Archive for the ‘Stella’s Quirks’ Category

Whine Country

May 16, 2011

A few weeks ago Pete went back east to visit his sister. Which left me alone with the hound for a few days. Since she’s mostly a big zero, no problem. She does little, requires little and offers about as much interaction as a toaster oven.

So it was with some surprise that when I crated her the second night after Pete was gone she began whining. It wasn’t ear piercingly loud. It was just loud enough to be annoying. I think she understands the difference and leverages it. Anyway, it became not incessant but fairly constant.

Eventually I released her from her crate to see what she’d do. Would she go have a drink, something to eat, knock on the door to go pee? No, no and no. She simply sashayed over to Mount Bedrest and passed out.


The next night, nothing. She just slept through. And the same for most nights after that. So it wasn’t related to Pete leaving.

Fast forward a few weeks, Pete is back, no changes but this week, here we go again. The past two nights, she just whines. Pete changed her bedding–cleaned it up a bit–but still the whining. She’s spent every night of her life (except one when she was a cone head) being crated. But as we head to her fourth year she’s becoming a whino, much like her brothers Keegan and Oscar, who I have heard, from their owners, have moved permanently up to Whine Country.

Time to Google this I think.


Hare Ball

November 18, 2010

Note: The following post is not for the faint of heart, rabbit lovers, or anyone not blessed with an iron stomach.

Rabbit number five lost its life on Friday. The great black and white hunter struck again.

The only difference this time is that she ate the thing–not the whole thing but pretty much everything but the two hind legs. She was going nowhere until she’d had her fill so I was relegated to listening to her crack bones and tear flesh for about 30 minutes. I called Pete, “You want the good news or the bad news?”

“The good news? Stella won’t need to be fed for about a week.”

“The bad news? Ask the rabbit. ”

After waiting her out, I bagged the remains of the rabbit in a turd sack and put it in the trash. I was feeling like I had really gotten a stronger stomach from all this gore.

But not so fast.

While driving home I was cognizant of whether or not Stella smelled since I had to hose off some rabbit blood that got on her front legs during the feast. Fortunately, everything smelled okay. After I arrived, I ran up into my house briefly to grab a few things, leaving Stella alone in the car.

When I came back down and opened the car door the odor nearly knocked me off my feet. At first I wondered if maybe I hadn’t cleaned her off well enough. And then, I looked in the back seat and wondered no more.

There, sitting right beside Ms. Stella, was a steaming pile of mushy, bloody, regurgitated rabbit.

I let out a little scream. I contemplated whether or not that pile of puke would in turn spur me on to hurl which may have caused a hurlific, endless loop of sorts. It did not.

Stella of course looked nonplussed. Her usual self, sitting in the back seat, head bent down, eyes looking up, innocent. Dog live in dee moment, remember? She probably was questioning who deposited that vomit next to her and, had I given her time alone, how might it taste?

Miraculously, I remained calm and pulled the sheet that I use to cover the back seat up from underneath Stella. I gathered the sheet and the regurged rabbit all in one and stuffed it in a big Glad (or maybe not so “glad”) bag and tossed that into the outdoor trash making me realize that garbage guys can in no way make enough money to do that job, especially if the stench soaked through.

All clean, we drove to Pete’s place. Stella walked in and immediately went for a munch. She was starving.

The next morning she got up on the bed and I simply observed her. I think it’s very easy for most dog owners to fall into anthropomorphizing their pet–at least to some degree–especially when they’re on your bed, their head resting, just like a human’s would, on a pillow. But with a dog like Stella you see things differently: you see a lean, lightning fast, natural born killer–whether it be on your bed or in a savannah–resting up for her next hunt.


September 17, 2010

Okay, I get it. I don’t write anything for six months and here I am, swaggering in just one week later, with a new post. I need to stop being so schizophrenic about my blogging schedule. But P is out of town and it’s just me and a big cup of coffee ice cream and I had news and, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, when people have asked me in the past how much Stella weighed I’ve always said, “About 65 pounds.” Which was “about” right. But in truth, she weighed 63ish. Why didn’t I say 63ish? Why, you ask, did I not tell the truth? In other words, you ask, why did I lie?

