Some Greyhounds don't know when they are well off!!! Or do they? Maybe that's the trouble, they just can't believe their luck when they get a lovely new home, where they are cared for and loved and welcomed as a new member of the family, after what they have been used to it seems too good to be true, so they go and spoil it all for themselves by being a right idiot.
In the past few months my wife and I have done a couple of home checks for people who wanted to adopt Greyhounds. In both cases all the usual checks that we do were fine, and the day finally arrived when they could go to collect their lucky dog. The first case was a young male Greyhound called Billy. You can see him at the bottom of the poem called "My Baggage" on poems page one of this site. Billy had not had a very good start to his life. He had been very cruelly treated by his first "owner" until a kind man heard about him and rescued him. This man had not had Billy very long, just a few days I think, when his kennels were attacked by arsonists and about 20 of his Greyhounds killed in the fire. Billy was one of about 8 or 9 who escaped with burns. After that I took Billy to a sanctuary that we are involved with and it was there, several weeks later that he was seen by Mr and Mrs X.
After their successful home check Mr and Mrs X went to get Billy and took him back to his new home. It was a lovely big house with a secure play area for Billy with a high wall so that he would be safe; everything was just perfect for him. The following morning we rang them to ask how Billy had spent his first night in his new home. Fine was the reply, he just lay in the hall in his bed and was no problem at all. We were so pleased and happy that Billy had found a good home.
About a week later we rang Mr and Mrs X again to arrange to have Billy's stitches taken out after his neutering operation. Now it was a different story. Whilst they had been out one day Billy had destroyed a lovely panel door in the kitchen. Whenever they went out he did some damage, he was wrecking their home. Luckily, Mr and Mrs X were true dog lovers. They had a beautiful home that they loved, but they loved Billy more. Doors could be replaced and so could any other material things that he destroyed, but what would happen to Billy if they gave up on him now? If they couldn't cope with him, who would be able to? Billy would probably be destined to spend the rest of his life in the sanctuary, never knowing the comfort of a home with people who love him. In Billy's case, Mr and Mrs X found that the answer was to put him in the basement when they went out. It was nice and warm down there with plenty daylight and room to move around, but secure enough to confine him away from anything he might damage. At night he seemed happy enough to stay in his bed in the hall so that was fine.
Why was Billy behaving like this? I think we have to try to imagine what we ourselves would feel like if we were in Billy's position. He had been badly treated right from the start. Perhaps he had failed his racing trials so he would just be seen as a liability. Then he was taken away by someone and within a short time nearly burned to death like his friends in the fire. Next he was taken to another place where, as far as he knew, the same thing might happen again. Then Mr and Mrs X come along. Suddenly his hard, harsh world is turned upside down and he is shown love for the first time in his life. He spends his first night in his bed at the foot of the stairs, hardly daring to believe that this is real, but the morning dawns and the kind people are still here. He goes out for a little walk with Mr X and comes home to a lovely breakfast. He has never known anything so wonderful. Mr X goes to work but Mrs X is still here, talking to him and kissing his head and telling him what a good dog he is, then Mr X comes home and there is another nice meal and everyone is telling him how much they love him.
Then the weekend arrives. Mr and Mrs X make a nice comfortable bed for Billy and tell him that they will soon be back, and off they go to the shops. Billy is alone for the first time since he came to his wonderful new home. In his doggy mind he thinks Mr and Mrs X have gone for good and left him alone again. He sees all the happiness of the past week slipping away from him. In the back of his mind he always knew it was too good to be true and now it seems he was right. In his panic he chases around looking for them, and not finding them he sets his teeth into the kitchen door. It's not anger or badness that made him do it; it is panic, anguish and desperation. When they return he is so happy and relieved, but the same cannot be said for them.
The second case is a very similar story. Another Greyhound / Saluki called Sallie. Another couple of genuine dog lovers, Mr and Mrs Y, took Sallie home. Everything was fine until bedtime. During the night Sallie chewed through the doorframe around the kitchen door. The resulting phone call assured us that we had been lucky enough to find another good home for Sallie with people who really care, and realise that things can be replaced but a dogs' broken heart cannot. Mr and Mrs Y had left Sallie in a nice comfortable bed in the kitchen and gone upstairs to bed. From Sallies' perspective they had left her just the same as if they had gone out. She could not know they were only upstairs and so the panic and despair arose just as in Billys' case. The reason Billy was fine at nights was that his bed was just at the foot of the stairs and he could see his beloved new masters go up the stairs and they could even call down to him and reassure him that they were still there. Sallie didn't have this crutch because she was in the kitchen and had no idea where Mr and Mrs Y had gone.
