How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

One of the best things about adding a newly retired racing greyhound to the family is watching them discover the big wide world beyond the track. Almost everything they experience is a first. It makes you appreciate just how miraculous your everyday, mundane, taken for granted corner of the world really is.

When Bettina came home, I watched her discover stairs and linoleum (didn’t like either one). She was overwhelmed by her first trip to the pet store and froze in place about halfway through. I had to coax her out with treats. It was either that or carry her. The TV was a wondrous box filled with pictures and noises. Coats were a challenge for Bat Girl. She had never run an actual race and so wasn’t all that familiar with racing silks. She hated coats at first and tried desperately to either tear them off, or, failing in that, buck them off like a tiny black bronco. She succeeded in removing one via the ripping method. The great variety of food and treats she was presented with has kept her constantly excited about meal and treat times. So far, I haven’t found anything that she doesn’t love. She wolfs it all down with gusto.

Car rides, visits to Grammy’s, her brother and her cousins, all new and exciting. But there is one thing in particular that she just can’t seem to assimilate…her own reflection. It took her a few days to really notice. But once she saw the strange dog staring back at her so rudely (in the dog world, staring directly is very uncouth) from every reflective surface, she has been obsessed about it.

She has seen her own reflection in the door, both windows she has access to and in the glass on the stove door. Depending on where she is standing, she can also see her reflection in the glass on both china cabinets. At first, she would stand there, stock still, waiting to see what this other hound would do. All it did was stand there and stare back at her. That was clearly unacceptable. She began giving the “other pooch” a warning growl. This is MY space, step out. I would be elsewhere in the house and suddenly hear a low, quiet growl emanating from the vicinity of aforementioned reflective surfaces. Upon investigation I would always find Bat Girl at one of her reflective posts, warning “other pooch” to straighten up and fly right.

All “other pooch” did was curl it’s lips in a small snarl. Though we could hear nothing from “other pooch,” Bettina was convinced that it was warning her back. The Nerve! When she could stand this breach in dog etiquette no longer she began putting “other pooch” in its place by barking at it. Very often I’d be startled by a commotion in one of the reflective parts of the house. Dashing to the spot, I’d find Bettina staring and barking angrily at her reflection. “Other pooch” apparently unconcerned by this display of aggression, simply barked silently back.

I thought she would eventually figure out about reflections but after two months that darned “other pooch” keeps showing up. My efforts to prove to Bat Girl that the reflection she sees is her own have been a failure. To keep the peace in the house I may soon have to find a way to add “other pooch” to our family pack. I wonder if I can get a break on the adoption fee.


Seven is the New Four

On December 10th my big goofy lug Blue turned seven years old. According to accepted wisdom, for dogs of Blue’s size, seven years old is considered “senior.”

When Blue came to the house three years ago, he was the younger of my two hounds. And he acted it. He was always the one out running around like a crazy dog and being generally silly while his more dignified sister, Girly Girl, was the model of greyhound decorum. Though they were only ten months apart in age, her hock fracture and old soul made the contrast between the two of them all the greater.

Now that he has a new sister who is five years his junior, suddenly he finds himself the elder statesman of the house. A position he appears to be in no way pleased to occupy. Don’t get me wrong-he seems to like Bettina well enough and they are getting along fine. It’s just that Bettina is always moving. Always checking everything out. She frequently brims with so much energy that her 62 pound petite frame can’t contain it all. It just starts to spill out. Soon she’s squeaking. That generally leads to whining which almost always ends in some sort of barking. Usually because she’s wandered past a reflective surface and seen herself. Believing it to be another dog, one which refuses to be engaged and stares very rudely, she must put the dog in its proper place. We have a lot of reflective surfaces. She also finds things to take a sample bite of, like my book-shelves and my phone headset.

When she goes outside the first thing she must do is a series of helicopters. “I’m outside!! Yippeeee!” That is generally followed by upwards of seven circuits around the back yard. Our back yard is not small. Blue watches all this with a good measure of jealousy. He was the young one. He was the baby of the house.