I guess a few reasons:

1. 65 is a round number. And 65 sounds like an important number. A milestone number. Like a when you retire kind of a number. And what your dog should weigh kind of a number.
2. 63 sounds like you really know your dog’s exact weight and it is my desire to appear to be as disinterested in my dog as she is in me. When’s the last time Stella ever asked me how much I weigh?
3. She’s so lean to begin with and a really picky eater that I would prefer she have maybe a half ounce to spare in case she decides to go on a hunger strike for a few days.

So you see I’ve had good reasons to lie approximate. But not anymore!

Today I went to the pet store to waste spend a few bucks on some new dog bedding (she’s been on the same flattened padding in her crate for 2+ years) and when I went to look at some stuff in the room where they have the scale, Stella actually just stepped on it voluntarily. Maybe she saw a fly buzz nearby. Or perhaps she smelled some German Shepherd that peed on the scale earlier in the day.

Or maybe, just maybe, she wanted to tell me something.

As I looked up at the digital reading I could not believe my eyes: 66 pounds. And change.

Since she never really eats with any vigor and in another life I strongly believe she was a smoker, it is heartening to see Stella actually gain what amounts to over three pounds.

So congratulations, dog. And I promise now to stop calling you Stellean.

In other late breaking canine news, I do have one other thing to share. The other day I was walking Stellean Stella alongside a creek. A tough looking band of fourth graders came cruising by. As we were passing, one kid grabbed another kid’s arm, pointed to Stella and said, “Yo. Check it out. That dog is hella tight!

Yup, I got me a 66+ pound hella tight dog. And one major coffee ice cream buzz.

The Greyhound And The Missing Fortune Cookie

January 2, 2010

So we ordered Chinese food a few days ago. It’s not one of our main options but between the weather dipping below sixty and our motivation to cook hovering at its usual low, we decided to order up. I love this particular place for its hot and sour soup. And for its take-out menu which plainly states: open seven days a week, closed Sundays.

Despite the fact that I specified that the rice was for two, I must have ordered enough food to feed an army as we got an army’s share of fortune cookies. Well, an army of four anyway.

Time passed–maybe a few days. And I realized we’d forgotten about the cookies. But arriving home New Years Eve, I re-discovered the cookies and brought them out. Pete ate one, I ate two. Distracted, we forgot about the fourth fortune cookie sitting on the coffee table. Stella, however, had thought of nothing but that cookie for what was probably a good solid two, three hours. Where we had moved on to talking about the evening, watching Larry King make a douche bag out of himself, and re-runs of the Housewives Of Orange County, Stella never, ever lost track of her focus: that fortune cookie.

At some point, Pete got up to get something to drink. And I must have gotten up to get ready for bed. Which left Stella alone. Well, not exactly alone. Stella was left with her fortune cookie. While we did not witness the fortune cookie massacre, we are certain of its occurrence as the next day we found, sitting there on her pillow Stella’s fortune. A bit chewed up but still completely legible the fortune read:

It’s time to treat yourself to something special.

Beloved Rabbits: Part II

October 21, 2009

It’s one thing to watch your Greyhound do what it’s been bred to do for hundreds of years. But as I learned yesterday, it’s quite another to actually see what happens when your hound is successful in her pursuits.

Back in February I wrote about one of Stella’s first rabbit chases in a post I titled Beloved Rabbits.

Yesterday I witnessed that same beautiful, swift gait as Stella chased across the park. Within seconds she was out of sight.

Unlike last time, after waiting five minutes I did not begin to imagine my life without a dog. I felt confident that she would show up. I anticipated she would be wiped out. And that her paws would be bleeding from the chase. And that she would be thirsty and wanting her loyal staff member to serve up some water.

What I did not anticipate, however, was this: that she would return with a ten pound jack rabbit hanging lifeless from her mouth.

I also did not anticipate getting everyone’s, and I mean everyone’s two cents.

A jogger who saw the chase claimed that if Stella tasted blood she would become more aggressive.

A guy who looked Donald Sutherland on crack also approached me, “How could you let your dog kill that rabbit? This is a nature preserve.”

First off, nature preserve? The place is a dump–literally–that was turned into a dog park. I looked at him wondering what exactly he didn’t understand, “This is a sanctioned, off leash dog park. Greyhounds are faster than rabbits. If you can strip the DNA out of my dog, let me know. Otherwise, shit happens.”

