By Marcia Herman
OK. I admit it. I’m partial to dogs, Greyhounds in particular, over the age of 10.
Do you see that white old face reveling in the field of flowers on the couch? He’s our “new” dog, Mr. Bones, whom we took in last Fall. He’s old. REAL old. Way past 10 or 11, the vets say. True, he takes a bit longer than a young dog would to get up from a prone position and, yes, his bones creak some when he stretches. But don’t be fooled. He’d love to go for a jog if we’d let him (if we could, we would!)
About ten years ago, people would see me with a Greyhound or two (or three) and say in wonderment, “What kind of dogs are they? Are they GREYHOUNDS?” “Yep,” I’d say calmly, but with heart beating proudly because I was one of the elite few who was honored enough to live with these beautiful, uncommon creatures. You see, back in the early to mid eighties, Greyhounds were as rare as a 1943 copper penny or another Hope diamond. People, some hanging out of cars, would say, “Are they racing dogs?” After stopping the car and engaging in more conversation, the more difficult, but inevitable, questions began.
The first question was usually, “Do you race them?” And the second was, “How old are they and how long do they live?” Back then, it was actually hard to give an answer to “how long do they live”. Invariably the answer would be “I really don’t know how long they live. They’ve always been put down while still very young, when they stopped winning races. Now that they’re being adopted as pets, we’ll be able to find out. Ask me again in a few years. Mine are between four and six.”
A few years have passed – 15 to be exact – and I finally some answers. Fourteen is not uncommon and many Greyhounds are still going and going and going much like the Energizer battery. Somewhere, a veterinarian once had a Greyhound that lived to be an astonishing 21!
What’s really great about living with old Greyhounds is watching them lounge on a Saturday evening in the cool “fields of flowers” in the fenced-in backyard. We watch them while we are enjoying our weekly “barbie” in the Summer, as they wait companionably with us and with each other. When we are finished, they get up from their blanket of grass and wander over to us to lick the yummy plates. When they finish licking their own plate, they wait politely for the others to finish their plates so they can check out the others’ plates for missed tasty treasures They act nonchalant about all this, but watching an old Greyhound enjoying a good plate lick makes me wish that more hounds could experience this joy as ours do. Indoors, there’s the contented look of a couch potato dozing with its cat after the two of them finish an invigorating mush session.
Other great joys of living with old Greyhounds are numerous. Old Greyhounds are mellow. No matter what horrors they have been through, they walk into a house with other pets and greet each other and even non-canine occupants with great ease and acceptance. They are housebroken, don’t get anxiety attacks, have often already lived with children, and already “know the ropes” of home living. Most are ever so grateful for good eats, a soft bed (I won’t specify exactly where or whose the bed is), and a regular time to go out and do their “business.” They know you have rescued them. You can actually feel their appreciation as they bond to you. Ah, the simple pleasures, they must think. So this is what retirement is all about!
Many people who have children want a young dog who will be around as their children grow to adulthood. They don’t realize that their ten year old child and their 10 year old greyhound will grow together, if fate allows.
So, when people write on their application forms that they want “a two year old female who’s good with children,” I want to take them aside and say, “Take an older dog – a male if you have young children. You won’t regret it. That old Greyhound may be around a lot longer than you would expect.”
And if your old Greyhound is not around another ten years, you all will have had a very fulfilling four or five years together. Try it. I bet you’ll like it.