Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Westminster

I have often mentioned Windsong, Bingley's and Magic's home away from home. I encourage you to click on the link and take a virtual tour of this wonderful pet spa. I really cannot call it a kennel.

It's hard to describe the relief I felt, finding a place where I can take Bingley and Magic with no fear, no second thoughts, when travel, health emergencies, or family concerns make it impossible for me to care for them at home.

For me, a bonus is the fact that Mike Dougherty, the owner of Windsong, is very well acquainted with Sight Hounds--Greyhounds, Whippets, Scottish Deerhounds, among others--who present unique challenges to caregivers. In fact, Mike is an A.K.C. show judge, who recently judged a number of hound breeds at Westminster. Two of the breed winners he selected placed in the Hound Group judging: the Norwegian Elkhound and the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Congratulations, Mike!

In addition to the actual show, there are many events during the Westminster related to the dog show world. Here are Mike and Michelle in their formal best at a fundraiser for Take the Lead, a charity devoted to assisting members of the dog fancy world who are facing serious illness.

Bingley can't understand why his pals Mike and Michelle would wear anything that makes it difficult to run and play.

Magic thinks it would be a wonderful idea if they dressed this way at Windsong. At least at Evening Kibble Time.

Monday, February 21, 2011


No, I wasn't going to ignore the momentous choice of Best In Show at Westminster. But personal anniversaries take precedence over national events. I wanted to keep Bingley's magnificent portrait up for a while.

However, we were Very Excited about the Best In Show winner at Westminster. We always pull for a Sight Hound to win the Hound Group, so that alone was a thrill. But Best In Show! That is beyond wonderful!

Perhaps the scones and shortbread that were served for refreshments at Book Study last Tuesday night were a sign. We like to think so.

On a more serious note. We hope and pray that Scottish Deerhound Breeders are able to keep close tabs on every single intact puppy that they breed and sell. They have a good reputation in this department. But our own Miss Magic is living testimony to at least one intact Deerhound that was sold to the Wrong Person. And while I wouldn't have missed knowing Magic and having the honor of her presence in my home, a heavy price in canine misery was paid because one Scottish Deerhound was sold to an unscrupulous breeder. Magic suffered for four long years in an outdoor cage in the High Desert of California. No protection from extreme heat. No protection from extreme cold. Little socialization. Producing puppies whose lives would be no better than the one she was living.

Magic, three of her puppies, and the puppies' father were all rescued and are presently living in loving homes. But few rescues have facilities for unsocialized, mixed Sight Hounds.

All paws are crossed here in our home that Hickory's historic win will only serve to open more homes to wonderful Sight Hounds--Not produce more Sight Hounds than can find loving homes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Very Important Anniversary

Three years ago today, we took Portia to the old kennel at Greyhound Adoption Center to choose a companion for her. She played and played and played with two different dogs. It was hard to choose which dog to take home. But as John and I stood in the run with Darren, the placement director, I felt a brush against my leg and looked down into warm, pleading eyes. I will always swear I heard the words, "Please take me home."

That dog is our wonderful Bingley.

The early weeks--even months--were not easy. Portia and Bingley played hard hour after hour, day after day. We discovered that Bingley was high prey and could duck out of a Martingale collar in a nanosecond. Then Bingley developed a severe case of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. We thought we would lose him.

We lost Portia just over a year later. Magic has come to be Bingley's pal and he's had to adjust to a very different but equally challenging feminine presence. Bingley eats prescription dog food and a lot of Pepto Bismol to keep his intestinal distress under control.

But through it all, he has remained the sweetest tempered Dog of My Life.

Happy Gottcha Day, Bingley.

May we grow old together.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oldies But Goodies: Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me.....

Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Lucy, a nine year old Chow Chow-Australian Shepherd mix who turned up on my friend's doorstep seven years ago, covered in heavy dreadlocks. The vet believed that the poor thing had been abandoned as a very young puppy and the dreadlocks had been formed over two years of total neglect. There was nothing that could be done but shave her to the skin so her coat could grow all over again.

Today, she is a lovely pet. Her coat is soft black and fluffy. She gazes up trustingly from soft black eyes. She's beginning to show the unmistakable signs of a Senior Canine: the slightly stiff gait and the hint of grey on her muzzle.

Guests were arriving for a party, and Lucy was perfectly behaved. No jumping. No barking. Quietly sporting a Red Party Bow, she went about her role of adding to the ambiance with no fuss, no begging, no histrionics.

Were I "dogless" and if Lucy had no home, I would have given her one in a nano-second.

In my opinion, there is nothing better than to have an old dog as a companion. And yet, after age three, homeless dogs become difficult to place. Every year beyond three makes it more and more difficult to find a home.

Just this morning, I heard of an 82 year old who wants to adopt a Big White Greyhound. He lost a Big White Greyhound a few years ago, and that's all he's interested in.

Good News! There is a Big White Greyhound available for adoption. He really needs a home! He's lived in a home most of his life, so house training should be a snap. He's nine years old, so he won't be tearing around,shredding furniture and tripping people.

Bad News! The 82 year old prospective adopter, doesn't want a dog much over three years old.