With that, Donald huffed off, claiming he was going to call the police. Having been robbed twice in this city I know for a fact that unless you’re hemorrhaging the cops won’t show. Their big fish to fry include drug busts and shootings. As far as a a Greyhound chasing down a rabbit in a sanctioned dog park? You might as well call to complain that the barrista at Starbucks was rude to you that morning.

Okay, so then there was a man who happened to be with his dog, a dog who used to but can no longer catch and kill rabbits. He said Stella would be the same dog she always was. Nothing had changed except me knowing more about her. Unlike the rest of the crew, this guy seemed to know what he was talking about.

So what happened to the actual rabbit? He guessed that Stella killed it instantly with a bite to the neck. He said that a rabbit’s bones are very light and easily broken in a dog’s mouth. While I was leashing up Stella who was still panting and bleeding from both paws, he asked if his dog could have the rabbit to eat. I agreed but did not linger to watch the chowfest.

When I got home I needed to resolve a burning question that came to mind the instant I saw Stella with that cat sized jack in her jaws. What about Llewis’ safety?

I searched Greytalk for some answers. Fortunately I was reassured. LLewis is someone Stella knows and who is included in her pack. Their relationship is also contained in the confines of my house so there is that context as well. I was told long ago that a Greyhound could be fine with a cat in the house if your hound is deemed cat safe but put that same cat outdoors and all bets are off.

As for now, Stella is benched from the park until her pads heal. And although I know she or I didn’t do anything wrong I’m not sure how often or how much reality I can handle. Time will tell.

She Never Had Me At Hello

August 11, 2009

It was never love at first sitehound. I wasn’t sure I wanted the daily responsiblity. I wasn’t sure I wanted the attachment to a dog. And I was definitely unsure of getting a puppy–that was one I really had not bargained for.

Though I’ll never know for sure, Stella didn’t seem sold on the situation right away either. No licks, no bounding to say hello, not much in the way of eye contact. Sure, she would freak out if you left the house for five seconds, but when you were there she would go for an entire day without ever coming in for a visit.

So guarded we were–the both of us. Me because of my fears and neurosis and baggage. Stella because that’s who she is–not an easy sell, not demonstrative, not a people dog as much as a dog’s dog.

I always thought that you’d have an instant love connection with your dog like people do with their babies. I never thought that this connection might take time to grow, that I would change along the way or that, gasp, my heart might learn a new trick or two.

At the two year mark I can safely say all of the above. I’ve changed. I’ve learned to really appreciate a pet personality different from the one I thought I could order up as if ordering from a menu. I wanted that kicked back male Greyhound who was more pillow than dog. I got a protective, cautious female who would show you her teeth and the door if you tried to get too close to her on the couch let alone lay on top of her.

Initially I was disappointed. Who was this odd creature laying around the house who obviously could care less about me other than the roles I played as kitchen and janitorial staff member? Who was this creature who clearly preferred Llewis to anything else in the house? Who was this creature who obviously was so much happier with other hounds than hanging with me?

I thought dogs were supposed to follow you around the house, lick you on the face, ask you how your day was. I thought dogs weren’t like cats. I thought that they were unselfish.

But didn’t I want a cat-like dog? Isn’t that why I wanted a Greyhound? And wasn’t that Lab that came over for a few hours one evening enough licking and love for the rest of my time on earth?

But as I was asking and answering these questions, struggling on a daily basis, occassionally freaking out too, something else was going on.

Stella was changing.

In the past two years Stella’s not only put on 45 pounds and grown out some killer legs. Stella’s morphed from a slow-to-trust pup who never wanted me in her face to a relaxed girl who lets me bug her anytime and doesn’t mind getting nuzzled by me (or, as it so happened at a PawsToRead event, 20 seven year olds.) She’s a well behaved dog who happily greets friends but doesn’t knock them over. Four on the floor pretty much holds with her. Her cautious nature which disappointed me at first has been a real plus keeping her injury free. She’s smart to not get into trouble–with dogs that don’t smell right to her and in physical situations that look dicey.

She went from a pup peeing every 45 minutes, sometimes in the house, to a dog who gently knocks on the door to be let out.

Stella goes gently into this good crate whenever asked. No kong required. She’s great with children. I never worry.

