Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Making music

Our home land line has a ridiculous ringtone - a very loud, very high-pitched version of 'London Bridge' that goes on...and on...and on. 

Every time the phone rings, that tone is heard wherever you are in the house and because the phone's instruction booklet has miraculously disappeared, I cannot for the life of me work out how to change the tone to something that even remotely resembles normal. 

It would be a special kind of torture to be stuck in a room with no escape, listening to this particular rendition of London Bridge on a continuous loop. However, there is ONE advantage: the hounds love it!! 

Below is a video of young Mila Grey relaxing on the couch, singing her favourite tune. She has heard the phone ring so many times now that she's got the timing down pat and she even knows where the pauses are. Sometimes she manages to get Chris to sing along with her (although I'm sure he has no idea why he is howling)...but usually he is content just to listen.

For the longest time, I couldn't work out whether Mila loved the phone - or wanted to smash it to pieces as much as I did. However, she roos along so calmly before dropping her head down and going back to sleep, that I can't help but think that she is enjoying the whole thing. There's no panting or panicking or racing around the house - just the sweet, sweet strains of a 4-yr old greyhound - and that freakin' phone!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Poor Old Chris

Our Chris has been in the wars lately – some of which has been his own fault and some of which can be put down to pure bad luck. Either way, he has been getting some extra special attention, a few extra treats and has been allowed to sleep in our bedroom (don’t tell Mila) while he recovers.

It started about a month ago when I found Chris chewing on very red, very swollen patch on his front leg. Being ridiculously patient when it comes to being poked and prodded (…I wish Mila would learn a thing or two from him in this department), I managed to get him to stop with the chewing and inspected his wound. A visual examination and one trip to the vet later and we were diagnosed as having an infected wart, which required antibiotics and a regular clean. Sorted? Not quite. 
Relaxing after our visit to the vet

A couple of days later, Chris and I were sitting on the couch watching telly when I discovered what can only be described as a hole in his back. Excuse the description, but this was a perfectly round and very clean hole (about the size of a 10 cent piece) through his skin that went quite deep between his shoulder blades and into his back. Another trip to the vet and we discovered that Chris had had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic injection he had received when we were there to check out the wart.
Chris very patiently waited as the vet prodded around, cut away his fur and then shaved a patch of his back to allow the wound to heal. The vet filled out a heap of paperwork to report back to the medical company and we returned home with a dog that looked like he had been shot, a new round of antibiotics, a huge pile of swabs and instructions to keep the wound clean and uncovered until it healed. We were told that if the wound didn’t heal on its own, Chris would need stitches which meant more injections…not something that we were really too keen on putting him through in the twilight of his life!

TV time with Chris
For the next few days, Chris felt a wee bit sorry for himself. The antibiotics made him a little bit nauseous and I’m sure the sight of me coming towards him twice a day with a bowl of warm salt water caused him to scream internally. He managed to scratch the top of his scab on more than one occasion (who knew that a 10-yr old greyhound could get his back leg high enough to scratch between his shoulder blades??) and several times he made a point of ensuring that he lay with his back right up against something clean and white!!  But he always came up for his regular appointment watching telly with me on the couch each night – which let me know he was okay. A few (free!!) follow-up vet appointments later and Chris’ wound is healing nicely and it looks as though we are not going to be needing stitches this time around.

As a side note, one very positive spin-off from this whole thing is that Chris has, quite unexpectedly, made a new best friend…the Vet! Generally speaking, new experiences scare Chris half to death but he LOVES going to see the vet. He jumps out of the car very enthusiastically and pulls his way down the driveway to the clinic (the only time he ever pulls toward anything!). Once we are inside he is very animated – tail wagging, stamping, play bowing - and can’t wait to get into the exam room. Then the vet arrives and it is as if all of his Christmases have come at once. More play bows and lots of sidling up for pats and treats. If the vet needs to leave the room for supplies, Chris tries to follow her out back and then wonders why he can’t - he even endures the thermometer in the backside without any trouble!! I’m sure he wishes we could go to the vet more often…even just for fun…in his mind it sure beats that big scary park!

Then yesterday, just when we were beginning to think that Chris’ troubles were behind him, he managed to lose the tip of his ear in a scuffle with Mila.

Chris tells his new friend Nonu all about the drama
There I was, tidying up the dog food cupboard (much to the excitement of both hounds), when Chris rather clumsily got a little too wound up and bumped into Mila, causing her to whip around and pull him into line. Unfortunately, as she did so, she caught his ear and sliced off a decent piece of his lobe. 