About three months ago Marilyn and I took in another Greyhound from someone who raced him, but as he was now four years old he was slowing down a bit so he was about to be shot. We brought him home one Thursday night with the intention of taking him to the sanctuary the following Monday. They couldn't accept him until then because the isolation block was full. Monday came and went but the dog stayed here. After having him over the weekend we just couldn't let him go to them, even though we really did have enough with our own 6, but what the heck, if we can manage 6 why not 7 so here he stayed, and we called him Ebony. The first time we left Ebony he tore up an area of cushion floor near the bedroom door. We hadn't had that particular floor covering very long and now it looks like we needn't have bothered. By the way, we use cushion floor, (a kind of thick, good quality linoleum) throughout our house, except for the stairs and landing area. It is easier to clean than carpet and looks just as good.
So, three different dogs but very similar stories. We don't know the full details of what happened to Sallie and how she ended up in the sanctuary as we do with Billy and Ebony, but it is probably the usual tale of abuse and neglect that makes a dog despair of ever finding happiness; no wonder when the few lucky ones do find their forever home they can't believe their luck, and when it looks like they are going to lose it all again they just panic; how are they to know that you have only gone to the shops? If you find yourself in a similar situation to these, please be assured that all it takes is time. As soon as your beloved dog realises that his / her security is real and he / she is not going to end up loosing this wonderful new home, everything will be fine. No one can say how little or how much time this will take but please stick with it, you will be glad you did, ---- and so will your dog.
These three stories are about dogs who have found a new home and then fear that they are going to lose it and react in the only way they can, panic. However, another visitor to Greyhound Muses wrote to me about her dog Sandy, who has started to gulp his food and swallow it without chewing. It all started when she moved house, before that Sandy was fine. I wrote to her and explained that I believed it to be separation anxiety just as in the other cases. It was slightly different because the problem wasn't happening because she was leaving Sandy for a short time to go out, but I believe that he feels insecure in his new house. All the familiar things that he has become used to have changed and it has caused him to feel anxious in very much the same way as the other dogs did. He is gulping his food because he thinks that he had better get all he can as quickly as he can before something else changes.
To end this, I have reproduced below an email from a lady who adopted 2 Galgos from Greyhounds In Need. Without people like her and the others mentioned above very many Greyhounds, Lurchers and Galgos would never find the homes they deserve. If you are thinking of adopting one of these wonderful dogs I promise you that you will never regret it, they will repay you one hundred fold with love. Also, if you have a few problems at first I hope this essay will be of some help in explaining what may be causing them, and please remember you are not alone. You can always write to me and if I don't know the answer I will try my best to find someone who does. Please continue by reading the email below.
I think an essay about the settling in period would be very useful and is very much something I would like to read. I felt very much "out in the cold" with these 2 and the only real contact I had was with Pat Whipps the rehoming officer at GIN. I didn't really like to bother her with my problems, as she had a whole new consignment of Galgos to deal with and I assume that once a dog is rehomed, her job is finished. What I really wanted was some sort of feedback, as in "you're doing really well" or "you should try doing it this way". What would have been brilliant was a "buddy system" like in Alcoholics Anonymous!!! I did discover Greyhound Gap which I found to be an excellent support system, but I only discovered them last week, when (hopefully) most of the crisis had passed. You've had loads more experience with the settling in period than us so I'm sure you have a lot of advice and help to pass on. But if you want me to say some more about our experiences, please let me know.
Although I'm quite sceptical about some alternative remedies, I did read that Bach Flower Remedies work quite well on animals, so I did try putting Walnut Flower Remedy in their drinking water (Walnut is to help deal with major changes in environment) and I found it helped enormously within about 2 days. We also had a big problem with Lily pooing in the hallway (and I can see that from her point of view it was the closest thing we had to the kennel dog run) so I tried Anne Finch's idea of feeding her in the place she normally pooed. We found that (so far) it's worked a treat and we've now gone about 5 days without an accident (fingers crossed.)
Of course, we adopted 2 Galgos at the same time, so perhaps we just like to make life difficult for ourselves! I would also say that throughout the whole "crisis" time the dogs were brilliant, not TRYING to be difficult but trying very hard to work out what we wanted and working so hard to fit in with our lives. During that time we bonded very closely with them and I am now so grateful to have these 2 wonderful dogs in our lives. So I would say it's definitely worth it. Funnily enough, my last dog Tumble who was also a rescue dog was PERFECT from the day I got him, I never had to train him at all, he really was a star amongst dogs. The woman I got him from got rid of him because she said he was an awful dog and she couldn't control him at all and really couldn't cope with him. I never had one problem with him! So it just goes to show, maybe it's the home, not the dog that's the problem.
Of course you can use our experiences in your essay, I look forward to reading it.
You can see Frodo and Lilly, the two Galgos in the email above on the "Photo Gallery" pages on page 14. You can also see Sandy on the same page.