So while I was learning to let go and let Stella, Stella was on her own journey–a two year crash course from puppy to adulthood. Looking back I have so much more empathy for the puppy path now. Since a dog’s lifespan is relatively short, the amount that they need to grow both physically and behaviorally is awe inspiring. I look back and wonder if I want a do-over. Not for her, she’s turned out great. But for me. Knowing what I know now I would have definitely enjoyed and appreciated many more moments having a framework to put them in.

Ah, but this is life. Full of lessons. And the biggest lesson yet? If dogs don’t teach us about living life, we are definitely not listening hard enough.

The Michael Phelps Of Sleeping

April 12, 2009

If there were a sleeping event in the Olympics, I believe Stella would bring home the Gold. Every time. Whether it’s a couch roach, bed curl or a snooze-fest in the car, this dog would end up with more bling around her neck than Michael Phelps.

Not to say that I hadn’t been warned. How many times have I heard that Greyhounds are the 45 mile-per-hour couch potato? Everyone who has a retired racer remarks on how cleary these dogs understand the meaning of retirement. Most recently while listening to a piece on rescuing all those hounds in Guam, I heard someone say, “Well, you know how it goes. Adopt a Greyhound. Lose a couch.”

Maybe because we got a Greyhound puppy or maybe because she never had a career to retire from, I figured she would not morph into, well, a Greyhound. But I’m here to tell you, that day has arrived. And it is on this day that I finally understand all those things they say about lazy Greyhounds. Stella sleeps so deeply, so regularly, so much of the time I often feel like we are living with a critically ill patient who is not to be disturbed 22 hours of the day.

Or that she is training, and training hard, for her events in 2012.


Sweet Sixteen?

March 29, 2009

I have this drinking ritual. But it’s not how it sounds.

At about mile six of a hilly eight mile run, there’s a place where I can get water. And Stella can too. In fact, in the middle of a beautiful Redwood grove, there’s a drinking fountain and a metal dog bowl. Bliss.

While we were headed to the bowl this morning, a bike rider came up. He was exhausted and exhilarated. Stella played with him on his bike with such joy I figured she’d be better off going home with him rather than me which is often times the case on outings.

In the meantime, I went over and filled the dog bowl up with fresh water. A few minutes later, Stella came to get some.

At about the same time a woman and her two dogs—a small black and white terrier and a shepherd looking dog also approached.

Stella had taken two gulps of water when the little black and white dog nosed in. Stella air snapped the dog twice. And the dog went away. To me it was a four second doggie version of, “wait your turn.”

I didn’t think too much of it but did say, “Eh, she can be a little bitchy.”

The woman then said, “My dog is sixteen.”

At first I thought it was an odd non sequitur. I then thought she was trying to say, “Here it is. My dog is sixteen and he still can’t keep his head out of the dog bowl when there’s another dog there.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The woman came up to Stella, pulled her off the bowl and said, “Get outta here you bitch. You *are* a bitch you know.”

She looked up at me and added, again, “My dog is sixteen.”

The guy on the bike and I just looked at each other like, “WTF?”

The woman went on to yell more at Stella for being a bitch and at me for allowing such behavior in a dog. She called me the dog’s “mom” which I always find a little cringeworthy too. I’m her owner. I love my dog. But Emma, a large black Greyhound now living up in Seattle, is her Mom.

Anyway, the woman then reminded us all again that…you got it…her dog was sixteen.

Uh, can anyone explain what her dog being sixteen has to do with anything? And if being sixteen was relevant, how were we (me and Stella) supposed to know? And really, who’s in the wrong here? Is it Stella for telling the dog to wait its turn? Or her dog for nosing into the bowl when Stella was drinking? From what I can gather, the dogs got it all figured out. And the only thing that felt really wrong was this woman’s behavior.

But instead of dissecting this in front of her. Instead of defending my dog. Instead of wanting to throw the bowl of water in her face for being so reactive and nasty, I said as cheerfully as I could muster, “Thank you for your advice. I really appreciate it.” ‘

And, as I was jogging off, “Have a great day!”

At the bare minimum I should have given her the Southern version of Eff You which I’ve come to learn is: “Have a blessed day.”

Hey. I’m open to being educated. Should I have thrown Stella down for TeethFacing a dog who went into the bowl while she was drinking? She didn’t hurt the dog, the dog got the message and waited, it was all over in four seconds or less. But still, I am open to seeing where my dog needs improvement. Just not from someone who shoves my dog, calls her a bitch and screams at me. It may be normal for dogs to growl, grunt and on occasion teethface. But that’s just no way for a human to communicate let alone educate.

