Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Art of Walking Two Hounds

As part of the foster hound experience, there are times (every morning) when I take the two hounds out for walks together. I’m slowly getting there, but it is fair to say that I am yet to master the art of walking two dogs at once, nicely on-lead. 

Tommy is a good little walker. He doesn’t pull and his preferred position is being tucked right in close to my side. By comparison, Mila is all over the show – sniffing bushes, craning her neck to see what is going on across the road, and generally wanting to be the leader of the pack. She also has a very funny habit of deciding that she needs to go to the toilet and then spending the next 15 minutes looking for the perfect spot.  Add to this the fact that we are 2x 30kg hounds and me, competing with parked cars, overgrown bushes, other pedestrians, and sometimes even other dogs for space on the footpath and it can make 6 am an interesting time of the day to be out and about! Thankfully, they are both pretty good listeners - so our 'waits' and 'leave its' usually happen on command.

I’ve tried a number of different walking techniques – from having one dog on either side of me with a lead in each hand, to walking both dogs on one side, with the leads in one hand and the other free to hold poos bags and avert a crisis should one eventuate. We can walk along nicely for a while, sometimes even for most of the walk and the dogs enjoy having little races amongst themselves. They LOVE it when we get to the bottom of the hill and turn the corner, pretending it is just like the turn in a race track, taking the corner wide and picking up pace just a little bit as they come out of it. There is much jostling for position and wanting to be in front and I’m sure the dogs think that I am part of the race. Usually Mila will win the battle of the corner (I think Tommy is just being polite), but just lately our newbie that has started to show his skills and edge in front. It seems that Mila doesn’t appreciate that she is racing alongside a doggie who actually won some races in his day. It’s okay though, I never win – so at least she won’t be last.

Out for a walk to the shops, checking out all the people walking past - Mila at the front, and Tommy in his GAP vest at the top.
No matter which walking technique I use, I always seem to end up in a tangled mess. One dog decides to stop and sniff something interesting and the other has seen something on the other side of the road that it would like to know more about. Or both dogs have seen the same thing (cat) but want to see it from different angles. Usually I am not paying enough attention (it’s early!!) to put myself in a position to avoid getting caught up in the middle of it all. Either way, I end up with one in front of me and one behind me with my legs tangled up in the leads. It’s like one of those problem solving puzzles that I was never very good at as a kid. I have to stop and physically think (you can hear the cogs turning) about which arm and/or leg needs to move in which direction to release me from the trap. One wrong move and I am winding myself more tightly, about to knock myself off balance, much to the amusement of the hounds.  Of course, the thing they were interested in has gone and they are now staring up at me, wondering why we aren’t moving and how I have managed to get myself all tied up. It’s that incredulous look of ‘I turn around for ONE minute, and you manage to do THAT!’ followed by the impatient sigh that says ‘Pull yourself together woman! There is walking to be done.’

Funnily enough, Mike doesn’t fancy the idea of a 6am start so we can enjoy a brisk morning walk together with one hound each - are you crazy!?!? There is more sleeping to be done at time of the morning and besides, the stories of partial paralysis at the hands of an errant dog lead are far too funny to do anything about!

Monday, 14 May 2012

When Mila met Tommy (Go To Crow)

Over the weekend, our very first foster greyhound Tommy (Go To Crow) came to stay with us. He was driven up from the mighty Manawatu by the lovely Fatima and Sue and arrived at our place at about 5pm on Saturday night.

Tommy is 3 years old (he turns 4 tomorrow!!!) and is a big black hound like Mila, with the most piercing brown eyes I have ever seen - just check out this picture taken of him for the GAP website:
Gorgeous Tommy's head shot for GAP - who could say no to those eyes?
At the moment, it is difficult to tell the two dogs apart (especially if you don’t get a proper look) but Tommy’s floppy ears and his green and gold collar usually give him away. Like Mila, he has a long waggy tail which is just starting to get some exercise as he gets used to being with us. If you have seen Mila’s tail in action, you can just imagine what two flicky tails look like as we are getting ready to go for a (very exciting!!) walk outside.

