Monday, October 19, 2009


Most Thursdays, I answer the phone for Greyhound Adoption Center. From time to time, callers ask me to describe life with a Greyhound.

"I hear that they are so quiet, all they do is sleep."
Well, yes and no.

"I hear that they curl up in such a tight circle, they hardly take up any room."
Perhaps some do.

"Can I leave my Greyhound in the back yard while I'm at work?"
No! No! No!

"Are Greyhounds expensive to keep?"
What do you think of as expensive? When you take a dog to the vet, what is the first thing they do? They weigh the dog. All treatments and medications increase in cost with the size of the dog. Most of the Greyhounds I know are closer to 80 pounds than to 70 pounds. Sweet little Ruby might not weigh 60 pounds, but that's unusual in an ex-racer. Wonderful Zephyr was 97 pounds in her prime. Greyhounds weigh more than Beagles and less than Great Danes. So their meds are usually costlier than Beagles' and cheaper than Great Danes'.

Then there is anesthesia. Greyhounds will die if they are given the wrong kind or an excessive amount of anesthesia. They have no body fat to speak of. With little or no body fat, there is nothing to absorb too much anesthesia. The cost of Greyhounds' streamlined design is little margin for error. If you are too timid or too careless to make sure that your veterinarian is familiar with the unique needs of Greyhounds, your Greyhound could pay for your timidity or carelessness with its life.

And skin. Greyhounds have what is called Zipper Skin. A wound that would be insignificant--not really worth a visit to the vet--in another breed, must receive prompt veterinary attention in a Greyhound. There will be stitches or staples and, perhaps, drains.

AND THEY MUST BE ON-LEAD OR IN A SECURELY CONFINED AREA AT ALL TIMES! Like all sight hounds, Greyhounds see much farther than you do; centuries of breeding push them to run after any moving object in their line of vision. "By the time you call their name, they're out of sight."

Why then, do Greyhounds inspire such devotion? Why are they said to be like potato chips: "You can't have just one."

Every Greyhound devotee would answer that question differently. But, for me, their appeal lies in their embodiment of paradox.

Greyhounds are Serious Dogs. They can run down prey at the speed of 40-45 mph, and "dispatch" the prey before the hunter arrives--traditionally, on horseback--to congratulate them on the kill.

And yet, when we take them into our homes, these Big Serious Dogs trot around with stuffed bunnies and duckies in their mouths. They tuck their "stuffies" under their chins when they sleep, like a small child with its treasured bear or blankie.

Greyhounds are inherently elegant, both moving and still. But they can get themselves into such amusing poses, one must laugh. Bingley, my Very High Prey Mighty Hunter, crosses his "wrists" in a most delicate manner when resting. Zephyr, Portia, and part Greyhound or Whippet Daphne, slept in Dead Cockroach position, on their backs, long thin legs stretched straight up.

But perhaps what attaches people most to rescue Greyhounds is their quiet dignity in face of all the indignities they have endured and the uncertainties that they face. When we adopt a rescued Greyhound, we know that their lives have changed permanently for the better. We know that, never again will they be fed goop made out of parasite-laden, lowest grade beef. We know that they will receive the medication they need, plus flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. We know that they will have routine physicals and dental care. We know that they will take to lounging on sofas and cushions almost as naturally as they chase critters. They have no way of knowing all that.

When ex-racing Greyhounds initially enter our homes, they enter a world as strange to them as Byzantium would be to you or me. Stairs, windows, furniture--and mirrors--are all brand new. Some know about riding in vans. But few know anything about getting into a car. And yet, they look to us, not with suspicion, but with trust, and they learn the rules and policies of their new digs with amazing alacrity.

And the best part is yet to come. After they figure out the lay of the land, after they settle down to their new routine, when they understand you are going to be their friend, they begin to reveal their true nature. They let you know Who They Truly Are. Zephyr was Queen of All She Surveyed. Portia was a Mischievous Beauty Who Wanted To Be Loved For Herself. Bingley is an Aw Shucks, M'am, Cowboy

I feel honored to have these elegant creatures trust me. The house would seem empty without one of them lounging on a sofa or draped over a cushion. And, I must say, they really add to the ambience of the place.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely and concise description. If anything people who read this will definitely want to be a Greyhound rescuer!