Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Are Even MoreThankful!

Marilyn called last night to share the happy news that she will be released from the hospital today. She still has double pneumonia, but other health issues have been resolved or stabilized and recuperation at home is best. She has promised to follow her doctor's instructions to the letter.

Bingley and Magic are overjoyed, as are many humans.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We Are Very, Very Thankful!

This past week has been filled with anxiety for friends of Friends of Portia. One of Portia's very best friends was rushed to the hospital last Tuesday night and has been in Critical Care ever since. Marilyn, who was Portia's friend before John and I ever met her, and Bingley's friend before John and I met him, and, of course, Magic's very dear friend before we knew her, has been fighting for her life.

We are relieved that it looks like Marilyn has won her fight. And that means many, many Greyhounds have won, too. Not to mention all of us humans who love Marilyn.

All paws are crossed for Marilyn's speedy recovery. And we hope that tomorrow is the day that Marilyn is "promoted" out of Critical Care into a regular hospital room.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Miss Magic: Happy At Last-- We Hope

Today is the second anniversary of the day--or more accurately, evening--that Magic came to live with us.

No generalizations can be made about rescues, except to say they all require patience and, given enough time, they will probably let down their defenses and show you who they really are.

We don't know many exact details of Magic's life in her original location. I won't dignify the place by calling it a home. She was kept for long hours in an outdoor cage in the High Desert of California. That means blistering hot summer days and freezing cold winter nights. She was exercised: her muscle tone is excellent. She was bred to an ex-racing Greyhound and had at least 3 puppies in one litter. We suspect she had other litters and, perhaps, more puppies in that last litter.

We do know that Magic, three of her puppies, and the puppies' father were rescued by Greyhound Adoption Center in July, 2008. We know that Magic "did not kennel well." She barked whenever a human passed her kennel and was very opinionated about which volunteers she would tolerate in her presence. Men were not on her favorites list. When she opened TWO locked gates and led a little band of escapees out of the kennel, a foster home was found for her. A foster home with a high fence and secure gates!

Magic adapted to her new home where she was the seventh of seven canines. The first night when all of the resident dogs knew when to line up in the kitchen for their daily treat, Magic joined the line like an old hand. She kept to herself, but quickly established that SHE would be FIRST in or out of an open door. Her fantastic acceleration settled any dispute. To this day, it's not a good idea to be standing in the open doorway to the backyard if Magic is entering or exiting.

Magic also formed her first loving bonds with humans: her foster mother and her foster mother's daughter. Indeed, as weeks and months passed, her foster mother became convinced that Magic needed to be in a much smaller pack in order to receive the human attention that she obviously craved.

Magic had never been removed from the adoptable list at Greyhound Adoption Center, but she was not an easy dog to place. She was not a "pure-bred" Greyhound, but a "Fuzzy"--a Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound mix. She did not "sell" herself, but tended to maintain distance from new people--especially men. And, she clearly required an exceptionally secure environment. No one could forget her "kennel break."

Magic's foster mother set up a website to introduce Magic to prospective adopters and continued to do all she could to meet Magic's emotional needs while trying to find her "forever home."

About that time, John, Bingley and Portia were attacked by a loose dog and Portia died of her wounds. Either you know how painful it is to lose a beloved pet or you don't. If you know, you understand the grief that descended upon our household.

Meanwhile, when Bingley was sufficiently recovered from his wounds, we resumed our weekly walks in the park with Marilyn and her pack, which then consisted of Franklin, Hattie, and the late, much loved, Ruby. Marilyn had started to work on the profiling team at GAC, the team that matches prospective adopters with suitable dogs.

Having had sufficient experience with the loss of a loved dog, John and I knew that for us, there is never a complete end to mourning the loss. But there is a time when the sheer rawness of the pain fades just enough that we can think about rescuing another dog.

So, in September after Portia's death, we went to the kennel at Greyhound Adoption Center and met some dogs. None of the "likelies" were ready for adoption and we were planning a trip to England in November. Perhaps we would wait and look again when we came home.

Then in late October, Marilyn called me. "What about Magic?"

Indeed. I had always been charmed by the rare Fuzzies who came through Greyhound Adoption Center.

So a few days after we returned from England, Magic came to live with us.

Her mourning for her foster mother was awful to witness. She was confused by Bingley's expectations of the rowdy play he had been accustomed to with Portia. She wasn't accustomed to carpeting and house training broke down. And she wasn't at all sure that she wanted to be in the same room with John. She really didn't trust men. She wasn't accustomed to walks, and was easily startled.

And every time she went out to the backyard, she would tour the perimeter, looking for escape.

But eventually she settled in. John worked hard to earn her trust. First she learned to stay in a room with him. Then he could walk by her and she wouldn't move. Now she greets him and asks for pats. She has even decided that he can be trusted to put on her collar, harness and leashes.

