I realise I've mentioned him a couple of times on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but I've never actually even mentioned it on my own personal blog. So let's fix that now.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dessie.
He's my dog and he's my best friend and I'm going to tell you about him. But first, a story.
My wife and I had wanted to rescue a dog for ages. We'd been out to Dog's Trust a few times and, although there were a lot of lovely dogs out there that needed homes, a lot of them were 'troubled' dogs. Actual conversation: "Oh! You're interested in Solo? He's such a sweetheart. Just lovely. But tell me, are there ever any small children in your house because he does have a history of biting. Yeah, he's been returned to us a few times because of that." Stuff that just broke my heart. I wanted to adopt them all, but I've never actually owned a dog before, so there's no possible way I could ever train one up to, you know, not bite small children. So we hadn't found the right dog for us. But we kept looking.
A friend of mine was fostering dogs for A Dog's Life and just before Christmas 2013, she started fostering Dessie. Here are the pictures of him from A Dog's Life.
The minute we saw him, we said "that's it, call of the search, this is the exact dog we want". He was so gentle and so sweet and we called up the charity the day after we met him to start the process. They don't actually allow people to adopt over Christmas (understandable, no?), so we had to wait a bit.
We actually got him on February 14th last year. Honestly, that timing had absolutely nothing to do with grand romantic gestures and had everything to do with bureaucracy.
Our lives have completely changed since then. In lots of ways, both obvious and non-obvious. Obviously, we have a lovely little creature to take care of now, so we have to arrange our lives differently. For example, we're meeting some friends for dinner next week and we're already talking about who's going to cycle home to walk the dog and cycle back into town before dinner. We have to plan things. We have to be more organised with things. No more leaving food on the table, for example. Also, before getting Dessie, I'd never picked up a still-steaming pile of shit on a frosty winter's day. That's a line I can't un-cross.
But there are also less obvious ways that things have changed. Like, we're part of the neighbourhood dog walking group that meet in the local park to walk their dogs. It's such a semi-formal group that they actually had a Christmas party, where everyone wrapped their dogs in tinsel and brought wine and brandy and cakes to the park and everyone had a merry old time. Before we had the dog, I had no idea this group was even a thing. Now I'm one of them.
It wasn't all smooth sailing though. For the first couple of weeks, he was absolutely terrified of me. I guess a handsome, burly man must have mistreated him before. We still keep getting these glimpses of what his life was like before he came to us. Snatches of his little neuroses that hint at some past trauma. Like, he's absolutely terrified of motorbikes. Even a parked motorbike on the street, he'll give it a wide bearth. And that was just the start.
For the first couple of weeks we had him, it was tough going. He wouldn't settle. He'd whine all night and then he'd whine all day (we set up a webcam so we could check on him via our phones - that's how quickly we descended into being just awful dog-people). But that's something I really appreciated about A Dog's Trust: along with the dog, they give you access to a sort of a dog counsellor that you can email with your questions and they'll give you advice. So you can say "my dog is doing $x", and they'll say "your dog is doing $x because of $y, you should try to $z". Well -- and I'm not happy about this -- when he hadn't settled after two weeks, I wanted to send him back. But the charity were lovely and answered all my questions and helped me get through it and I learned how to handle him much better because of them. That helped him become more comfortable with me and settle down.
And here he is now.
In this photo, he'd just won "best rescue", came third in "agility" and won "best in show" at the Greystones dog show.
So, things people should know:
- Sight hounds (whippets, luchers, greyhounds) are the laziest animals you'll ever meet. They sleep and they sleep. Here's a typical picture of Dessie: I know everyone expects them to be really energetic and be a real handful, but if they can get just a couple of decent 20-30 minute walks a day where they can get off the lead and run fast, they're super-happy.
- The only issue with this is that they've got a really strong prey instinct and that can be a real problem. If they see something small (and preferrably furry), they must have it in their mouth. If that small thing is across a busy road, they don't care. So they need to be trained out of this, which can be a slow, slow process. It's only in the last couple of weeks that Dessie has stopped running out of our local park. For a while there, he was strictly kept on the lead, which was frustrating to both him and me.
- Also, you wouldn't think it to look at them, but they're incredibly affectionate. They're all skinny and pointy and you'd think they're not into the whole touching-feeling thing, but there's nothing Dessie loves more than to sit on the sofa with us. And he nearly always has to be touching us at all times. He'll be sitting beside you and just put a little paw on your leg. Adorbs. Again, another very typical photo of Des:
If you're ever thinking about adopting a dog (and you should! I can't think of a single person whose life wouldn't be improved by getting a dog), I'd seriously encourage you to take a look at the whippets, lurchers and greyhounds. The pounds are full of them and they're just the best.