Do the math. Consider statistics. Even a large breed three year old dog is likely to either outlive an 82 year old human, or outlive an 82 year old human's ability to care for a large dog.

Either way, in a few years, a middle aged, hard to place dog is likely to bounce back to the placement agency.

If our Big White nine year old Greyhound is lucky, a place might open for him with veteran Greyhound adopters, and he might, eventually, find another home as a member of a multi-dog pack. If he isn't so lucky, he will live out his days in a well run rescue kennel. Staff and volunteers with do their best to give him attention and take him on outings. But it won't be a home.

Dogs give us many gifts. But one of the "gifts" dogs give us is a hard gift to receive: that gift is a reminder of our mortality. Dogs' normal lifespans are much shorter than humans. When we take a dog into our lives, we are opening ourselves to painful loss. We might be able to postpone that awful day if we acquire a healthy puppy. But there are no guarantees.

If you are thinking about adopting a dog, think about adopting an older dog. They're the best!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hooray for Hattie

In the spring of 2008, Marilyn and I began weekly morning walks with our dogs in a nearby park. My dogs were Portia and Bingley. Marilyn's were Franklin, Manhattan--Hattie--and Ruby.

Portia was viciously attacked on the evening of June 30, 2009, and died July 7, the first loss to our walking group.

In November 2009, Magic joined our morning walks.

This past fall, Ruby left us.

In December, Odie joined us.

Last Sunday night I received an email from Marilyn that chilled me: Hattie had developed a limp. The only surviving girl from our original walking group was limping. Anyone with a long-legged dog knows what must be ruled out when that happens: osteosarcoma.

Obviously, Hattie could not go for our walk on Monday, so we canceled. The diagnosis was scheduled for Wednesday--yesterday. It required general anesthesia so that complete bone x-rays could be taken--and lung x-rays. If osteosarcoma causes a dog to limp, chances are that it has already metastasized to the lungs.

Last night Marilyn emailed good news. Hattie, has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Her condition can be managed with medication and we can resume our walks next Monday.

Funny, isn't it. Hip dysplasia is so rare among Racing Greyhounds, we could scarcely "hope." Osteosarcoma, on the other hand, is anything but rare.

So Hattie, who also suffers from Lupus, will remain a member of our Weekly Walk Pack. And we are grateful for a diagnosis of hip dysplasia. Not a nice diagnosis. But it's a whole lot better than osteosarcoma.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dog Stories

Two unrelated dog stories that are probably connected--in some weird way--only in my mind.

Last week, an Intrepid Dog Rescuer who operates in California's Central Valley, was called by a public animal control to assist in rescuing dogs from a hoarding situation. Nothing strange about that. Puppy Mills, Backyard Breeders and Hoarders are rampant in California's Central Valley. But there was a Big Surprise in this story. The hoarding involved Pembroke Welsh Corgis!!! Sixty Pembroke Welsh Corgis, to be precise. Some mental health professionals believe that dog hoarding is related to Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. Perhaps, in this instance, there is also some element of over identification with Her Majesty, the Queen of England, who is known for her attachment to Pembroke Corgis and has owned quite a few--and has staff to care for them.

From time to time, I have discussed Junk Yard Dogs and have mentioned what I believed to be a potential Junk Yard Dog living near my house. Eighteen months ago, new neighbors moved into a house on our block. It was their first house and both parents worked full time. While they were still unpacking, they acquired two puppies: a Toy Poodle and a Mastiff mix. Both dogs were left alone for long hours. Older neighbors gently encouraged the owners of the canine Odd Couple to refrain from letting their dogs run loose.

I feared for the survival of the Toy Poodle and for the socialization of the Mastiff mix.

Unfortunately, my fears were founded. The Toy Poodle disappeared shortly after I began to encounter a Coyote on my morning walks. The Poodle's family thought the little dog had been stolen.

That left the Mastiff, who grew and grew and grew. It also became quite territorial and barked from behind the side gate at anything or anyone who passed by on the sidewalk. Eventually, he began to rouse himself shortly after 5am to bark vociferously at Bingley and Magic as we began our morning walk. In deference to our sleeping neighbors, I altered our route. But later in the day, when I went for the mail, the Mastiff would bark his displeasure--or perhaps just his boredom. His head came to the top of the gate. I prayed he didn't learn to jump.

Recently, however, there has been silence when I collected my mail. Today I confirmed that the Mastiff is no longer there. My informant did not know the dog's fate.

The sixty Corgis have been rescued by Corgi rescue organizations. I am not optimistic that the Mastiff's fate is as bright as the Corgis'. Whether he was passed off to another family as a "Guard Dog", or he was dropped off at the local public animal shelter, the chances of his receiving the care and training he needs to become a suitable canine companion are slim.

My life will certainly be easier now that the Mastiff is gone. When I take Bingley and Magic out on warm summer days, I won't have to glance up the block anxiously to see if the Mastiff is loose. I can walk by his old house at 5:15 am and not worry about starting a barking spell that will waken my neighbors.

But I am mourning a sad life of a dog who never had a chance because humans whose job it is to protect and care for the dogs in their lives, didn't protect and didn't care.