The shelter where I have been volunteering most weekends held a special training yesterday on how to handle one-year old “Spot,” a recently surrendered Borzoi or Russian Wolfhound, relative to Greyhounds and looking every bit like a curly-haired cousin. Spot was owned by someone who could no longer take care of him and arrived at the shelter having no clue how to walk on a leash or even where his skyscraper body is at all times.
We are being show how to turn him. he leaves most of his body behind unless you use your left right leg to nudge the back end to follow the front.
This morning, I went to pick up Bailey for our Sunday outing but learned she was on an “overnight” at the home of one of the staff so I had to wait for her to return. Well, I thought, I will go practice what I learned yesterday and take Spot out for a walk.
I entered his kennel, hooked him up and held the loop of his martingale collar to stop him from lunging when I opened the door. When I did this yesterday, he leaped up on tiptoes and flailed at my face from 12 feet in the air. Fortunately, instincts from years of working with horses many years ago kicked in. I became calm and firm and got him under control.
It was a struggle to get through doorways where we are asked to have the dogs stop before going through to teach them that we, as the leaders, go first. Spot was jumpy but this time, I was ready with my hand firmly on the loop of his martingale. We went through one of the doors but with all those splayed legs, I accidentally stepped on a toe (even the trainer said she had done this several times). He yelped and twisted, poor guy, but when I opened the door, all was forgotten. As we walked out into the sun, I could feel him relax about one degree.
His sight hound instincts kicked in immediately, making him swivel his head and point his needle nose at whatever was moving, people and other dogs. Two staff were quietly walking dogs down the road toward us so I guided Spot away. His body curved away from my left leg. I stepped to the right to get his attention but unfortunately, the front end came along while the back end stayed where it was, and I stepped on a back foot this time. Fortunately, this got his attention long enough to surprise him with dried liver treats and we succeeded in walking somewhat normally for two cycles around the parking lot before I decided to call it quits while we were ahead and go back in.
While I returned Spot to his kennel, the groomer was returning a freshly bathed Golden Retriever to its bed. She was a small woman wearing a green apron and had a cheery accent that revealed her English heritage. She put her hands on her hips and said, “Let’s see; who’s next? He needs a bath (pointing to Spot). I’ll do him next. We stood him in the tub last week, now we’ll wash him.”
And just like that, she slithered into Spot’s kennel, clipped the leash onto his collar, opened the door and marched him to the bathing room which is the same room housing the washer, dryer and mountains of laundry so there is just room enough for one person and one dog. With another more experienced volunteer, she lifted the surprised wolfhound into the raised tub and clipped his collar onto the short chain on the wall. There Spot stood, his back curled into a shallow “C” as the groomer asked him, “Why the sad face?” But he stood and did not struggle.
Unfortunately, the door had to be closed so I could not take pictures. But when I returned from my outing with Bailey later in the day, Spot was back in his kennel and lounging on his hammock, looking soft, fluffy, clean and CALM. I think he is starting to like the place. Good Spot. Good dog.
I am looking forward to walking with him again. Think I will wear my slippers.