When he goes outside now, he tries to prove his ongoing puppy hood by taking off running after his much younger sister, Bettina. “I’m still young!! I still got it!!” And he does have it, for about three circuits. Round about that time, he slows and Bettina pulls well ahead of him. By the fourth circuit he gives up the pretense of running fair and cuts across the yard to catch up with her. On the sixth and seventh circuits, he has stopped completely and simply waits for her to come around to where he’s standing. Then he half-heartedly charges her for a few steps and stops again. Usually by dinner time I have to give him some Arnica to relieve the old man aches and pains.

Suddenly Blue isn’t the young one anymore. He’s not the silliest, goofiest one in the house. He’s reached his seventh birthday and he’s now a senior citizen.

We celebrated his birthday with a special birthday cookie and one of his favorite meals. Mumma had a couple presents tucked away for grampy to. Though our vet has called him a “young” seven, he isn’t going softly into that good night. He is determined to keep up with Bettina. As though he would be suddenly obsolete if he settled into his dotage. My poor sweet boy. I would love to be able to tell him not to worry about it, but he wouldn’t understand me. Still, in his giant male greyhound heart, I know he fervently wants to believe that seven is the new four.


Bat Girl

Losing Girly Girl has been among the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. I knew how special she was and how special our relationship was from the moment she chose me at the rescue kennel. Knowing what I had and also knowing I was going to lose it, in fact was powerless to do anything about it, shook everything I believed in.

I feel like I am still reeling from her untimely departure, almost two months after her death. I knew I would someday bring home another greyhound to honor Girly Girl’s memory. But I fully expected that to be at least six months to a year in the future. At a minimum. I didn’t realize that Girly Girl had other plans for me.

I had kept a fairly low profile for the last few months of Girly Girl’s illness and the month after her passing. I had not had much contact with the members of my extended greyhound family. All that staying home had taken a toll on Blue. Being such a social butterfly, he has a fundamental need to get out and meet people. He must be loved and adored by his public. So, about four weeks ago, I decided to drag myself out into the light of day and take Blue to one of our favorite pet stores, The Animal House.

The Animal House is a bit of a distance from our house but Blue and I set out for a nice ride. Upon arrival, we made the requisite stop by the cashiers’ station so Blue could extract the maximum treats and attention from the staff. Then I hauled Blue away from his birthright and started to browse around the store. After a time, we heard, “there’s a greyhound in here!” We looked over to see Blue’s “Auntie” Carol standing in the aisle. We hadn’t seen Carol, one of our Meet and Greet Family members, for quite some time. It was so unusual to run into each other in that place and at that time that it took Carol a minute or two to recognize that the greyhound was Blue and that the poor wreck at the other end of his leash was me. It was, in fact, the first time we had ever seen Carol at The Animal House outside of our appointed meet and greet days.

Carol and I chatted for a bit, got caught up. Blue extracted his adoration and then we went on our respective ways. That evening I got an email from Carol. She wanted to tell me that she had dreamt about Girly Girl the night before. Now Carol has shared her life with greyhounds for many years but she said she had never dreamt about any greyhound until the night before she saw me. Carol had hesitated to tell me about the dream when she saw me in the store because she had not wanted to upset me. But the circumstances of our meeting being somewhat strange, we debated whether or not the dream may have meaning.

Because of the nature of my questions concerning the bigger picture and Girly Girl’s cancer, I had desperately been hoping for some sort of sign that Girly Girl was in a good place and that there was some chance we might see each other again. Carol and I wondered if maybe the dream may have been a sign. But neither of us could figure out why Girly Girl would visit Carol in her dream and not come to her mumma?

While Carol and I were pondering these issues, Carol completed one of her regular shifts at the Maine Greyhound Placement Service kennel. Carol wears many volunteer hats there but happened to be doing turn out on that visit. Carol soon emailed me that there was a new load of greyhounds that had just arrived at the kennel on the day we had seen each other at The Animal House. As Carol was greeting each one and reading their names on the crates she came across a beautiful little fawn girl. When Carol checked the name on the crate: Girlie. Carol said she wouldn’t have mentioned it to me for fear of causing me upset, however, after our discussion about the dream, she felt it was yet another strange coincidence.

