Henry had been lovely, but he was never easy. We weren’t at all pleased that the RSPCA had pushed my mother into having a totally unsuitable dog – she was frail and he was enormous – and they knew all about the running away problem, as he had, we eventually discovered, been returned from several people who hadn’t been able to cope with him. In addition, she was told that all greyhounds had robust health and would eat anything. Indeed, he would. Unfortunately, his digestion couldn’t cope with it and she sometimes had to get up several times in the night to let him out or had to clean her carpets in the morning. In the end, she fed him a diet of rice and chicken, which he didn’t much like but which kept his stomach settled. He also spent quite a lot of time at the vet. For the first time ever, it turned out to be cost-effective to have dog health insurance – we’d never needed to bother with our robust mongrels.
He had a thick coat of sandy-coloured hair – unfortunately he attracted fleas rather badly, which my mum never noticed until Chester caught them, whereupon she complained bitterly that my dog gave her dogs fleas. His coat was so thick that it was hard to rub in enough flea powder to get rid of them. He got on well with my dogs – as I’ve said, he had a lovely friendly nature and Tilly, who has some whippet in her, loved to run too. They would gallop along the drive, one inside the field and one on the drive itself. He was a different dog when running and completely forgot everything except the chase. If they were together, when he caught up with her she stopped and rolled onto her back. You could see in his eyes that she was, for a minute, nothing but his quarry. She knew that if he caught her he would instinctively nip the back of her neck and was afraid, though only of that. She understood that it was only instinct and not aggression.
After he died, my mother was doubtful whether to have another dog. Her health had been poor for some time. I pointed out that we’d been through the same conversation when her previous dog had died five or so years previously and asked if she could really contemplate being without a dog? Well no, she couldn’t, but she was worried what would happen to it if she died. I reminded her that we’d always promised to look after it and she knew we’d never turn a dog away. We were a bit dismayed when she decided to have another greyhound, though. This time, equally disenchanted with the RSPCA, she approached a greyhound rescue charity, they came to visit and to ensure that she was able to give the dog a good home, and so she acquired Khan.
He was much smaller and had never raced. He was only about 18 months old and it had been discovered at an early age that he wouldn’t run. He really wouldn’t. Completely uninterested. He wouldn’t even chase a ball, never mind an electric hare. He could have been a different breed from Henry – even his hair, a handsome browny-grey colour apparently known as ‘blue’ in the trade was fine and quite thin, with no undercoat at all. He’d been with the charity over 6 months, which puzzled us – why not house him straight away? – but it seems that they keep the dogs until they are physically mature so that they can be neutered. Lying on his back, legs akimbo, he looked like a frog.
So, no problem with him running away then. But there’s always something, isn’t there?