I have thought long and hard about whether or not I should write this post, but in the end, I decided that without it, I wouldn’t be telling the whole story about my adventures in Greyhound-ownership. As the owner of any pet will know, you take the good with the bad with your pets – and sometimes the bad is very expensive and will teach you a lesson that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
On Friday morning, at just before 7 am, I left my house to take the dogs for their morning walk. Mila and Tommy were attached to their brand new splitter and rugged up in their raincoats against the cold and the wet, and away we went. We got ¾ of the way around our normal route, and were walking up-hill when around the corner came a man and his little black curly dog on their morning walk, coming directly towards us. We were about to reach the corner ourselves and it was pitch black, so by the time we saw them, it was too late to cross the road or turn around before we crossed paths.
So, I decided to keep walking. I was already holding the dogs’ lead tightly and quite short to keep the dogs close to me. I did my best to radiate calmness and we continued on our way. As the man and his dog walked past us, we said ‘hello’ to each other and the hounds didn’t appear to react at all. On our walks, it is usually Mila that gets excited in the presence of other dogs/cats/rabbits etc. She will bounce about – and sometimes bark, which is one of the reasons she wears a Gentle Leader head collar. Tommy is not usually one to react at all. He will look at the dog for a moment (ears up), look at me, and then go back to what he was doing before. For that reason, and the fact that we had had him with us for over a month without any issue, he was walking that morning without a muzzle on.
But Friday morning was different. As I said, the man and his dog walked past us and we seemed to have coped very well with it all. I was just starting to think about how good everyone had been when Tommy decided that he wanted to explore this whole thing a bit further. He whipped around, pulling me off-balance and Mila along with him and lunged at the little dog, latching on to it somewhere near its rump and refusing to let go. As you can imagine, the other dog (and its owner) cried out in pain.
I somehow managed to extricate Tommy from the other dog, with a combination of tugs on the lead and stern words. Hearts pumping at a million miles an hour, we stood back to assess the damage and catch our breaths. The man asked me for my details as he thought that he would need to take his dog to the vet. Holding Tommy and Mila very close to me, while trying my best to radiate calm, I began to give him my phone number when I felt Tommy tense up again beside me. I told the man that I needed to put a bit more distance between us and him when Tommy lowered himself and started to walk backwards, wiggling out of his collar (and away from me). He was free and was in such a state that all he could think about was catching the lure. He lunged again, and connected again, and this time the damage was more severe. I grabbed at his raincoat, which tore at the seams and fell off him and then attempted to grab him up in a big bear hug – but me against a 33 kg ball of power was never going to be a permanent solution to this problem. By that stage, I had dropped the lead, leaving Mila standing beside me, powerless to help. Thankfully, she stayed where she was and didn’t do anything to aggravate the problem or cause me more concern. The man and I eventually managed to get Tommy (with the help of an amazing passerby) away from the other dog, under control and back on the lead. We suffered cuts, scratches and possible bites in doing so – more the result of getting physically involved in the scuffle than anything else. I finally gave the man my details and we went, battered and bruised, on our separate ways.
Later on that day (which I took off work), the man called me and told me that his dog would be okay but that Tommy had done some significant damage, tearing skin from its shoulder and throat, in addition to biting its rump. The vet bill later came in at $980 – a huge bill, but something that we are arranging to pay in full to the owner.
We also had a visit from the Council, and an Animal Control Officer took a statement from me regarding what happened. I was told that we would be allowed to keep Tommy (he would not be taken away from us) and that I would be slapped with a $200 fine for failing to keep my dog under control. Tommy also faces the prospect of being placed on the “Dangerous Dog” list, a classification that I do not agree with and intend to object to.
I still feel sick about the whole thing. That horrible feeling of knowing that you are ultimately responsible for causing someone else (and their pet) pain and suffering is something that will stay with me for a long, long time. To say that this week has been a particularly long and stressful one for me is an understatement. Tommy is now back on his muzzle (for the foreseeable future) and we have bought a walking harness to prevent the collar slip in future. He is enrolled in the next Canine Good Citizen course, which I am hoping will assist us in socialisation. However, our daily walks (at least at the moment) are not the fun, relaxing experiences they usually are. My own nerves are shot (what’s going to come around that corner at us? What will I do if….?) and the dogs are acting more jittery and nervous than usual too. It was a stressful experience for all of us, and one that will take a long time to get over completely.
So, why am I telling this story? It is obviously not a great advertisement for the joys of Greyhound ownership and doesn’t sound like much of an “adventure” either…
I am telling this story because I honestly believe that this whole thing is not Tommy’s fault. He is a wonderful dog and a fantastic pet - very gentle, very patient, very loving and very eager to please. And when it comes down to it, I let him down. I let him down by putting him in a position that he did not have the skills, training, or understanding to deal with properly – he was after all, just doing what comes naturally to him and, while he has met and socialised with a couple of other dogs in his time with us, he is not yet at a stage where he is able to cope in all situations. And I let him down by failing to have contingencies in place to get him out of trouble when he needed it. Basically, I made a terrible mistake and he is copping the flak for it.
So, this week is about going back to basics – walking one hound at a time, until we all feel confident and relaxed again – and about reassessing the way that we do things. It is also about spending some time, letting Tommy and Mila know that they are safe, okay, and most importantly, loved (pats, treats and games all round!!). And with a bit of luck, we will get back to where we were before, a little wiser and a little stronger for the experience.
|Here is Tom, mid-yawn, demonstrating just how snuggly his new GAP PJ's are - he loves them!|