I have never believed in coincidences and I generally manage to believe everything happens for a reason. It clicked into place why Girly Girl would appear to Carol in her dream. You see, Carol, of all the people who know me, would be in the unique position to see Girlie, the new grey, and, having bumped into me the day before, would be sure to tell me about her because of the dream and our unexpected meeting. I was in no way ready for a new greyhound in my life but things were pointing me towards a visit with Girlie. I figured it couldn't hurt just to go up there and see her.  I wouldn't be obligated.  I called and set the appointment for the coming Saturday.

That Saturday morning with Blue and my mother for support, I drove to the kennel to meet Girlie. I waited nervously while they brought out the sweetest looking little fawn girl with striking Elizabeth Taylor eyes, just like Girly Girl had. I took her leash and walked her around. Then around some more. Then I sat down and tried to engage her. But try as I might, I could not get Girlie to even acknowledge me, let alone make any kind of connection. I might have blamed it on her being overly excited except she attached herself to my mother quite clearly. I was very puzzled. Why was I at MGPS if it wasn’t for Girlie?

My mother suggested that, since we were already there, perhaps I should meet another hound. That just maybe, Girly Girl arranged for someone else to succeed her. I was a bit disappointed that Girlie was a bust and I wasn’t really ready for a new baby. I considered just leaving but mom and the kennel volunteer seemed so eager to show me someone else so I agreed to meet another. Out came Helda, a great looking, rather large, brindle girl. She was out of control and almost immediately attacked Blue. Grammy ended up being bitten when she stuck her hand in Helda’s mouth to keep her from biting Blue’s neck. Scratch Helda.

By now I was thinking about what a mistake this had been and what I was going to do after we left the kennel. But again my mother and the kennel volunteer prevailed upon me to give it one more try. Half-heartedly I agreed to just one more. Soon Jess was back with a sleek looking, almost completely black girl named Mo (short for Mohican Heart). She was a bit excited at first but she calmed as I walked her around. Every time we paused, she would run back to me from the end of the lead and lean against me for a scratch or rub. When I sat next to her, she tried licking my face. She got on famously well with Blue though he was pretty gun shy after getting his butt kicked by Helda.

Mo was very loving, outgoing and friendly. I felt a little twinge. But I asked to see Girlie again. It didn’t seem right that I was considering leaving Girlie behind. She was from Alabama, from the same trainer as Girly Girl. She had Elizabeth Taylor eyes! So Jess brought Girlie back out and there was just no doubt. She made no connection with me whatsoever. I hemmed and hawed for a bit. My inner voice wasn’t giving me clear direction. My brain was telling me that I probably should just go home. I wasn’t ready. So I opened my mouth and said, “It’s Mo. I’ll take her.” Wait. What? 

Before I could think too much about the “what?” part, I was in the office reviewing Mo’s paperwork and writing a check. It turned out that Girlie had been retired for two months before coming to MGPS. Her trainer had held her there at his kennel until MGPS could make their next pick up because he had wanted to send her to Maine. Not only that, but Mo had been at MGPS for six months. She had been chosen by a family and was scheduled to go home with them on October 20th but for some reason it had fallen through.

When all the paper had transferred and Mo was loaded into the car with Blue, I sat in the driver’s seat a bit stunned and dazed. My mother turned to me and said, “Think about it. If Carol had emailed you to tell you about Mo, would you have come to see her?” I just wasn’t ready and I would not have. “Girly Girl saw to it that the one person who would be in a position see Girlie and you (Carol) told you about Girlie. You wouldn’t have come here for any other dog. Girlie had been held for two months so she would end up at MGPS. That got you here. But when you got here you met the hound you were supposed to. One who had been waiting here for you for six months. Who had been adopted a few weeks before you arrived but it fell through and she was ready for you.”

So meet Mohican Heart, Mo, now known as Bettina and nicknamed by our Meet & Greet Family as Bat Girl. She’s just turned 2 years old October 8th. She was sent to Rhode Island to race but never had the opportunity to get on the track before it closed. Apparently they assessed that it was not worth shipping her to another track and after I first saw her run, I understood. She’s extremely loving but in many, many ways still a baby. I have my hands full. There have been a few times I have looked at the sky and asked, “Really? Really!?!” Then I subtly feel the poke of a much loved but now absent needle nose gently prodding me forward. After all, Bettina comes with a very special recommendation.