There was a great whimper and a trail of dripping blood as Chris ran away to hide in the corner. Of course, his ear hurt and the best way to deal with that when you are a greyhound is to shake your head furiously. Blood sprayed everywhere and my lounge looked like a scene out of Dexter. I eventually managed to calm Chris down and fashion a bandage out of a pair of stockings and some swabs (although admittedly it took us a few attempts and several more blood spatters to make something remotely effective). Several hours later (and just as I was starting to research home-made Elizabethan collars), the bleeding stopped, the floors and walls were clean, Mila had satisfactorily apologised to Chris and he was sound asleep on the couch with his zig-zag ear sticking up for the world to see. 

Poor guy can’t seem to catch a break at the moment – but it doesn’t seem to have affected his otherwise cheery disposition. He is still the same goofy old Chris…scared of rubbish bins and the park but with a new-found love for a good temperate check at the vet!
Checking if anyone has noticed he's on the couch

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Adventures in nail trimming

One aspect of Mila Grey’s personality which I often refer to on this blog, but never quite seem to expand on is her penchant for the dramatic. She is the first to let you know when she is experiencing discomfort of any kind, or does not like what you are doing (or about to do) to her. Of course, I can handle all of that – but the problem is, in letting us know how she feels about something Mila tends to have trouble in differentiating between things that: (a) legitimately hurt; (b) cause her some level of discomfort/surprise; and (c) are just plain annoying. 

It means that her reaction when she cuts, bruises or scrapes herself is the same as the one where she is woken up unexpectedly, which is the same as the one where wind-blown newspaper chases her down the road, which (unfortunately for me) is the same as the one where someone tries to cut her nails. 

In other words, the Greyhound Scream of Death is bandied about our place like it’s going out of fashion.

I remember watching Irene at the GAP kennels in Sanson trimming Mila’s nails with an electric Dremel (which is like a miniature orbital sander) before she came to live with us. Mila stood there nice and calmly, allowing her legs and paws to be handled, and patiently waiting for the job to be done. 

When we got home, I bought a pair of nail clippers, thinking that it would be pretty simple to pick up where the GAP ladies left off. I soon discovered that the guillotine clippers had no place in Mila’s beauty regime. Admittedly, I am not the most confident of pedicurists at the best of times (where is the quick in all those black nails??) but each clip brought with it a fresh squeal of horror and a jerk of the leg. After four different sessions of attempted nail trims, both Mila and I were thoroughly sick of the whole thing and the clippers were retired to the junk drawer.  

Mila doesn’t have too much trouble with her feet and legs being touched (unless she is taken by surprise) and she is not scared of the nail clippers generally. She will sniff them happily when they are brought out and will even come to stand by me when I have them in my hand. But the second that I try to clip her “beautiful” long nails, it’s all over. 

When Mila went to Day Care, I asked the guys there if they could help us out. Paul has pretty much seen it all when it comes to the reactions of greyhounds, owning two retired racers of his own. He clipped Mila’s nails for us one day while she was there.  Apparently, his trick is to cover their head with a towel so they can’t see what is happening and don’t know to get themselves worked up and when to react. Sounds like a great idea in theory, but when I tried it she just knew. Same reaction, same result. 

Mila’s nails are naturally long and in need of regular attention. So a couple of weeks back, I relented and bought us a Dremel from Bunnings. I felt like a bit of an idiot spending $100 on a power tool for the purposes of grooming my dog – but now that we have two greyhounds, I kind of figure that the investment is worth it – and anything that can make the drama that is nail trimming an easier process for everyone gets a big tick in my book. 

And you would think that after that, we all lived happily ever after? Not quite. After three 20-minute sessions involving a number of treats and Mike and I working in tandem to make the Dremel experience as pleasurable as possible, we have three paws worth of trimming done and are building up to the last. We even got Chris involved in the process, acting as a model to show how patiently standing to have your nails trimmed gets you a lot of pats and some chocolate drops. Funnily enough, Chris was all done within about 20 minutes. 

"Why would you even think about trimming these beautiful long things??"
By the time we finally get Mila’s nails all done, we will be about ready to start all over again. While I’m counting on next time being a (slightly) smoother process, any tips or tricks you have for dealing with the nails of a hypochondriac greyhound in the meantime would be much appreciated.

Monday, 8 October 2012

A Whole New World

We’ve had Mila for coming up a year. In that time, we have lived at the same house, with the same section, and more specifically, the same backyard.

However, it has only been in the last week or so that Mila has come to realise that our backyard is A LOT larger and A LOT more fun than she originally gave it credit for. Don’t ask me why it has taken her so long…we haven’t exactly been hiding it from her.  But I blame Mike for leading her to her latest discovery.

Come on!! Look at this awesome new playground I found!
Let me explain. Our property is divided into two parts: the part that is easy to get to (which includes the house, the front yard and the courtyard); and the part that you almost need tramping gear for (the steep, overgrown terraced section at the back of the property with the stone steps carved into the 3 metre cliff face and the immaculate view out over the city).

Mila has just found that second part.