She and Bingley have negotiated their arranged association. She's a little pushy and he's a good sport. But when he has reached his limit, he lets her know and she shows her respect for him. Usually, he exits the back door first, she enters first. If John and I walk them, Magic is more comfortable with John and Bingley in the lead and Magic and I trail along. But the best way to get Magic's attention is to pay Bingley attention. If I'm patting him for very long, I usually feel Magic's nose under my hand. That's when I call her Miss Me Me.

She insists on her exclusive snuggle time with me in the morning and usually naps in the room where I am working.

Her last Big Fear is of fire in the living room fireplace. Tonight is a cold, rainy night. I stayed in the bedroom with Magic and Bingley while John started the fire. She was brave enough to move into the kitchen for dinner, and even permitted John to put on her harness and leash for a short walk before the worst of the storm hit.

I tried to tempt her to come into the living room, but she's not ready to be that close to the fireplace. So she's here, lying on some cushions in my study as I type.

We have one more challenge before Miss Magic is completely happy in our home. We'll do our best. She's worth it.


After I finished typing last night's post, I went into the living room and sat on the sofa opposite the fireplace. Who appeared and lay beside me on the sofa, but Miss Magic herself! I think it helped that there was no popping wood being burned last night, but, even so, we have passed a Big Milestone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Do You Spell Adorable?

This is Tosha and she needs a home. I am quite certain that she is not a pure-bred Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. But she has enough Wheaten in her to give her that wonderful Disney Dog look.

Can't you just picture her with a big red ribbon tied around her neck, helping your family celebrate the Merriest Christmas ever?

If you have room in your heart and home for Tosha, email me:



A very knowledgeable dog person tells me that Tosha's head and ears are those of a Briard. I am certain she is right. So what Tosha looks like to me is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier/Briard mix. Sounds like an interesting dog to me--in addition to being adorable.


Our Dog Expert Friend of Portia says that it is possible that Tosha is all Briard. It really is impossible to establish her breed or mix with certainty from this picture. All we can establish with certainty that she is one adorable doggie.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Not-So-Modest-Proposal

Now that Friends of Portia is well past its second anniversary, I have been considering how this blog has clarified my understanding of the relationship between my two most important concerns about canine welfare:

1.) Safety for dogs on leash and their human walkers

2.) The plight of hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs

The initial focus of Friends of Portia was on the first concern: being able to walk dogs on-leash without fearing an attack by an unleashed dog. Indeed, that was the motivation for this blog, since we had just lost Beautiful Portia because of an attack by a loose dog.

However, as Friends of Portia evolved, the other basic fact of Portia's biography became an even more frequent focus. She was a rescued dog. Had Greyhound Adoption Center, one of a number of Greyhound Rescues, not picked up Portia from the Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana when she broke her ankle, Portia would have been killed. Ooops, should I put that less starkly? She would have been "put down." Probably shot. If one really wants to speak honestly about the fate of homeless, unwanted, abandoned dogs, the facts are inevitably stark.

It is a cliche to say that the plight of dogs in the United States is a national disgrace. Too many dogs. Too few forever homes. Most Dog People have the maximum number of dogs that they can afford. I know of many people who devote a significant proportion of their discretionary spending to the maintenance of their canine companions.

Meanwhile, puppy mills, backyard breeders, and negligent owners who refuse to spay or neuter dogs that will never see the inside of a show ring, flood an already saturated "market" with puppies who will live lives of misery until they are "humanely euthanized" by a burned out, heartbroken animal control employee in a facility that we call a "shelter."

I believe we could do a much, much better job of looking after the welfare of our canine companions. And I don't think if would take more money than is currently being spent. It would only take re-thinking laws that apply to human/canine interaction and the enforcement of those laws.

It seems to me that leash laws should be enforced much the way traffic laws are enforced, with DUI enforcement as the model for serious leash law offenders.

Every driver is familiar with the Point System. Why not institute a similar system for Animal Control? If you are cited for having a dog off leash, or your dog is found wandering the neighborhood, you receive a point on your record which can be removed only by attendance at a class on responsible dog ownership, a class for which you will be required to pay a fee that not only covers the costs of instruction, but also contributes to the Animal Control budget.

Classes would include not only the basics of dog training and care, but they would also address aspects of typical behavior of breeds and groups of dogs. An option of caring for shelter dogs could be given--particularly for repeat offenders.

The ultimate penalty for habitual infractions would be loss of the privilege of having a canine companion.

Animal control points would lead to higher liability insurance for the home owner or the landlord--who would pass the added expense on to the renter.

During my years as a California resident, I have seen harsher consequences for Driving Under the Influence significantly reduce drunken driving in our state.

I think it's time that we tackle canine welfare more seriously.