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Dog Diaries

The Thundering Herd

by Merle Doughten

When you first meet Mack, Jack, and Gracie, chances are you have just entered our home. The mad dash to see who it is arrives to your ears the same way the Native American Indians knew a buffalo herd was on the move…the thundering sounds of hooves. In our case it’s the thundering sound of paws coming from one of the other rooms, across the tile floor of the kitchen to the door.

At that point, if you are one of the folks that have not had any contact with any type of animal in the last 28 days, the sniffing and snuffing usually last only a minute or so, and everyone goes back to doing what they do best…sleep.

If you are so unfortunate to have been in contact or close proximity to another creature of the animal world, the sniffing will go on until the herd is completely satisfied that their olfactory senses have been properly used to their fullest extent. And greyhound noses can be used in many intruding and embarrassing ways.

Anyone with greyhounds (and some other types of dogs) knows how this routine goes. You either have to prepare your guests for the mad rush or place a barrier between the thundering herd and arriving, unsuspecting guest. And of course, apologize ahead of time for that well placed needle nose.

When we first got Mack home with his brother Jack, it was interesting to watch how they interacted with visitors. Both were what greyhound folks call “spooks”. They were afraid of everything. Gracie on the other hand had absolutely no problem going up and putting her nose right in your crotch. “How ya doing?!!” she would be saying, tail wagging in big circles.

Jack would come out, but only venture so far, usually just out of arms reach. Mack normally hid around the corner and peeked out. What made this funny was that Mack is the biggest of the three, and Gracie the smallest.

If you stood still long enough, Jack would eventually get close enough for a scratch, but Mack very rarely ventured past the doorway. This was especially true for when it was a man that had entered the house.

As time went by, the greeting committee grew to both Jack and Gracie, and really can’t forget Emmy (she has never met a person that couldn’t show enough love by petting her). Since she is so much smaller then everyone, she could sneak under and get some rubbings. Big Mack still hid around the corner and peeked out, and very occasionally would come out into the room. Even as he came out into the room, he would continue to look over his shoulder to make sure his escape route was clear. You could see the paranoia in his eyes.

And God forbid if the person made any move toward him, he would scamper back to his hiding spot around the corner. If he were really freaked out, he would even run up to his crate.

Then we hit an anniversary, their first year living with us. August 2004. It was like someone had thrown a switch. It became very obvious to us that something had changed.

My wife, Andrea, used to ask her father, Andy Zych, if he would let the dogs out and feed them if we were out or not going to be home for awhile. He gladly did it and enjoyed watching them and playing around with them. Mack still was a bit apprehensive, but after awhile warmed up to him and let him pet him. Then he started meeting him at the door when he came over. Big strides in the world of Big Mack.

Then the big moment came when we were fostering Shaina for her new owner, Marianne from New Jersey. Her friend, Sara (mommy to another Gracie and Tiny Tina) who works in Delaware wanted to stop by and see Shaina and get some measurements for a coat. When she arrived I remember telling her "Don’t be surprised if Mack doesn’t come right up, he's a little shy."

When she entered, much to my surprise, the big guy was the first to greet her! Then he wouldn’t leave her alone; he followed her around like a love struck puppy. When she bent over, he gave her kisses like you wouldn’t believe. He made us look stupid! Where did this dog come from? It must have been a fluke, we thought.

A few days later, Marianne and Sara came back to pick up Shaina for her new home, and there was Mack again! The first one to the door, just giving kisses left and right. He followed them around and let them pet and rub him. This was a new dog!

Something had changed in him, whether it was he finally realized he was here to stay, or that for all the people that have come to our home, no one has ever hurt him. It has been a wonderful transformation for us to see, and I am sure it has been just as wonderful for him to be able to join the thundering herd greeting everyone at the door!
Greyhounds aren't just dogs, they are a way of life!