Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Room At The Kennel--just

Last Saturday, twenty-two Greyhounds were given over to the care and protection of Greyhound Adoption Center. These are lucky dogs. They represent a tiny fraction of the thousands of Greyhounds who were bred--and are still being bred on a large scale--to provide grist for the gambling mill of dog racing. As Greyhound racing becomes less profitable and less socially acceptable, tracks are closing, which is a good thing. But for every closed track, there are hundreds of Greyhounds who are suddenly without a home. As I type, many of these elegant creatures are being destroyed. Greyhound Adoption Center is an exceptional rescue because it has kennel facilities with a capacity for many more dogs than rescues that depend entirely on foster homes. But the cost and the logistics of caring for almost fifty Greyhounds--the number of current residents of GAC--is formidable. And like all 501C3's of modest means, Greyhound Adoption Center is feeling the crunch of a slow economy. But, in spite of all the difficulties, there are people who not only care, but people who go out to Dehesa--where the kennel is located--and spend long hours on a hot Saturday afternoon and evening, bathing, dipping and comforting twenty-two Greyhounds: ten boys, twelve girls, of all colors, ages and physical conditions, who have endured a twenty-five hour journey to arrive at a strange new place. With clean coats, fleas and ticks removed, all twenty-two dogs are now settled in their own spaces with blankets and towels to soften their kennel floors, nutritious food in their tummies, and stuffed animals for companionship and amusement. Somewhere out there, we hope that there are twenty-two new homes, in addition to the thirty or so new homes for older GAC residents. It will take time. Dog rescue is not for the faint of heart. Nor for the impatient.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Today is my birthday. And just not any old birthday. Important birthdays are those that end in 5 and 0. But the MOST important birthdays end in 0. And so today, I am not just beginning a new year; I'm beginning a new decade. If you read the story about my first dog, a shared birthday gift for my sister and me who we named Penny, you won't have to be a math whiz to figure out which decade I'm entering. Or, if you have any knowledge of children's fashions, you will know when the picture of that little girl posing with her mother and brand new puppy was taken. Today, the recessional hymn was Now Thank We All Our God. It's a wonderful hymn to sing on one's birthday. My favorite line is, "Who from our mother's arms, has led us on our way, with countless gifts of love that still are ours today." One of the most memorable gifts of love that I received is literally in my mother's arms in the picture on the right of the screen: my first dog, the first in a line of ten that have comforted, amused, challenged and taught me. So on this birthday, I want to express my gratitude for all the canine companions of my life. Penny: a small, red female Cocker Spaniel, who wanted to please above everything. Midnight: a large, black male Cocker Spaniel, who knew how to make you laugh when he was naughty. Mame: a black, female Toy Poodle, who embodied the spirit of a Russian Grande Duchess. Champers: a male Soft Coated Wheaten, the model of what the breed was meant to be: merry, courageous, my Good Soldier. Britches: a female Soft Coated Wheaten, practically perfect confirmation, a canine ditzy blonde, but no dummy. Daphne: a female Wheaten/Whippet?/Greyhound? mix. Our first rescue, who changed our understanding of humans' responsibility for dogs and introduced us to the joys of sight hounds. Zephyr: a large female Greyhound--dark brindle with tuxedo markings. Tears are filling my eyes. Zephyr was incomparable. A Queen. A Diva. We were privileged to have had her with us, even for a brief time, and to have earned her trust. Portia: a female Greyhound of such beauty that she thought when people met her and said "She's beautiful", they were just saying hello. The naughtiest dog inside the house. The best behaved dog outside the house. A true Princess. Bingley: a red, male Greyhound. The sweetest tempered, highest prey dog of my life. He's growing older now and fading to tan. But his eyes are still warm brown. I treasure every moment with him. Magic: a dark brindle female Greyhound/Scottish Deerhound mix. I thought she was working on her inner princess, but I do believe we might have another Grande Duchess. She adopts YOU, not the other way around. Clever and patient. Always teaching Bingley new lessons. And yes, we have had one cat: Sterling. She was the Transitional Object (a little psychoanalytic shop talk here) after my mother and Mame died within a short time of each other. The. Most. Beautiful. Grey Tabby ever to have drawn breath. She is resting under a Sterling Silver rose in my friend's garden.

Monday, August 13, 2012


We're having our first serious heat spell here in San Diego County and I've been remembering a very hot night six years ago. I was walking Zephyr not too far from our house when she was attacked by a loose dog--the same dog who attacked John and Bingley and killed Portia less than three years later. Zephyr was badly chewed from her lower back, to her hindquarters and down her tail. Since our vet's office was closed, I headed for the 24 hour emergency vet's. They were swamped. We waited and waited and waited, Zephyr dripping blood all the while. Why was such a badly injured dog treated last? It was because, ahead of Zephyr was a line of dogs with heat exhaustion. Their irresponsible owners had decided to take their dogs for a jog in hot weather. Even after the sun had gone down, it was way too hot for a dog to be running. Although Zephyr was seriously enough injured to require four drains and more stitches than I could count, she was in less critical condition than the dogs with heat exhaustion. So. Remember. Think. Do NOT take your dog for runs--or even more than potty-break walks in the heat. Don't run your dog on hot cement--or even worse, hot asphalt. Don't put your dog in a hot car while you are waiting for the air conditioning to kick in. I trust I do not have to remind you to NEVER leave your dog in a car. Cracked windows do not help. I don't believe in "outside" dogs. But if you insist on leaving your dog outside, be sure to provide plenty of shade and a source of fresh water. Do not shave a long haired dog. Their coat provides protection from heat as well as cold. Some short-haired--and certainly hairless breeds can sunburn. Take precautions. Older or ailing dogs are particularly vulnerable. Since learning of Bingley's heart condition, we are leaving the air conditioning on a lower setting for him when we leave the house. As I type, we are experiencing an "energy flex", which is code for not very effective air conditioning. Bingley and Magic are resting in the coolest places they can find, and I'll keep an eye on their water dishes. I don't know why these are called the Dog Days of Summer. They really aren't very easy days for dogs.