Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Run Sally Run!

Run Sally Run!

My father, Sal, died in 1995, about four months after being diagnosed with lung cancer and having successful surgery with a good prognosis. He, however, was convinced he was dying and managed to will himself a fatal heart attack. My mother was never very good with sick people, including us, exhibiting far more exasperation than empathy. For that reason we felt lucky that she didn't have to nurse him through a long illness, because Florence Nightengale she ain't.

Her complete disconnect from anything emotional didn't take a hiatus on the day of his funeral. You might think that the most shocking moment was when, during the post-cemetary gathering back at her house, she emerged from the back bedroom cheerily holding up a pair of my dad's golf shoes. "WHO'S A SIZE 9??" she called out to the stunned friends and family, some of whom nearly choked on their ziti.

But that was actually NOT the classic moment of the day. That took place at the gravesite, after a solemn ceremony and the lowering of his flag-draped coffin. The funeral director took the flag, folded it gently and gave it to my mother. Everyone rose to walk back to their cars, but instead of following along she ran up to the poor man and said "Do ya take Discover??"

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Shameless Plug for Greyhound Adoption

The good news is that a lot of greyhound racing tracks in this country are closing. The bad news is that there are hundreds of wonderful pups that need homes! If you are considering adding a four-legged friend to your household, please think about finding your local greyhound adoption group (I'll be happy to help with this if you need assistance) and check out the wonderful hounds that need you. Here is our group in Northern Westchester, NY: Greyhound Rescue & Rehab where you can see some "adoptables". Foster homes are also needed to provide temporary housing for the dogs that are just coming off the track until they find their "forever home". Because these pups are so lovable, "foster failure" is a common malady. ;)

Here are some Myths vs. Truths about Retired Racing Greyhounds:

MYTH: People who own racing greyhounds just keep them when their racing days are over.
TRUTH: When a racer is retired (anywhere between 18 months and 6 years of age), an adoption group will take the dog and find a home for it. No one knows the exact numbers, but in some parts of the country and at some tracks, dogs are still euthanized when they can no longer race. Thankfully more and more adoption groups are springing up every day.

MYTH: Greyhounds, since they were racers, need a lot of exercise.
TRUTH: Greyhounds, since they are retired, just want to lay on your couch. They don't need any more exercise than an average dog. During their working life they raced (for 30 seconds) every three or four days and slept in a crate for 16-20 hours a day in between. These guys were sprinters, not distance runners.

MYTH: Greyhound are high strung.
TRUTH: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Stop, yer killin' me.

MYTH: Since greyhounds are relatively large, purebred dogs, they must wind up with hip dysplasia and other genetic maladies and have relatively short lifespans.
TRUTH: Racing greyhounds are bred for health and performance, not for looks and "personality". They have a life expectancy of 12-14 years and do not suffer from many of the health issues that other pedigreed dogs have. And they still have great personalities.

MYTH: Greyhounds were abused, so they must be skittish and spooky.
TRUTH: While we don't love greyhound racing, the abusers are in the minority. Practically speaking, you wouldn't abuse something that you are counting on for your livelihood. It would be more accurate to say that in racing, greyhounds are inventory. They are not pets while working, so they need to learn how to be the object of your affection. They are quick learners.

MYTH: Greyhounds cannot live with cats or other small animals.
TRUTH: This is true for some greyhounds, usually the ones who were excellent racers and have a high prey drive. However, many are retired early because they didn't care much about chasing the lure, and go on to live happily in homes with kitties. (My greyhound is not "cat safe", but is fine with small dogs. He seems to understand the difference.)

MYTH: Greyhounds are grey.
TRUTH: "Grey" hounds are actually "blue", and they are the least common color. Greyhounds actually come in 18 different color varieties, black being one of the most common (and for some reason, the hardest to adopt out.)

Other truths you may not know:
Greyhounds don't have a "dog smell".
Many dog-allergic people (like me) can live happily with greyhounds.
Because they are on a strict schedule at the track, many are very easy to housetrain.
They make great apartment dogs. They spend most of their time curled up in a little ball, and most do not bark. (Mine only barks at non-greyhounds. He's a "breedist".)

And maybe the MOST important truth about greyhounds if you are considering adopting:

They can never, ever, EVER be trusted off-leash unless they are completely fenced in. They can see clearly up to 1/2 mile away, and if they spot something of interest (even a blowing paper bag), they will "lock on" and go for it, regardless of oncoming cars, trucks or trains. Oh, and electric fences don't work with greyhounds. If you don't believe me, put the collar on, get in your car and drive through the electric fence at 45mph. You'll be, oh, about a mile away before you feel the shock.

Bottom line: If you want an incredible companion, don't have the time or energy to raise a puppy, and would like what is basically a cat in a dog costume, then a retired racing greyhound may be the pup for you.