Rescue you, rescue me

Rescuing a companion animal can lead to your own salvation, especially in the age of Covid-19 – as Richie Black discovered when he adopted Eddie.

For many people, lockdown has highlighted the peculiar dynamics of cohabitation.

In my case, the guy I live with is strange, cuddly, shits a fair bit, sleeps a lot. To be fair – aside from the fact he’s a greyhound – we’re not dissimilar.

Coincidentally, I’d adopted ‘Eddie a couple of months before Covid properly hit Sydney.

Feeling a yen for doggo companionship, I’d approached Greyhound Rescue, who turned out to be extremely friendly and helpful setting me up with a pal.

Eddie and I were “matched” according to GR’s careful vetting process. When we were introduced, he was friendly and charming. So am I (sort of) thus we hit off.

A former racing dog from western NSW, he had retired from the industry at a relatively young age – two years old – the result of a broken leg.

Sharply dressed in white fur marked with black patches (including one distinctly in the shape of Mickey Mouse on his butt), he now mingles easily amongst the urban tribes of the Inner West.

Grey days

The popularity of rescue greyhounds is well founded. Typically, they are gentle, sweet-natured and, aside from a walk or two, happy to spend most of the day snoozing.

That said, they’re not to be taken lightly.

My home is quite small – and it immediately got much, much smaller with a greyhound in it. It’s easy to underestimate how big an animal greyhounds are – and how strange domesticity must be to them.

Early on, Eddie, exploring the very narrow space beside the house, got stuck -– nose first. Minus the critical ability to reverse (at the time), he needed to be bodily hoisted to freedom.

With his elongated limbs and tail, there’s an gangly adolescent quality to him. There’s also a teenager’s blithe sense of entitlement.

The couch, for example, used to be mine but is now his. It also used to be a beautiful sandy colour – but took on a grimier hue, until I began applying blanket covers.

Eddie on said couch. Photo: Richie Black.

My time is also his. At odd hours, when I’m trying to work, I’ll hear a bark or strident groan – and find him peering mournfully over the rim of my laptop screen.

“What’s up?” I’ll ask. “Oh it’s a discussion on cartesian dualism you want?”

I’m only teasing, of course – he wants a walk.

Ritual in the time of Covid

Walkies are an overriding passion. Crucially, they remain so even in the midst of a pandemic. They are the constant in his – therefore my – daily routine.

We saunter about town, two bachelors. Ladies, particularly elderly ones, cast covetous eyes in our direction. He’ll throw himself at them in response, enthusiasm for greeting strangers like old friends being another Eddie trait.

“No, mate — too much,” I’ll say to him, as these poor women are sent reeling by this gigantic, springing creature, “You’re coming on too strong.” Another phase of adolescence, I suppose.

It’s all informed by a sense of unbridled joy; this despite the fact he’s on a lead. He’s so strong and so fast, I don’t have a choice. But then, I presume he thinks he’s taking me for a walk – and, considering his strength, often is.

That joy became more important with the existential jolt of lockdown. Something delightfully, comfortingly predictable amidst a very strange, uncertain time has been that Eddie doesn’t give two shits about COVID.

Greyhound-Zen

And it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of shits to give.

Being the rituals they are, walks are defined by habit: pee stops and – more significantly – poo stops (his, not mine) chief among them.

Cartoon: Richie Black.

These moments are rituals in and of themselves.

Like most dogs, particularly males, once finished with his business, he’ll scrape away with his back legs at the ground. This is the instinctual imperative to mark his territory as widely as possible.

Of course, designed for extreme acceleration, greyhound’s hind legs are very strong, which means Eddie must be moved quickly away from the “drop zone”.

This negates the chance of soccer-kicking his own poop behind him – which has happened a few times – sending turds flying through the air like brown missiles. Buildings, cars, children and other dogs have previously been caught in the crossfire.

As with any sort of repetitive task, we’re getting better in these moments – and generally things are disposed of in the responsible way of dog owners.

From there, energised by a sudden feeling of weightlessness and relief, he will set forth once again. Contentment beams brightly and infectiously.

Some, admittedly, are resistant to his charms (whatever, these are strange times).

Smaller dogs, in particular – the ones that look and behave like they’ve accidentally been shrunk in the wash – loathe him with tiny, jealous fury and scream invective as we pass.

But, as ever, he moves blithely on, tail wagging nonchalantly.

Meanwhile, I walk along in his wake – trying to forget about the problems of the world – happy to indulge a mundane routine where the only shit I’ll have to contend with are a greyhound’s.

Greyhound Rescue finds homes for greyhounds no longer wanted by the racing industry. Relying on donations from the public, fundraising and a predominantly volunteer-run workforce, Greyhound Rescue helps hounds discover new lives as cherished companion animals. Visit greyhoundrescue.com.au for further info.

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