Monday, 29 July 2013

And Lily (temporarily??) makes 3...

Adventures in walking three hounds.
Last week, the ratio of greyhounds to people at our house finally tipped in favour of the racers when 2 year old Lily (Lilylicious) came to stay. There are also now more females than males at home - although I'm not sure that Mike and Chris have picked up on that increase in awesomeness just yet. 

Lily comes to us short-term, as a foster hound while she awaits her "forever home", although so far, she has fit in to life as a pet so well that the effort of having three hounds doesn't seem that much greater than having two - and it isn't such a stretch to imagine us being a 3 dog household. While there are some initial practical issues that you have to get around (or at least think carefully about how you will manage) - for example, two hounds fit comfortably in the car for a drive to the park but 3 not so much - and we have had one or two very minor teething problems - the experience as a whole has been a positive one. Meal times aren't even as much of an event as I thought they would be!

Like butter wouldn't melt...
Lily has found a new BEST BEST BEST friend in Mila - even if the feeling isn't entirely mutual. She is a mini-version of Mila - right down to the black fur and waggy tail - and constantly looks to Mila for guidance on how to deal with a new situation or for any indication that it might be time to go out and play.  When Mila does decide to go outside (in her own time of course - she will not be pressured!!), Lily dutifully follows and is very careful to make sure that she sniffs the same bushes in the garden, and pees in the same spots as Mila - imitation being the most sincere form of flattery after all. Each morning, when Meels sets out for some alone time on her morning walk, Lily waits (not so patiently) for her return - driving Chris mental in the process - until the moment they can be reunited like long lost sisters.

I would love to report that Mila feels the same way about the new addition - that a fabulous friendship has blossomed and that she has taken young Lily under her wing like a good "big sister" - but we all know that's not the way that Mila operates. Madam subscribes to the "treat 'em mean - keep 'em keen" school of social interaction, which isn't to say that she doesn't enjoy having Lily around, but she does like to make it clear that Lily's presence is entirely at Mila's discretion. It reminds me a bit of the movie Mean Girls. There is a great deal of "tough love" going on - but it's pretty clear that Lily is having a great time and that Mila thoroughly enjoys having someone to boss around and (finally!) having someone who will worship her very existence. Old man Chris is much more worried about where his next meal is coming from and how much of the day he can spend lying in his favourite spot in the sun, to care whether Mila likes him or not - so the attention from young Lily is a breath of fresh air. I'm sure that even if Mila learns nothing about the value of compassion, patience and caring through this experience - it is doing wonderful things for her self-esteem.
Enjoying a pig's ear in the sun

Lily and Chris seem to get on just fine - bearing in mind that Chris is old enough to be her great grandfather (several times over). Sometimes Lily forgets that Chris would rather lie in bed undisturbed than be jumped on or sniffed or head-butted - but she always has a gentle ear-lick for him and generally respects his need for space (and peace).

As I type, I have close to 90 kgs worth of greyhound relaxing in various spots around the house - trying to make best use of beds, sunlight and space. When it comes down to it, whether you have one hound, or three, an ex-racer's favourite pastime will always be sleeping and it's difficult to feel too outnumbered in your home when the animals around you are dead to the world...

Friday, 5 April 2013

Off-lead and...under control?

Out for a stroll in Newlands
Jeepers - where did 3 months just go?? The hounds and us humans have been enjoying the sunshine so much over the last few months that we've forgotten what it's like to sit down in front of the computer for any decent length of time - we've had nothing particularly exciting to report - so our updates have been somewhat neglected. A recent flurry of hound-related activity reminded me of the blog and a rather opportune lazy Friday has given me a chance to sit down and write about our latest adventures. 

In the post on Tuesday, arrived a large A4 envelope for "Miss Mila Conner". Too thin to be a bone or a bag of dog food. Too informal to be invitation to dinner with the Prime Minister. What could it be? We got the envelope inside and Mila had a sniff (and a sneaky slobber) to see if she recognised the handwriting. There was a wee glimmer of acknowledgement before she lost interest completely and went to lie on the bed.

