Ever since meeting the folks at Kerry Greyhound Connection shortly after I arrived in Ireland, I had always hoped to adopt a greyhound of my own from them. My much-loved greyhound at home had been our family pet, adopted when I was 11 years old, and while I had looked after many other greyhounds since then, I had never actually had one of my own, as a real grown-up type person! While Penny was an unexpected but wonderful addition to my life, I needed to plan a bit more to have a dog as well. Once I finally bought a small car (and learned how to drive on the wrong side of these very, very narrow roads!) and with the permission of my landlord, I made enquiries about adopting a ‘cat trainable’ greyhound from KGC.
The initial meeting between the future siblings
Many people assume that due to their prey drive to chase, greyhounds can’t live with cats and other small animals, but this isn’t always the case. While some dogs will never be suitable, most rescues will test the dogs to see how they react around other animals including cats, small dogs, horses, sheep or whatever creatures a potential home may include, in order to place them in the most appropriate situation. I often find greyhounds who may have had limited success on the racetrack do better with small animals, as the dogs with a stronger prey drive usually have more ambition to chase the lure and win races. While ‘cat friendly’ used to be the common term for dogs who passed their ‘cat-test’ we try to use ‘cat trainable’ instead, as it implies there is a process involved with introducing a new creature into a household, and training is required on part of the cat, dog and people!
Testing boundaries and learning to tolerate one another
Sooner than I expected, I had an email response saying they had a small black female who showed signs of being a good possibility, so it was with great anticipation I drove down to Kerry to meet Bella for the first time. At the foster home where she had been staying since her spay operation she was easy going with the other dogs and was particularly fond of the kitchen as she quickly discovered where the food lived! The next day we made the long journey back to Mayo and then the real fun began.
Most greyhounds spend their lives on the racetrack or the farm or kennel where they are raised, so never encounter a normal house, with things like televisions, windows, couches, refrigerators or washing machines. And most never need to learn to climb stairs. Did I mention I lived in a second story flat with one narrow steep set of stairs? Learning how to do something scary like climb stairs when you’re an adult dog with extremely long legs that get easily tangled is no small challenge, but with a lot of sandwich ham, and time and patience, she managed to master the daily climb. It’s a good thing she is rather food driven, to use the polite term (food obsessed piggy being the less than polite)!
Getting used to a life of retirement
Once we had conquered the stairs, it was time to meet the queen bee of the household, who was not well pleased by the whole situation at first. Bella wore a muzzle for the first few days at home, as a precaution until I could determine that she wasn’t going to chase or hurt the cat in any way. Her initial response was very positive, mostly ignoring the cat and refusing to make eye contact, while Penny usually maintained a higher position, sitting on chairs, countertops or tables, to keep her status as the top banana. Over time, they warmed up to one another, and Penny got over her early obsessions of chasing Bella’s tail, or jumping on her back and sticking in the claws to hang on like a feline jockey!