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Relaxing in the crate
Tommy has made a nice little home for himself in the crate set up next to Mila’s green couch. At first he was a bit reluctant to go inside, but he is still very much in racer mode and we quickly discovered that he will happily go into the crate if we walk him into it like it is a race box (…proof that greyhounds LOVE to race???). He now goes in there voluntarily when he wants to chill out and the two hounds spend long hours of the day lazing next to each other in their little corner, getting up every once in a while to go outside to toilet. Of course, it is impossible for one to go outside without the other following closely behind!! 
Tommy walks beautifully on-lead and is very patient and calm when we come across other dogs (or unfamiliar objects) on our walks (something he is teaching Mila!!) – just this morning on our walk we heard a Tui singing in the trees behind us and Tommy stopped to listen to the music (and work out who was whistling at him!!)

Lazy Sunday morning, waiting for a walk
 So far, Tommy’s favourite thing at our house is Mila – and our big black shadow seems to have gained a big black shadow of her own!! Tommy likes to lick Mila’s face to say hello and while Mila does her best to pretend that she is unimpressed by her new housemate…we know that secretly, she really enjoys it.

You can read some more about Tommy - and see some awesome photos of him in the GAP van at Fatima's blog here:

Monday, 7 May 2012

You'll never walk alone...

We’ve had Mila for nearly 7 months now and in that time she has only attempted to take herself for a walk twice. 

I’m proud that it has only happened twice – because, thanks to some incredible stupidity on my part, she has certainly had a few chances to leave us and often decided that an extended snooze is more inviting. One morning I went out for a run while Mike was still asleep to return an hour later to find the front door wide open and Mila standing in the doorway waiting for me to return. I had obviously been so excited about my morning jog (yeah right) that I had left the house without realising that I hadn’t closed up behind me. Mila had had every opportunity to leave while I was out but, like the good guard dog she is, had decided to keep an eye on the house for me instead.

The first time she decided to chance her arm at a solo walk was bright and early on a Saturday morning last December when I let her out the back to go to the toilet, forgetting that we had left the gate around the front open the night before. Very calmly, she walked outside, did her wees and then kept walking. Around the house, down the stairs, out onto the footpath and along our normal walking route. We were having a bit of a lazy morning at our place and she had obviously decided that our usual saunter down to the cafĂ© for a coffee just wasn’t coming quickly enough. I probably would have panicked more if the sight of a large black greyhound trotting down the road in bright purple jarmies hadn’t been so hilarious. I jumped in the car and followed her as she calmly wandered down the road, pulled over and opened up the boot. The promise of a ride in the car was just too much and she was in like a flash – a quick drive around the block and we were content enough to be back home and asleep on the couch. 

The second time was yesterday when we were out in the garden doing our bi-annual section maintenance. Using wheeli-bins and bricks, we had (very cleverly, we thought) cordoned off a wee area of the back yard so Mila could be outside in the sunshine, pretending to be part of the action, while we worked away uninterrupted.  Somehow – and I am starting to think that she can walk through solid objects – she bypassed our elaborate security system and was suddenly standing right beside me. Of course, we had let her spend the day lazing around the house inside without her collar on and hadn’t put it back on yet – so when she turned up at my side, I had nothing to grab on to. So, here I am attempting to lead her back into the house as calmly as possible, bent almost in half with my arm resting casually around her neck, when we get to the wheeli-bin road block. I need my hands both to keep guiding Mila back inside and to move the bins, which I fail at completely, ending up with the bins going nowhere and the Greyhound backing out of my grasp. I can see exactly what Mila is thinking as she takes one last look at me (presumably to gauge how much trouble she is in), turns tail and races away. Not even a visit to the rabbit cage to check up on her buddy Otis to slow her down!

The speed at which she left the property suggested she was on a mission - and miles away before we could leave ourselves. A quick scan up and down the road and I couldn’t see her anywhere. So we tried the car trick again…this time with two cars – one for me and one for Mike. Around the block, down to the park (where there were tonnes of very exciting looking dogs, children and ducks), down to the bike track and over to the shops…nothing. So I decide to head home to meet back up with Mike and decide on our next move. I pull into the driveway to find Mike and Mila standing at the top of the stairs. Turns out that Mila made it only as far as two doors down before finding something interesting to sniff.  We might be dealing with a trained chaser, capable of covering large distances in seconds – but luckily for us, we are also dealing with a dog who is easily distracted by things that smell nice.

Today’s lesson? The cobbled together wheeli-bin/brick barrier is not greyhound-proof – the dog is just pretending she can’t get out when really she just can’t be bothered.  Also, an escapee dog is a sure-fire way to get out of having to do any more gardening. Perhaps I should be thanking her after all.

This is Mila roaching after her exciting day out and about. She is SOUND ASLEEP - and apparently very comfortable!! If only we could all sleep like that...