Beloved Rabbits

February 28, 2009

Stella has a few issues. Okay, well maybe more than a few. But one issue she’s never had is coming back–not necessarily immediately when she’s called–but eventually, when she’s good and ready. It’s one of those things I never worry about.

Correction: I never worried about until yesteday.

Nearly every day we hike in open space teaming with rabbits. Rabbits, I’ve come to learn, rank about as high up on the Greyhound scale of desirability as you can go. Especially jack rabbits as they’re huge (think cat times two) and nearly as fast as she is. Curiously, yesterday, I actually saw one that Stella did not. I pointed and called to her but she was busy rolling in something.

But it wasn’t long before that nose got on the scent and, a few minutes later, she was off to the races with Thumper. No problem, I thought. Good, in fact. Because after a rabbit chase she’s pretty much done for the day and I can pack it in and enjoy having an exhausted dog for the next twelve hours.

So I enjoyed the breeze and the view and I waited for her, smug in my knowledge that she’d be back. But at about the five minute mark, the smug cloud over me began to dissipate and I called my friend Mary who was meeting us there with Mia. I let her know that I may no longer have a dog to walk. At the ten minute mark I actually began to wonder, truly, how my life would change without a dog. Would I get another one? How bad, exactly how bad, would I feel without having Stella to kick around?

A guy flying a toy plane who heard me calling for her the past while yelled back to me, “I think she’s over there!”

In the distance, in the opposite direction from where she took off, there stood–barely stood–Stella. She looked completely cooked–more done than I’d ever seen her. Good, I thought. I’m done too–no more walking needed.

And then I looked down. And there I saw two bloody paws. As if symmetry were a mandate, each front paw had a broken nail. And for good luck, the upper pad on the right front paw was pretty much stripped. I offered Stella some water–first to drink and then to douse on her feet.

Mary came with Mia and and we walked around for a bit. Stella continued to work on her breathing (and bleeding.) By the end of the walk the bleeding had stopped.

This morning Stella did this kind of limp-hop up onto the bed. I have learned that sleeping with a sixty five pound bag of bones licking its wounds is about as possible as sleeping with the rythym section of a Dixieland band. So I just decided to give up on sleeping and observe the perpetual licking machine.

At first I felt bad for her. But then, on second thought, I didn’t feel bad at all. I was reminded of one of my favorite poems by Ray Carver called Late Fragment…

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

And very easily comes the Greyhound version:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To chase rabbits, to feel myself
chasing rabbits on the earth.

Rainy Days and Sundays

February 15, 2009

Rainy days and Mondays do not get me down. Rainy days actually don’t bother me much at all. In fact, rain on a Sunday makes me feel justified in sitting front of the television during the day—something I rarely do as it just doesn’t feel right. It’s like having a banana split and a cigarette chaser at nine in the morning. Yuck.

The problem though is this: Stella usually gets a long run with me in the park on Sundays. It’s her time to go 8 miles plus whatever extra jaunts she gets herself into. But today it’s raining hard and it’s cold and because she doesn’t belong to a gym like I do, there’s no treadmill workout in store for her. All she’s getting will be the mandatory elimination walks.

So far, Stella has destroyed nothing more than Llewis’ ability to take a long nap. She can’t seem to nap alongside him in bed. She’s just too amped up. I guess it’s like trying to fall asleep next to someone you’re super attracted to. Stella keeps pretending she’s looking away and then she looks at him. Then she can’t stand it anymore and she begins to lick him in the face. Finally, as if Llewis hasn’t gotten the message already, she starts to bark at him and gets into full play position.

This pillow talk generally lasts less than three minutes with Llewis hopping off the bed in search of a corner of the house not occupied by a black and white Greyhound. Dazed and rejected, Stella does what she does when she’s out of anymore interesting options: she comes to me. Maybe I’ve got something she can eat. Or maybe I’ll rub her belly.

Or, maybe, if her skinny dog prayers are truly answered, I’ll suddenly decide that there’s nothing I’d rather do than lace up my sneakers, don seven layers of clothing and go for a ten mile run in the pouring rain with her loveliness at my side.

Dream on, girl. If you want to find me, look for the person sitting in front of the television inhaling a banana split—or two.