We first realised that she had learnt to negotiate the backyard, when we let the hounds out to run around the flat part of the yard one morning.  They ran around the house, played in (and peed on) the pile of cut branches we had made from our gardening mission and generally enjoyed themselves while we had breakfast inside. Then Chris came back inside. While this in itself isn’t weird (Chris has a limited tolerance for outdoor activities), Mila’s fear of missing out is usually enough to ensure that she is not far behind. 

No Mila.

So I go outside, wander around the house, check the gates, come back inside, check the bed/couch/floor and then stand there stupidly, contemplating how a 30 kg dog can vanish into thin air. One more check outside – and in the tall grass above me appears a black face with a goofy grin and a long pink tongue. Mila has spent the last 10 minutes negotiating the steps and racing through the grass from terrace to terrace, getting herself covered in cobwebs and muck in the process. At least the furiously-circling tail is doing an excellent job of flattening the grass behind her.

Tearing up the stairs is the best part!!
Ever the spoil-sport, I call her down to see me, worried that she will fall down the hill. Down she comes full-speed (heart in mouth) until she reaches the steps again where she must choose where she walks wisely if she wants to avoid losing her footing and hurting herself. All credit to her, she understands that she needs to be careful and thinks before taking each step toward the ground.

You mean there's MORE??
Ever since that morning, Mila has taken every single chance she can to get up the back again and chase the birds, butterflies – and sometimes cats (they’re okay) that hang out in our little urban jungle. Wind, rain and mud are no impediment to her missions, and it appears that strategically placed rubbish bins, wheel barrows, bricks and wooden boards aren’t much of a deterrent either. She doesn’t even care about ruining her jarmies on the way up the hill!

She loves it so much up there – and can’t believe that this magical place is actually somewhere very close to her own house! She is always thoroughly worn out by the time she makes it inside.

Contemplating our next move...
Far be it from me to deny someone such a glorious adventure in their own backyard (literally), but there is a reason that that section of the property is particularly unkempt. It is hard enough for a human being to negotiate the cliff, let alone a gangly-limbed greyhound who manages to hurt herself (if you ask her, quite seriously) walking into walls in the comfort of her own home.  

Mike’s logic is that four legs is always better than two when it comes to keeping your balance and negotiating rocky terrain - and having a much lower centre of gravity makes it less scary too – but I worry that one day she will take those steps too fast or try to walk in just the wrong place and will end up tumbling down the hill and doing some serious damage. Looks like I’m going to have to be the meanie that blocks off access to the backyard, as much for my own piece of mind as for the safety of young Mila Grey.
...and pausing to survey our kingdom.

Monday, 1 October 2012

I'll sleep when I'm dead (apparently)

I have come to appreciate that greyhounds are very much creatures of routine.

At our house, that means waking up at 6.30 am every morning (regardless of whether it is the weekend or not) for breakfast and a morning walk. After much bustling about, the humans leave at about 8 am (most of the time, anyway – why is it that twice a week they refuse to leave us in peace??), and the dogs to sleep undisturbed for the best part of 9 hours. At 6pm, everyone is home again and it is time for toileting, dinner, another walk and some more sleeping. Somewhere in there is a bit of play time and a few pats – and then it is off to bed for the night at about 10.30 pm.

The hounds know what to do and when to do it – and they love it. They know how long to hold their bladders, when their next meal is coming and when it is time to relax.

You would think that with that kind of timetabling, we might have been able to stay in bed until a reasonable hour on Sunday morning when Daylight Saving ticked over.

Because dogs don’t do daylight savings, I was prepared for the prospect of having the dogs getting up at the regular time (waking me up in the process) and instead of it being 6.30 am, it would be 7.30 am – so I could at least feel like I was getting up at a semi-sensible time for a Sunday morning. I thought that maybe we could run on “lazy Sunday morning” human time instead of “I’m awake – why aren’t you awake? I’m going to poke my nose in your eye to check if you are alive and WHERE is my breakfast??” greyhound time.

But Chris was on to it. He knew that was something was happening with the clocks and that his sleeping patterns were about to change. Worst of all, he knew that the whole thing was just an elaborate scheme by me to try to trick him into staying in bed for longer than he had to.

So, Chris made sure that he didn’t let the clocks get the better of him and decided to make his own mind up about when he would be getting up. And he got it all wrong. At 5.30 am (with my body is telling me it’s 4.30 am but Chris convinced that it was 6.30am), there are noises from the other room as the old man wakes up, stretches his legs and bounces out of bed. On his way past Mila, Chris “accidentally” brushes her leg, causing her to bolt awake and let out a howl – and then there were two of them rearing to go for the day.

And there was no coming back from there. Unfortunately, the latch to our bedroom door doesn’t work properly and is no match for a hound on a mission. In they both come, trotting around either side of the bed, poking noses in eyes, slapping tails against walls, breathing loudly, brushing past each other and generally letting us know that “lazy Sunday morning” human time is off the table as an option. 