So, it was left to me to do the honours. Inside the envelope was two shiny certificates from Jo at Canine Solutions, who we had been going to training courses with - one for Level 2 and a BIG one for Level 3. I showed them to Mila and after she had spent some time trying to eat the smaller one, she looked at me as if to say 'Yeah, I know. It was nothing.'

Mila and I have been going to "Dog School" with Canine Solutions on and off for some time now. We have been through the Beginner's Course (Level 1), the Lead Aggression Course (Level 2) and, most recently, the Off-lead Course (Level 3). In the early days, Jo also come to visit our house and was a huge help with the settling in process and making Mila comfortable during the times we are away from home.

Mila and her Level 1 certificate
But Dog School was the best part. To start off with, we learnt basic commands like Sit, Down, Watch, Wait and Stay and practiced our on-lead walking and polite meetings. Jo was very understanding when we had to have class inside one day and Mila couldn't do her Sits and Downs on the hard wooden floor as well as she wanted to. Mila's 'Waits' were also very good, so we were allowed to do our walks without having to do a Sit to cross the road at an intersection. I think this had more to do with the fact that we didn't want to have to wait half an hour to be able to move off from the kerb - but that's neither here nor there.

Going to class once a week was also a good chance for Mila to practice being social and friendly with other dogs. During the time we were there, we learnt a lot about Mila's personality (she has a limited tolerance for excitement in other dogs and needs to be in control of a "playtime" situation to be having fun - what a madam!!) and the situations we should avoid and/or try to manage.

Mila at her final class before Christmas - much to her annoyance, the dogs had to come dressed-up

But by far and away our best achievement was getting through the Off-Lead Course (Level 3).

Anyone who has ever seen a greyhound at full speed will know that when a hound decides to go, there is no catching it. At the start of our course, Jo told us that by the end, the group would be able to walk confidently together around the field with our dogs off-lead beside us. After we had done a bit of an experiment and Mila had wandered off into the bushes to explore, suddenly gone deaf and not come back, I quietly asked Jo if maybe we were biting off more than we could chew. She was insistent that we would get there in the end - and I am rapt to say, we did!! 

Mila's (much more impressive) Level 3 certificate
Our Off-Lead work wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good - even if I do say so myself. At times, the bushes were too much of a temptation for young Mila and she would wander away from me to see what the plants were doing. Her 'Emergency Stop' is more of a 'Slow Down' and her 'Down Stay' is so good that she often wouldn't get up again. But she didn't run away. She didn't try to race the other dogs (much) and best of all, we PASSED!

Mila's Level 3 certificate is now pride of place on the fridge for the world to see and we need to think about whether we should enrol ourselves in agility classes. Given Mila's irrational hatred of tunnels, we might be facing an uphill battle there.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Summer of Hounds

Mila and Chris have crammed so much into their summer so far that, rather than tell you about their adventures, I thought it was best just to let the photos do the talking. Something about pictures painting words... Anyway, hope you have all had a fabulous festive season and are making the most of the AMAZING weather we are having at the moment. Here's what the hounds have been up to -

After a very successful lunch, Mila helps out with the Christmas Day washing up

On our New Years' road trip, Chris decides that he loves the car so much, he'd like to try driving.  

When he's not driving, he prefers to be right into the thick of the action - in the backseat, with the bags and groceries

Mila enjoys a post-breakfast rest in the Taranaki sunshine

...followed by an afternoon rest with the family.

Of course, Chris also welcomes any chance to have a snooze
In early January, the hounds' friend Nonu came to stay. Here Mila shows her patience when Nonu decides she needs protecting while she sleeps...and then (below) reports back on what he saw while she was resting

And just this weekend, we found out that a lie down in the swamp at the park...

leads to a nice cool shower at home and a beautifully clean Chris!