I’m so excited about this holiday weekend! Saturday night I’ll be at the taping for American Ninja Warrior, and Monday I’ll be running the Ghost Town Half Marathon. We’ll also be celebrating my greyhound Django’s third “gotcha” anniversary, so I’m devoting today’s Friday Five post to him.
|May 2014 in the Finger Lakes|
Three years ago on Memorial Day weekend, we welcomed our retired greyhound into his new forever home. I remember that day so well. It was really hot, and we couldn’t wait for the adoption group to bring him to our house, where we’d set up his bed and toys for him. It was the first time Django had ever been in a house in his almost-two years, and he had no idea what to do. He stood in our living room in one spot, panting, for a solid half hour. He didn’t know to lie on his bed, and he didn’t know how to play with toys. We would soon learn that he was much different from the calm, docile greyhounds we’d met and fell in love with. At one point, I even called my adoption group and asked if they were sure he was a greyhound! While most greyhounds adjust fairly easily to retirement from the track, Django was “special” and took a good six months to adjust. He was terrified of almost everything, so terrified that he refused to go on walks because of all the new sights and sounds of city life. He did not bond with my husband at first and had fear-based aggression, in that he would growl or snap at my husband if my husband reached down to pet him. He was also just under two years old and still a puppy and, we would come to learn, had a very goofy and silly personality in general. So our picture of the greyhounds we’d previously met was replaced with our own reality of an excitable, crazy-acting dog who would nip me when he got excited, whose growling and snapping frightened us, who wouldn’t go on walks to do his business, who wasn’t bonding with my husband, and who was showing way too much interest in my cats. On top of that, he broke his toe running in the dog park and had to be in a splint for six long weeks.
Those were very dark days for us. We chose to adopt a greyhound in part because they are such “easy” dogs, and Django was definitely not easy. Our adoption group, with whom we’d been in close contact throughout all the issues, actually recommended that we return him because he was too difficult for us as new dog owners. We thought about it. But when I said that Django is special, he really is. Even though he had so many big issues, I felt lucky to have him, and we had grown to love him. So we committed to sticking with him and working through his issues. We worked with a positive-reinforcement trainer in our home and followed that up with several obedience classes at a local shelter. With that obedience work, time, love, and patience, Django learned that the world isn’t so scary, that he could trust his new family, and that the cats rule the house (ha!). His personality opened up, and we got to really know him. As anyone who has ever invested time with pets to help them get over fears and issues will tell you, our bond became incredibly strong. Today, three years later, I tear up when I think of how we considered returning him. It was really rough going at first, but I’m so happy we all hung in there, because I can’t imagine life without him. I could probably name 100 things I love about him, but here are five.
1. He’s like a celebrity. Django gets compliments and questions from strangers all the time. It’s rare that a day goes by without someone saying something about him when we’re out on walks. People driving will either slow up and yell something like “Nice dog!” out the window, or actually stop right in the road and hold up traffic and ask me about him. This happens all the time! If we are passing people by, I can always tell who wants to meet him and who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. I know some people don’t like dogs, especially big dogs, and I try to keep him as far away from them as possible. For everyone else, he is very happy to meet them. I like that he’s a good ambassador for retired greyhounds, but it can be tiring. Sometimes I just want to take my dog out to poop without having someone coming up to meet him. But even when I don’t feel like it, I always answer questions and talk to people about him, because you never known when one of those conversations can lead to another person adopting a greyhound.
|On a hike at a local park|
2. He’s very sensitive. Greyhounds as a breed are similar to cats in many ways, including being sensitive. If I’m walking and sigh heavily, he’ll turn around and look at me like, “What did I do wrong?” He’s also very subtle in his actions. Most people think of dogs being in-your-face and constantly wanting attention. When Django wants attention, he simply stands by me. He also knows when I don’t want to talk to people. You know all those people who come up to me to ask about him? Well, I live in the city, so I’m always alert to shady characters, especially if it’s early in the morning and no one else is around. When I’m not sure about how safe the situation is, I’ll whisper “Hurry, hurry” to Django. He learned that command in obedience class and knows it means “walk quickly.” Even if the person tries to talk to me, we’re walking so fast that I just shrug, as if to say, “My dog’s a fast walker. What can I do?” Django seems to sense when it’s okay to walk normally again.
3. He’s very curious. Again, he’s so much like a cat with his curiosity. If we’re walking and someone parks their car, he will watch them park because he wants to see who gets out of the car. If someone’s door is open, he will peak in (and try to go into their house if I let him). Just last week, we walked by a construction working holding up a road sign to manage traffic. Django wouldn’t stop staring at him, and I could tell he wanted to know why someone was holding a big sign! Django let me know that he absolutely needed to check out the situation, so we went over, and fortunately the construction worker was happy to meet him. The construction workers actually know us now,because in the past week that they’ve been around, Django has wanted to go to the construction site every day and check out what they’re doing.
|Watching me walk toward him|
|At Gettysburg for the Greyhounds in Gettysburg event in 2013|
|Also in Gettysburg|
4. He’s very obedient. People who meet him remark on how well-behaved he is, but really most greyhounds are naturally well-behaved. But Django has done so much obedience training that he is obedient to the extreme. Whenever I give him a treat, he knows to run to his bed and lie down on it before I even tell him so that he can get the treat. He knows that he has to do a command before he gets his dinner, so when a friend watched him, she said he went through every command he knew when he saw her getting his dinner together. He would never try to get into the garbage, even if we left it completely open. And even when we eat right in front of him, he knows not to beg for food or try to steal food from the table. He very much wants to do a good job and loves to be praised. Last year I was actually working on a dog dancing routine with him to teach him new tricks. I need to start that again!
|Learning down-stay when we first got him|
5. He’s very silly. If you meet Django out on a walk, he will probably be polite, sniff you, and then stand there like a statue. He’s also like a cat in that you really can’t see his personality until you get to know him better. At home, he will toss his toys around in the air, run around in circles, dig at his bed, and bark when he’s playing, excited, or wants to go out. At a greyhound reunion event last month, he was the only greyhound who got really excited and started running around in circles. All the other greyhounds were either sleeping or standing around calmly. He definitely is special!
|At his birthday party two years ago, waiting for a pupcake I made for him|
|He loves the water!|
Happy Gotcha Day, Django!
I hope everyone enjoys the holiday weekend!