When it became evident that we weren’t moving in a hurry (and were still pretending to be asleep), the dogs lay down beside the bed for 0.2 of a second and then get up to try it all over again. They race down the hallway (wooden floors – so I could hear every single foot step) to check if breakfast has magically appeared and then back again to tell me that it hasn’t. They get back on to their beds and spend the next 10 minutes repositioning themselves to get comfortable. One more race up and down the hallway and any chance I thought I had of a sleep-in has disappeared.  At 6 am (body screaming at me that it is only 5 am AND Sunday!!), I am up - reading the paper, feeding the dogs, grumpy, and wondering what to do with myself for the day. Mike seems to have mastered the art of just staying in bed and hoping that someone else deals with the problem. He saunters in to the dining room at 9am (three hours later!!), looking refreshed and ready to face the day. 

And what have the hounds been doing since we got up? Sleeping on the couch, of course.
All tuckered out after an early Sunday start. If anyone should be curled up on there - it's me!

Friday, 21 September 2012

School Days

Mila loves her adventures in the car!
On Monday, Mila and I jumped in the car and took a two-hour drive down the road to Foxton where we went to visit our new friends in Room 10. I had arranged with their teacher, Miss Gorrie, to go out and visit the class after the kids wrote us such nice comments here on our blog. Many of the kids had never met a greyhound before and were interested to know all about Mila's racing life and to see the star of the blog in the flesh. 

It was raining and very windy in Wellington when we left but by the time we reached Foxton at 11.30 am, the weather had started to clear and we were even getting some good patches of sunshine. When we arrived at school we made our way through the Office, where we met the Office ladies and the Principal and then headed out through the playground and over to Room 10. The kids gathered round us to give Mila a pat and I could see from her furiously wagging tail and the dopey looking grin on her face that she was in heaven with all of this attention. Mila was wearing her GAP Ambassador vest and also modelled her paw print pyjamas and racing muzzle for the class, before we watched a DVD of the race in which she came third (a result that she is obviously very proud of). The kids asked us some great questions about Mila - and Chris, who they had also read about on the blog. The class also told me about how they were interested in finding out more about what they could to help organisations like Greyhounds As Pets, through donations or volunteer projects. We then sat down to listen to the kids' stories about their own pets. There were some very well written and funny stories - and many of them reminded me of my own adventures with owning dogs, cats and a rabbit. Mila even lay down on the mat so she could be comfortable as she listened to what everyone had written!!
Mila, back home, checking out her goodies!

After the stories, we gave Room 10 a book that had been recommended to us, 'Born To Run' by Michael Morpurgo (the man who wrote Warhorse). 'Born To Run' is a story about the adventures of a greyhound named "Best Mate" and the friendships he makes throughout his life. The class gave us a huge basket of goodies (both human and dog related) to say thank you for our visit. We were very, very spoilt and Mila was immediately interested in the toys and treats inside.

After all that, it was time for our shared lunch - and man, did Room 10 put on a spread! There were chippies, sausage rolls, hot chips, fresh baking - the Works!! I had to do my best to make sure that Mila didn't beat us to the food and ruin it all but she was very good and quickly understood that the human food on the table was not for her but that she was allowed to enjoy her own little snack if she sat down nicely.

Let's hope this backwards sleeping craze doesn't catch on.
Eventually, it was time for us to head home. Miss Gorrie helped us to pack up our gears and take it all out to the car and away we went. After about an hours' drive south, we stopped to stretch our legs and the Titahi Bay Dog Obedience park, which is a little fenced off area in Mana where you can go to let your dog have a bit of a run around and to practice training. The sun had come out and it had turned into a beautiful spring day - perfect for running around in the grass! When we got inside, Mila raced around for about 2 minutes to brush out the cobwebs, decided that after her big adventure she was too shattered to do anything more and promptly lay down in the shade. We jumped back in the car and sat in the sunshine watching some other dogs racing around the rugby grounds nearby and then set off to pick up Emily from work and head back into town. On the way home, Mila was so tired that she slept the wrong way on the back seat - with her back to the front of the car - so I had to drive especially carefully to make sure she didn't roll off the seat and hurt herself.

So, a highly successful day! Dog behaved, the kids were great, and we even managed to get in a visit to the park. No wonder Mila slept very soundly that night. Thanks to Room 10 for having us to visit, for putting on such an amazing lunch and for our awesome gift basket. I have hidden the treats and toys away in the cupboard so that Mila doesn't try to eat them all at once and I have made her promise to share her goodies with Chris. I'm sure he is wondering where all of these wonderful presents have come from!!

Mila will be horrified that I posted this photo of her - but it was too funny not to!
Had enough of running around - time for a relax!

Watching the birds in the sunshine at Pauatahanui Inlet