What I wish I’d known before I got a greyhound
They’re not real dogs. Trust me.
They’re not real dogs. People will try to convince you otherwise — but don’t fall for it.
I’m pretty sure that greyhounds landed on earth in the middle of an electrical storm.
Before you take one of these sweet-natured space oddities into your home, here are seven things you need to know.
1. They’re definitely not dogs.
A greyhound is a creature that someone held at both ends and stretched. They are long, spindly, big-eyed things with tails like antennae. They try hard, bless them, but mimicking dog behaviour is still a work in progress.
They have too many legs. You’ll only see four with the naked eye, but wait for the glitch in the matrix. If you see a greyhound lying curled up — or worse, see one get up from lying down — you’ll realise that they have at least eight.
Classification is a struggle. Friends have defined my greyhound as an indoor horse, a pet deer, a miniature giraffe, a giant mouse and a dachshund on stilts. What exactly he looks like is up for debate, but it goes without saying that Rover and Lucky are only distant relations.
2. They’re pretty gothic.
If greyhounds weren’t so mellow, Heathcliff would have had one. They’re tall, skeletal and eerily silent — the final touch to any haunted stately home. Mine has such a thousand-yard stare that we’ve nicknamed him ‘The Philosopher’.
They regularly sleep upside down with their legs in the air, like a canine version of Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. It’s called ‘roaching’.
If they’re not the Black Dog ghost of folklore, then they’re descended from the banshee. Greyhounds don’t bark, they scream — and the sound is uncannily like a woman. The first time I took mine to the park and he saw a squirrel, someone opened their front door to see who was getting murdered.
3. Big dogs can be total cowards.
“He’s a huge, hip-height black dog with a muzzle on,” I thought. “People will take one look at him and cross the road. He’ll be a perfect creep deterrent.”
Not quite. While people are very afraid of big dogs in muzzles, they are no longer afraid when that dog weighs about three stone and wears a jacket.
Greyhounds don’t howl, they cry. It’s very disconcerting — a little too human. Worse still: they cry a lot. My greyhound cries whenever someone he likes leaves the room. It’s pretty insulting for the people still in the room.
4. They wear pyjamas.
I used to think that putting dogs in clothes was just for Paris Hilton. My former self would be so ashamed of me today.
Greyhounds have so little body fat that they can’t keep warm. The rule is: “If you need a jacket, so does he.” In a cold house, they start to shiver — so they need to wear pyjamas. If you can see a dog in a housecoat without laughing, you’re a stronger person than me.
It’s not just the housecoats that make them resemble little old men: they develop greyhound pattern baldness. The fur thins out all over their body, ending in a bald butt like a baboon. You find yourself googling canine hair loss remedies and rubbing amla oil on their bald patches. You find yourself wondering if they make doggy Rogaine. It’s not dignified.
5. They take laziness to a whole new level.
Many people think that getting a dog will help them get fit — and if you adopt a greyhound, know that you will never sit on the sofa again.
Because the dog is sleeping on it, and he’s taking up all three seats.
Don’t count on bracing country walks with this one. Greyhounds can run at over 40 miles per hour — but they won’t if they can help it. After a few steps they’ve had enough, give up and stop to lean on you.
Like cats, they sleep for about 20 hours a day. They lie on the sofa with their giraffe necks dangling off the edge and noses brushing against the floor. It’s when they transmit brainwaves to the mothership.
You can have a loud party all around them and they’ll sleep through it. They won’t steal food from low tables. They won’t steal dropped chips from the pavement. It’s not because they’re too angelic — it’s because they can’t be bothered to stoop down.
6. They’re the world’s sweetest serial killers.
If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, you had better say goodbye to it right now.
You are about to live in constant fear of your dog eating their cat. All dogs want to eat cats, but greyhounds are actually fast enough to catch them. When it happens, it’s a very awkward knock at the door.
Your wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly couch hound will get into a fight with a hedgehog and lose. The hedgehog will waddle away unscathed — the greyhound will get spines stuck all over his face. He’ll never learn his lesson.
Like it or not, you will become an expert at extracting small furry animals from your greyhound’s jaws.
7. They have healing powers.
Greyhounds are rag doll dogs: they’ve reached an unearthly level of chill that the rest of us can only aspire to. Having a greyhound rest its head on your knee is a proven antidote for stress — and as for their appearance, well, laughter is the best medicine. Their gentle, affectionate personalities make you feel calm by association. They love children and would make the perfect therapy animals. If the NHS handed out greyhounds on prescription, we would solve the anxiety epidemic in two shakes of a very thin tail.
With thanks to Suzie Patterson