An Ode To My Giant, Odorous Greyhound
By Noah Berlatsky
When we first got our rescue greyhound, people would tell us that we were very brave and generous. That seemed kind of silly; we got a greyhound in the first place because they’re beautiful dogs — and they’re supposed to be very easy to handle. Though they can run at speeds up to 45 miles an hour, they don’t need a lot of space or a lot of exercise; they mostly like to lie on the couch looking long and thin and mournful. And they don’t bark, so you don’t need to worry about that annoyance.
Getting a greyhound wasn’t a sacrifice, we thought. Plus, they are endearingly, goofily elegant dogs, with soft pettable ears and a long enquiring snout. It’s not brave to get a greyhound. Who wouldn’t want a greyhound?
As it turns out, my wife, I — and even my 12 year-old son — don’t really want this greyhound. The ears are soft; the snout is lovely. But there are problems.
These start with the bowels. Greyhounds are overbred, fussy dogs, and, not to put too fine a point on it, their bowels do not work. The first thing our dog, Sunny, did in our home, just about, was poop in it. And Sunny is enormous; he’s 90 pounds, which is about as big as a greyhound gets. And his poops are proportional to the size, which is to say they are also enormous. And, because his bowels don’t work, they are also semi-liquid. He’s mostly stopped erupting in the house, but even outside, he leaves giant semi-liquid poop-softies that are near impossible to pick up. You just sort of look at them and weep for the neighborhood and all its passersby.
Also, when he is not pooping, he is farting. And, sometimes, vomiting, which smells even worse and is harder to clean up. Especially since he does it in the house.
The bowels and their various eruptions are horrible, but honestly we could deal with that. The real difficulty is that Sunny is traumatized. Greyhounds at the track are treated very badly; they often don’t get enough food, and they’re sometimes pushed or jostled or hit. Sunny is an exceedingly sweet and friendly creature as a rule — but when he wakes up, he doesn’t know where he is, and he can kind of freak out. If you’re near him when he startles out of sleep, he growls and barks, and sometimes even lunges for you — we’ve been bitten. And being lunged at and bitten by a 90-pound dog is a pretty frightening experience, even if there’s no permanent damage done.
To make matters worse, greyhounds sleep with their eyes open, so you can’t necessarily tell when he’s just resting and when he’s actually conked out and might startle awake. And to make matters doubly, doubly worse — he is the most affectionate, cuddly greyhound in the world. The fondest wish of his adorable enormous greyhound heart is to cuddle up on the bed with his people. But he can’t sleep with people because he startles awake, and bites, growls, etc. So we close the bedroom doors on him at night.
And then he barks.
Remember the bit where I said greyhounds don’t bark? Sunny figured out how to bark. He seemed a little startled by it at first, like “Wait, I can bark?” But then he embraced it. He emits a door-rattling, ear-stunning, thunderous bark, loud enough to alert all his greyhound brothers and sisters to this wonderful pleasure they’ve been missing out on. Bark bark bark bark bark bark bark bark bark bark bark BARK bark BARK. BARK. It goes on and on. On behalf of his breed, he is going to make up for all that not barking.
In essence, having Sunny is like having a second baby, except this one is almost 100 pounds and as loud as an air raid siren. One night, in intense desperation, we tried closing him in a front room, hoping he’d bark himself out and fall asleep. He barked, and barked, and barked some more. . . and then he figured out how to open the door and came prancing out to get on our bed. In despair, we took him back to the room — and discovered that, before he had opened the door, he had apparently panicked, and peed all over the rug.
This was two in the morning, and we were staring down the bleak, snuffly nose of despair. There may have been talk of returning him to the greyhound rescue. This may not have been the first such discussion.
We didn’t send him back, though. We paid for training lessons, which seem to have helped somewhat with the constant barking. . . or maybe he’s just gotten used to the fact that he’s not supposed to sleep with us and made his peace with the giant pile of quilts that serves as his bed. We’ve gotten better able to handle him when he’s sleeping; there’s still some growling, but it’s not as bad.
More importantly, we can’t give him up because he’s our farting, barking, impossible sweetie. Sunny’s a messed up dog; he had a miserable first couple years and now he gets cranky and growly if you get between him and his food because he thinks you’re going to take it from him, like the people at the track did. He’s so happy with us; he loves to tear apart cardboard boxes and leap onto the bed and stick his nose in your face, and lie like a giant cockroach on his back with his long, awkward legs in the air, softly farting and filling the house with his stench. It’s not unlike having a child really; it seems like a good idea before you start, and then you’re stuck. We are sleepless and gagging and occasionally terrified. But that’s love.
Also, please send help.