The Story of Chaos (and Darkness), Part One
After the whippets died, and we had never really got over the loss of the first one and then the second two died quite close together three years later, I fell into the slough of despond and wondered if I should even have dogs again. We’d moved into town by then because the big ramshackle house in the country was getting beyond Peter (and I am NO use at DIY, that’s NO USE) and he felt that having passed his three-quarter-century mark he’d like to work a little less hard. The next dogs, if there were going to be next dogs, were going to be my problem and my responsibility . . . and one or two of you regular readers out there may have noticed that I possess certain aspects of control freakery and obsessiveness.* Maybe I should limit myself to rose-bushes.
Anyone who has ever lost a companion animal knows that it takes you a while to get over that individual loss because it’s not some generic companion animal thing, it’s your friend, it’s your Fuzzy or your Flossie or your Fang. So while part of me was saying ‘I can’t go through this again’** part of me was also keeping an eye on ads in the local papers and curly notecards pinned to the bulletin boards inside the front door of the local library and the local Tesco’s. And there were puppies, but there weren’t any sighthounds. There were never any sighthounds. Oh, well, fine, I thought, I’m not sure I want another dog.
Six months later I was tired of hurtling by myself. That summer I dragged poor Peter to several big summer shows and fairs with lurcherworld*** classes and also began compulsively reading the puppy ads in the back of Countryman’s Weekly†. There are plenty of sighthounds, lurchers and longdogs†† out there but none of them are around here. And I wanted to visit my puppies—I didn’t want to show up at the train station or whatever and take possession of some terrified unknown scrap cowering in the back of a carrier.†††
I still wasn’t sure I was getting another dog.‡ But I was starting to become a trifle cranky that the getting, supposing getting moved into the ‘active’ column, was proving so difficult.
At this interesting juncture I met another of those The Most Beautiful Dog I Have Ever Seen, out hurtling one day. I was aware that the greyhound-rescue system is lively and extensive‡‡ but I hadn’t really got my head around it: I’ve always had puppies, so I think in terms of puppies.‡‡‡ This Most Beautiful Dog had a nice owner too, who was more than happy to chat about his fabulous dog§ . . . and (having established that I was a sighthound owner without a current sighthound) offered to introduce me personally to TMBD’s breeder, who always took her own dogs back when they came off the track so that she could see they went to good homes.
And I had just about settled it in my own mind that this was what I was going to do. I was going to adopt a rescued greyhound§§. As I like to tell the story, I had my hand poised over the phone to ring Mr TMBD and ask him to make the appointment when . . .
. . . there was an ad in the local paper for sighthound puppies: Whippet crosses, it said, gentle pets§§§. And (as I also usually tell the story), I made a little hole in the floor diving for the phone. . . .
TO BE CONTINUED
* * *
* Of course this will come as a surprise to most of you.^
** Which is why when I brought two hellhound puppies home I swore I was going to bring another puppy home before they got old.^ You’re going to lose some of your friends to death before death comes for you, but when you lose a human friend you don’t decide never to have human friends again. Most companion animals live traumatically short lives from the perspective of the humans that mourn them but my own feeling about it is that the shock of ‘I’m not doing this again’ is less about life expectancy than it is about the either/or of having critter of choice underfoot or . . . not.
^ If not quite so long before they got old as this frelling October.
I’m afraid I still read it, for Penny Taylor’s weekly lurcher articles. I usually read the working ferret^ and falconry stuff too.
^ Yup. Working. It’s legal here.
†† A lurcher is a sighthound^ crossed with something that isn’t a sighthound. A longdog is a sighthound crossed with some other kind of sighthound. My hellhounds, being whippet/deerhound, are technically longdogs, but everybody’s heard of lurchers and no one’s heard of longdogs. Usually I call them lurchers because it’s easier.
††† Or biting the wire door and screaming.
‡ I wasn’t even sure the dog I might not be getting was a sighthound. I did think about other breeds. I rejected border collies because they need stuff to do. They need stuff to do all the time.^ If I led a simple life with a lot of free time in it I’d get a border collie and teach it to dance. But I don’t. I need something that wants to hurtle a couple of hours a day and will spend the rest of the time happily holding down pieces of floor/sofa.^^ I discarded bullies and Staffies because of the fighting-dog thing, and Dobermanns and Alsatians because of the guard dog thing.^^^ If Southdowner or Fiona# bred Staffies or Dobermanns I’d probably be getting a Staffie or a Dobermann. I believe that a lot of the Perfect Dog situation derives from a breeder who knows what she’s doing and the breed in question is almost secondary. I feel I’ve lucked out that I have a friend who breeds fabulous something-that-appeared-on-my-short-list. The something happens to be bull terriers but hey.##
^ Ask b_twin.
^^ Yes. I know. I have an interesting feat of negotiation coming with Pavlova/Crumpet/Scone/Fruitcake.
^^^ No, I discarded Alsatians because of the hair. According to friends who have them—so I had good breeder recommendations available—the good-natured healthy Alsatians any more are the ones that look like bears. I like bears fine, but I don’t want the upkeep of a medium-sized Grizzly.
# No, Fiona is supposed to be opening a yarn shop.~
~ Speaking of the mouse opening the cheese shop, the junkie opening a pharmacy, etc
## I am very grateful they are mini bull terriers—however with reference to the fact that mini-bull breeders keep adding in some standard blood—if Pavlova/Crumpet/Scone/Fruitcake grows large, there will be language.^
^ By the time it’s galloping around the house with the kitchen table on its back because it’s grown too large to go under, it will be too late, it will be MINE.
‡‡ A friend who knows I knit and has a somewhat flattering idea of both my skill and my speed, told me that she’s knitting rescued sighthound jackets for these people and that I might like to too: http://www.erinhounds.co.uk/ Sigh. There are a million knit-for-charities out there but yeah, if I were going to knit for a critter charity, this is probably what I’d go for. I might even go for a dog.
‡‡‡ Puppies mean you can make your own dog-rearing mistakes. However as I was telling Southdowner as she deposited me—trembling and wild-eyed^—back at the Birmingham train station last Saturday, when it’s time for the generational roll-over with Fruitcake/Scone/Crumpet/Pavlova, I will be OLD, and a nice rescue that has its mad youth behind it sounds very appealing.
^ But not biting the door or screaming
§ Who had a pedigree to die for, and who had full siblings who won everything, said his owner fondly. Not him. He couldn’t bothered. He had the family turn of speed but used it only often enough to make the humans involved shriek and rend their garments.
§§ Although I was not looking forward to housebreaking something that produced 80-pound-dog sized excrement. Holly, from the previous generation, was a rescue, but she was five months old when we got her and weighed twenty-two pounds full grown.
§§§ ::semi-suppressed hilarity::
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