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Caring - Cats and small dogs

Cats and small dogs

Not only greyhounds chase cats - so do some collies, Jack Russells and mongrels. Its just that it is instinctive for a greyhound to chase something that runs - and they are usually that bit quicker than other breeds!

But many greyhounds settle with cats and with poultry and it is one of the most important issues to deal with when you first adopt a dog. Your adoption group will have discussed this with you and will have seen how your dog reacts so that you are prepared. Always be aware that, although your dog may be completely safe with his own family cat - or even rabbit, off territory he may view anything that runs as fair game, so be prepared until you know him well.

An article called A Strained Romance, written by an experienced greyhound owner, may help those people who are patient and committed enough to spend time solving the problem.

A Strained Romance

Lethal Ethel hated cats. Her greyhound hatred was not a private bottled up emotion, bubbling and straining deep down like some Vesuvian cauldron, unseen to the world. No, Ethel's hatred was embarrassingly public. On our evening walks she screamed, shrieked and slavered it to the rooftops of Churchdown. Cats would wait for Ethel on their first-floor window sills, secure in their elevated havens, and when she failed to notice one, all that was needed was a tantalizing twitch of a tortoiseshell tail. Ethel was triggered, and lead straining, six feet in the air, she turned the convulsive backward somersaults that they all loved. They purred and applauded with little padded paws.

I tuned a keen ear to the click of a Yale lock and kept eyes strictly forward as abuse was regularly hurled at our accelerating seemingly innocent departing shoulders.

"Ethel, is it any wonder they all hate greyhounds? Do me a favour; just pretend to be a lady now and then!"

We changed walks every night, hoping that they might forget us. But no, a flash of moggie never failed. It was only a matter of time before the law came calling. We were a definite social menace!

We moved. The years passed. Ethel mellowed; the world no longer seemed to challenge her self-endowed peerage. Summer '95 was a second dry one. The sun battered the hillside, the grass yellowed and the earth crazed, cracked and cratered.

The mice came. They poured into the fissures like whip-tailed Bagginses. They chatted to each other across mini-ravines in broad daylight. They carted in mice furniture, mice provisions and bred mice children. They were here to stay!

Wendy wouldn't go out through the back door. She imagined mice scaling towers, tappings from mice ballista and mice grapnels tinkling against the window panes.

"We must have cats!"

"But we've never had cats"

"They kill mice don't they? We have mice. We must have cats!"

I thought, "This has never happened before. Cats in a greyhound household. Too close to home!" Somehow I felt that I was betraying the noble breed. But it was either cats or no dinners.

The cats arrived. The convulsing hessian sack was unceremoniously tipped up and shaken, and a furry tortoiseshell starburst exploded. The farmer departed muttering, "Most folks do use the rainwater butt."

Ethel screamed and slavered, and was promptly locked in the shed.

The cats killed mice. Little furry corpse-presents were deposited in prominent positions.

"Well done, Martha! Thank you, Maisie! Mummy loves you. Come for cuddles."

"Purr-purr."

Ethel shrieked and slavered and was again locked in the shed, a twice daily walk on a lead the only gesture, freedom now fast becoming a dimming memory.

"The cats serve a practical purpose! Tell me what contribution Ethel makes. Go and talk to her severely. You claim to have an empathy with greyhounds. The cats stay!"

We sat head to head in the dark woodshed. I talked. Ethel listened. I introduced her to the cats again, on a lead. She shrieked, leaped in the air and turned a backward somersault. The cats applauded.

I prayed.

A vision came of a vet's waiting room; a wall poster displayed to dispel boredom and declare to the world the efficacy of some worming powder or flea spray.

On it, my salvation; a dozen sketches of dogs, each explaining some apparent quirk in their domesticated life. The lamp post ceremony. The fox excrement rolling. In short, we may tame the canine breed, but deep down nature's instincts survive and can never be buried.

That's it! Forget this modern human social problem. Back to the wild!

"Ethel, come here! Who's in charge of this set-up?"

"I am, boss. I can scream louder than anybody."

"Right, Ethel, get your own supper. See you tomorrow."

.

"Who's top dog, Ethel?"

"I thought it was me, boss, but I can't open tins like you can. I guess you're in charge."

"Fine. I'm called the pack leader. You're number two - equal. Give me a cuddle to seal it."

"Why equal, boss?"

"I'll show you. Maisie, Martha! Come here. Who feeds you?"

"Purr-purr!"

"Right, I'm called the pack leader, and you are number two, equal with the dog! That makes both of you reliant on me. I look after you all. No pecking order needed. Life's simple. Savvy?"

Ethel's lip curls in disbelief, but no shrieks. No somersaults. "Equal second - with a cat! I don't believe it. But then, he does have the tin opener!"

Daily ritual. Cuddle dog, watched by cats. Cuddle cats, watched by dog. Dog smells catty pullover. Cats smell doggy pullover. Closer. Closer. Cuddle. Cat smells dog. Cuddle. Dog smells cat.

Days later.

Cuddles dog. Collar held tight, dog licks cat. More cuddles. Cat purrs.

"O.K., boss, I suppose they have to live too, but they never ran at Wembley, did they?"

"I know, Ethel, but then, you never caught a mouse!"

The method has worked for several dogs since. Don't isolate the cats from the dog, and do hold the dog tightly. Admiration and affection for both equally, in each other's presence. Closer and closer . . .

Ethel now licks and grooms the cats as they lie on their backs. They share food bowls and lie in each other's beds. The cats come for morning doggy walks. Ethel leads the way. Of course.

Graham Middleton

01981 500635


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