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Dog Diaries

Bella's Prize

by Diane Wainwright

My little black dog Bella Ann is the most confident, out-going, and pushy 52-lbs of Greyhound I know. She's extremely intelligent and would analyze proofs if she had opposable thumbs. Bella is also one of the 1 in 10 Greyhounds that is 100% not small animal safe. Just to make it more challenging, Bella defines small animals as anything her size or smaller that is not a Greyhound.

This is not a problem for me, and it is one of the things I like about her. I mean, she knows what she wants and she goes for it; isn't that a great quality in a girl? She and I have had many discussions about what is appropriate to chase and what is not, especially in PetCo. She understands me now, after years of work, and only chases the small animals that are unfortunate enough to find themselves on the inside of our 6 foot privacy fence. Until this spring, that was birds and squirrels. The foxes, ground hogs and opossums kept their distance and would only taunt her from the other side. This spring, however, there is one animal that keeps coming in.

Every morning I let the crew of hounds out into the 1/2 acre yard for their morning constitutionals and zoomie fest. They take about 5 minutes in the yard and then they wander back up on the deck to come in and have breakfast. About once a week when I go to the door to count noses and wipe dew from feet, I come up one nose and 4 paws short. Invariable it's the little black one missing.

I call her name and hear nothing. Not even a jingle of dog tags coming from the far reaches of the yard. I let out a frustrated sigh, kick off my dress shoes, slip my garden shoes on, roll up my dressy-pant legs and head out into the yard to find the missing hound. This takes awhile; you see when the little black dog has found something, she likes to lie stretched out and flat in the grass without moving a muscle in the hopes that I will walk right by and miss her with her prize catch of the week.

So just picture this as if you are standing in the upstairs of my house, peering out the window watching the crazy lady dressed for work, her pant legs rolled up like high-waters, wearing rubber shoes, wandering in a search pattern through the half acre yard, shuffling feet and calling out a terse, "Bella!" every 10 feet or so. From your vantage point you can see the little black dog hoarding her prize, her eyes following the crazy lady, as she wills herself invisible. Suddenly the shuffling rubber feet come within a few feet of the black dog and she springs up, mouth clamped hard on the prize, gathering her legs under her to take off like a rocket. She makes a sweeping arc around the yard, butt tucked under with her head up high, running at least 100 MPH to get away from the woman that will steal the trophy.

Then it happens; she cuts short to avoid the deck post and the prize flies out of her mouth and goes tumbling through the air end over end only to hit the fence and fall to the ground with a thud. The crazy lady takes clumsy strides in her rubber shoes while holding her pant legs up in an effort to get to the object before the black dog can come to a screeching halt, make a u-turn, and try to sniff out its final resting place.

This is the part where I win; Bella can't sniff out her prizes very well at all. She usually starts going the wrong way and then gets distracted by some other smell giving me time to make it to the poor prize before she knows what I'm doing. I snatch it up and discover a turtle, deeply hidden within its tooth-marked shell. I can only imagine what that poor turtle is thinking after it has been gnawed by Greyhound teeth and then has hurtled around the yard and smacked a fence going at least 50 MPH. Thank goodness they are built like little tanks. I call to Bella again, this time shaking her prize at her and she comes running right over with a perfect recall, bounding around at my feet as we make our way to the back door together.

I wipe Bellaís feet and go inside, setting the turtle down on the kitchen counter. I then kick off my garden shoes, wipe my own feet, put on my dress shoes and straighten my pants in record time to grab my car keys and the turtle and rush out the front door. I put the turtle down carefully in the front yard, right-side-up, where it will be safe from marauding hounds and head to work only 15 minutes late. When I return home, the turtle has wandered off and I know itís OK, because I will see it again in another week when it once again finds its way into the back yard and we play the game all over again.

Greyhounds aren't just dogs, they are a way of life!