A customer brought her greyhound into the shop on Friday – dogs are more than welcome in there. As is usual with the breed, it was very friendly and came over to me to be stroked several times while the lady was filling her basket. I quite surprised myself with the warmth I felt towards it.
There’s a great deal of affection, in the dog rescue world, for greyhounds and it’s understandable. There are a great many dogs bred for the racing business, some of which obviously won’t make the grade, and those that do finish their racing careers with several years of healthy life in them. It’s inevitable that many will be put down and many others are available as pets.
My mother always went to the RSPCA when she wanted to give a dog a home, but they let her down the last time. They said the only dog available was a particular greyhound, and put a lot of pressure on her to take him. She agreed, and he turned out to be enormous, the biggest greyhound I’ve ever seen. He was, as they always are, very sweet-natured, friendly and affectionate. He was an ex-racer and (we weren’t told this at the time but by someone who recognised the type of scar on his side) his career had been ended by an injury gained on the racetrack when he sped out of the trap so fast that he caught his side against it. The trouble with him was that he loved running so much.
One is always told how little exercise a greyhound needs, and that a couple of gentle walks on the lead are quite enough. Well, some maybe. Henry needed to run though. Not that far, five minutes flat out were sufficient, but if he didn’t get that every day or two he used to pace the floor, whimpering for hours on end. But he needed fields to run in – one, fenced, wasn’t enough and when he got out you couldn’t follow him, so we took him to the wide-open spaces. There are plenty round here, but he wasn’t very bright. If he couldn’t see you, he wouldn’t be able to return to you. So, he got lost and each of us in turn spent our free time taking him for walks, having a successful outcome after a stressful outing several times, then losing him, finally finding him, coming home and saying “never again” and passing him on to the next sucker. Kenny, our gardener, who never gave up on anything, ended up as the only one who would let him off the lead.
Even Kenny, however, couldn’t keep him under control. One afternoon Henry ran off and Kenny, after a long time searching, came back dogless. We went out in the car, phoned the police and the RSPCA and had a very anxious evening. Finally, we had a phone call from someone who had found him on their doorstep. We went to fetch him; he was very frightened with sore paws and (we were able to piece this together from various sightings) had run several miles along a busy road first one way and then the other. He had never received any unkind treatment from anyone and so when he finally chanced into someone’s back garden, he simply knocked on the door for help.
This did at least temper his wanderlust and he started to take some notice of where he was and return after his run. My mother had him for the rest of his life and she loved him dearly. So, when he died, she decided to have another greyhound.
Khan was quite different.