After eight foster dogs, it had to happen eventually.
I picked up my latest foster on the same day as dropping off Fionn to head to his new home in Wales. Despite being another fawn and white male of around the same height, the two dogs could not have been more different. Quite thin, with prominent hip bones, Mick, with the racing name of Mickser, was quite nervous and shied away from any strangers and it was a struggle just to get him in the car, as he was so scared. Coming home, he curled up in a corner of the sitting room practically under the radiator, trying to make himself as small and invisible as possible.
We don’t know his full history, but from his behaviour, he acts like a dog who has taken some very rough treatment in his short life, and he is especially leery of men, not unusual for greyhounds who have experienced less-than-ideal handling in the past. He was one of HUG’s “death row” dogs, where we were given the option of taking him within the week or he would be destroyed, so he got to jump the queue of about thirty other dogs on our waiting list from more patient trainers. When he went to the vet to be neutered, the vet discovered he has had some sort of injury to his pelvis in the past, as his back legs did not fall naturally to the side when he was on his back under anesthetic as they should do. His bones either healed incorrectly or were never treated at all, so he has very little lateral movement ability in his hips, as well as a bone that juts out from his hips at a strange angle. It doesn’t appear to cause him any pain at the moment, but may require extra care in the future to prevent arthritis and pain in the hip joint.
Right from the start, I knew he was special, the ones with a sad history always get to me, and he is a very sweet boy once he begins to open up and start trusting you. Even when he had a poo in his crate on the first night, his eyes were so embarrassed and apologetic, you couldn’t be upset with him. He has also been excellent with the cats, very little chase instinct, so only wore the muzzle for the first day or so around them. I made the decision to officially adopt him one week after he had been with me, though I think I knew from the first day that I wanted him to stay forever.
Something had to be done about his name however, as Mick really didn’t suit him, he’s too elegant and reserved, plus I know too many human Micks which would make things a bit awkward! After much deliberation and internet searching, I found the word Rua, which means ‘red’ in Irish, but generally refers to someone who is red-haired, so usually a more coppery or orange colour, which describes his colouring perfectly. He is already going by the nickname ‘Ru’ though I expect it will be a few weeks before he learns his name properly. He has learned quite a few other things already, such as the fact that food lives in the kitchen, so it is a good place to hang out, and that the couch is his natural habitat, where he can now be found for 20+ hours in the day!
Our first official outing was this past weekend to the third annual Walk for Greyhounds in Dublin, organized by Greyhound Rescue Association Ireland (GRAI) which was an excellent event with a great turnout of dogs and lovely weather. I was a bit concerned that it would be too much for him, since he is still so shy around strangers, and for the first little while he would try to drag me off into the bushes if anyone else approached him. Within a couple hours he relaxed considerably, taking a cue from the other dogs who were enjoying the attention of everyone at the event and by the end of the day he was happy to be stroked and petted by a whole range of people. His attitude was much more confident afterwards as well, as though he realized he had survived and the big bad world wasn’t so bad after all! We still have a lot of work to do to increase his confidence and exposure to new people and situations, but his reaction enforces my belief that sometimes they need to get out of their comfort zone in order to make progress, if they are allowed to stay at home where they are never challenged, they are likely to become more nervous. Big thanks to GRAI’s fantastic volunteer photographer Eimhin McNamara who took hundreds of brilliant photos on Saturday of Ru and all the other dogs!