My wife and I have adopted greyhounds for nearly seventeen years. We’ve always been enamored with their graceful athleticism, alert disposition, expressive eyes, and uncanny ability to run down and consume a bicycle messenger in heavy traffic.
During a momentary lapse of reason (and pleading from our daughter), we recently threw a cute little Jack Russell into the mix, and it got pretty interesting. When one of our beloved hounds passed away this summer, we were suddenly down to one terrier and a greyhound, which presented challenges to all concerned.
The surviving greyhound comes from a shelter in Limerick, Ireland, rescued from a caravan of gypsies (true story). He was in dire physical shape after being struck by a car, but recovered nicely after losing a toe to injury and infection. His name is Feidhlim (pronounced Fay-lem) — which means “lucky” in Irish — and he is quite the charmer. I believe he barks with an Irish accent, but am terribly sad when he raids my beer stash.
Bridgy the Jack Russell was adopted from a breeder who sold her as a show dog. She was returned after showing nothing more than a stubborn disposition. Like many terriers, Bridgy is a hundred-pound dog in a ten-pound body. She loves to play with Feidhlim, and he loves to treat her like an appetizer.
For instance, the other day a very intense tug-of-war was taking place, until Feidhlim decided to pick Bridgy up by her ropey chew toy and race around the yard.
“Where’s Bridgy?” my wife asked, stepping outside.
“Hanging from Feidhlim’s mouth,” I replied. “So cute, so . . . Adam’s Family.”
Feidhlim streaked by, graceful as a deer except for the determined terrier swinging wildly below his chin, little feet pawing the air, muffled growls barely audible as she swore in doggy language.
After several laps around the fenced yard, Feidhlim finally stopped and lowered Bridgy to the ground, whereas she promptly gained purchase and yanked the toy from Fiedhlim’s panting mouth.
“This is where he eats her,” I said, watching with renewed interest. Feidhlim had been a bad boy after-all, running down hares and other game for gypsies back in Ireland. Luckily he put a temporary lid on the killer instinct, content to wickedly snap long, toothy dragon jaws in the air as if to say, “Go ahead Shark Bait . . . make a run for it.”
“Grrrrrrr,” Bridgy answered. Grrr*%#!”
In 1992 we were living at the University of Rhode Island, where an epidemic of woodchucks damaged athletic fields near the football stadium.
I remember the head groundskeeper describing years of frustration and countless burrows threatening to cripple members of the track team. “We’ve tried poisons and various traps,” he said, watching half a dozen woodchucks grazing like cattle. “We tried to hire a marksmen with a .22, but the campus and local police said no way.”
“I’ll walk the greyhounds through this evening,” I said, “and keep you posted.”
He looked doubtful, asking how two skinny dogs could stop a runaway infestation of groundhogs, and I flashed back to Colonel Trautman in the movie “Rambo”, when the local sheriff expressed doubts that one Green Beret could destroy an entire National Guard unit:
“All I can say is, you better bring a lot of body bags.”
After what groundskeepers still refer to in hushed, nervous tones as “The Summer of Terror”, two greyhounds eliminated thirty-six woodchucks, a snake, two raccoons, a skunk, and one crow who was slow during takeoff. Local athletes and students were traumatized by the carnage, and I believe a curfew is still in effect.
Greyhounds are hunters. What appears to be racing is really a rush to tear Briar Rabbit into several unrecognizable pieces (been there, not pretty). The difference between a small white terrier and a big white rabbit is more dental than anything else, and I can hear Feidhlim with a charming Irish accent: “Sorry folks, thought Bridgy was a rabbit there, just for a fateful second.”
Poor Feidhlim has been racing by himself lately, the little terrier swearing as he races past, around, and over her. I placed a call to Rhode Island yesterday, asking about available hounds. It looks like we’ll be taking a road trip Saturday, with little Bridgy cursing the whole way.
Luckily, it sounds like she’s a full-bird Colonel.
Note: The new greyhound (Isadora) is adapting nicely, and following Bridgy’s orders. Unless the food runs out.