel. In hotels, he believes he can jump up onto the bed. Blue has a mental block that white dogs cannot jump. When he isn’t paying attention or he is distracted, or in dire straits, he can jump like a grasshopper. When he thinks about it, he freezes up and has to be able to step up or he won’t go there. Luckily, he can step into the back seat of my car, or else I’d have a hernia by now. There are days when even that is a challenge for his poor afflicted mind. For whatever reason, he suspended belief during one of our early stays in a hotel. I think it was out of pure jealousy that Girly Girl had this giant bed to herself. After he whined and I refused to lift him onto the bed, he gave up and launched himself. A monster was born.

Since that day I’ve always had to get a hotel room with two beds in it. One for me and one for Blue. I know what you’re thinking. “For heaven’s sake, it’s a dog! Make him get down!” There are two problems with that theory. First, greyhounds aren’t really dogs and second, they can be more stubborn than the most ornery mule ever thought of being. Wrestle him off the bed (and I do mean wrestle) and he’ll run to the other side and jump up. If he doesn’t wear you down with that trick, he’ll definitely be fighting with you for pillow space the very second you fall asleep. Until then, he will stand and stare at you from the end of the bed. Pretty soon you wonder if he’s going to eat you or sneak up on the bed when you fall asleep.

I decided that I never really wanted to find out which way he’d go, and so we get two beds. I get a good nights sleep, I keep life and limb and the big dog is a happy boy. 

We were on our last night in the hotel for this particular stay. The plan was to drive home the next day, having completed our work visit. It turned out there was some big concert in town and thus the hotel was full of young people drinking in their rooms, running the halls and generally being obnoxious (yes I realize I am in danger of sounding like my mother here). We had to change rooms because our first neighbors turned out to be concert goers holding a rousing game of beer pong prior to departure. We were not excited about following the progress of the game. We moved to a nice quiet wing. The night desk clerk wished me good luck sleeping.

He wasn’t kidding either. We had been sleeping for some untold number of minutes, or maybe hours when slumber was ripped violently apart by a horrible buzzing/ringing/pulsing squall. It’s never good when you wake up saying, “What The F____??!!!?!?!?!?!” In my confusion I start groping around for my phone to either answer it or turn off the alarm. Ooops, I left the phone out in the car. OK, so the hotel alarm clock. No wait, I unplugged that to plug in my computer.

Then….OH CRAP! THAT’S THE FIRE ALARM! I spring out of bed. Hounds do same. Big excitement. Rush to the door and look out the peephole. Wait, are you supposed to do that in a fire. Oh well, too late. No flames, but holy cow, there’s smoke. Feel the door. It’s not warm. Crack the door open, yep, definitely smoke and something seriously burnt. OK, guess we’ll be vacating.

Ever wonder how fast you can get two greyhounds into coats, harnesses and leashes? Try it when you think you may be in a burning building. Once we were all fully geared up, throw the door open and prepare to run the gauntlet of flames. OK, no flames. But more smoke and the smell of something very burnt. The hounds were incredibly brave considering the noise from the alarm, which was directly outside our door, was deafening. They followed my lead and never showed fear.

It seemed we were the only people on our wing who wanted to live. Either that or we’d taken longer to get ready than I thought. We make our way down the hall (of course we’re at the VERY far end) to the lobby. More smoke and that awful burning smell. Two hotel employees are loitering about in the lobby and they direct us to go outside. They didn’t seem very alarmed. We joined the ten or fifteen other hotel guests sitting along the curb out front. This was definitely not the full complement of hotel guests.

Blue immediately began working the crowd. He demanded attention from everyone he could reach within his leashes radius. For him this was like a bonus meet and greet, only later and colder. Girly Girl had been about as brave as she could muster and she proceeded to stuff herself into my lap. There she stayed shaking like a washing machine on spin cycle.

Pretty soon every fire truck in the city of Burlington rolled into the hotel parking lot. Girly Girl found a way to get inside my coat with me and then attempt to keep an eye on those noisy trucks out the sleeve. More fire fighters went into the hotel than there were hotel guests milling around outside. They had all manner of gear and hoses and poles and axes. Blue tried sneaking in with them but as usual, mumma ruined all his fun. They came back out a few minutes after they went in, still lugging all their gear. The verdict? One of the concert goers microwaved an unknown substance to the point where it went from charcoal, to carbon to a diamond. Since the microwave resides in the lobby where, presumably, the night desk clerk also sits, this had to be some kind of trick.  

We got the all clear to return to our rooms. Girly Girl was practically dragging me towards our wing. Blue had other plans. Standing in the lobby was a fire man, waiting for the small herd of hotel guests to come in so he could go out. Blue zeroed in on him as though he were a meaty bone. Apparently, for Blue, here was his big chance and the fire man never knew what hit him. Before the man knew it, he was fully charmed by this 80 pound skinny walking sculpture and he was down on his knees in full turn out gear giving Blue all kinds of love.

I never knew that Blue harbored a secret desire to be a fire dog. I guess it never really came up. But I suppose he figured he was almost as spotted as those Dalmatians (at least his skin is, but he has to be soaked down to really show this to his best benefit). And he could certainly do whatever it is that the Dalmatians do, only much faster. In the end the fire man reluctantly joined his compatriots on one of the many many trucks and Blue got no offers of employment. If we are lucky, he’ll never get another opportunity to apply.


You'll Never Pee Alone

Greyhounds want to be everywhere you are. There it is. I don’t know why, but it just is. I am lucky enough to work from home so my day breaks down something like this:

25% of the time: Dogs literally stuck to my hip via some body part-generally by pushing their heads into my side or leaning on me. If I am on the couch, they will be sitting on me. Laying on me. Putting their heads or paws onto my computer keyboard. They are not called Velcro dogs lightly.

50% of the time: Dogs within inches of me, or lightly touching me with some body part. Cold noses stuck to the one spot of skin showing. A paw stretched out to touch you. A head laid on your foot. A tail across the face.

24% of the time: Dogs placing themselves within sight line of me. There are some pretty interesting contortions to accomplish this goal considering the set up of my living room and office, but greyhounds can, and will, get it done.

.05% of the time: Dogs know I am in the house with them, know where I am but can not get to me or see me. This is cause for consternation. Generally there is whining and attempts to stuff ones doggie parts as near to mumma as possible. This might include stuffing noses or legs or any other parts possible under doors, through gates or using each other as catapults and step ladders.

.05% of the time: Dogs cannot see me and do not know where I am. Since I come back to a house that is no more of a disaster zone than when I left it and no one is bloodied or in need of stitches, I assume that they muddle along fine once I get out of sight. There is a general melee of rejoicing and happiness at my return however.

And that leads us to the title of this piece. Yes gentle reader, should you leave the bathroom door open even a small crack when you use it, you will, in fact, never pee alone. An open bathroom door to a greyhound, is the best thing EVER. It is uninterrupted quality time with a human who is a captive audience. Blue and Girly Girl have even accompanied me to the bathroom at 3 am, waited patiently while I got sick from some bad Chinese food and then insisted that I pet them with my free hand.

When you get a greyhound you just simply learn to live with the fact that they will want to be everywhere that you are. It is in their nature. No situation or bodily process drives them from your side. No, my friends, you will NEVER pee alone.