by Betty Zubritsky
It hasn’t been so long ago that somebody called me a dogman. There he stood in the same room with me, said it to my face, and surely he had to see that I wasn’t a man at all. I’m a little old lady. He even said so. “She’s a dogman”. Emphasis on the “she” part. And I’ve known dogmen for a little while now. Never really believed I was one, whether my gender would have allowed it or not. Hearing it said, to me and about me, gave me a bit of a chill. Not an ooey gooey kind of chill that makes your hair stand up and you want to hide in the closet because the movie monster is under the bed with a chain saw, no. The chill was more a soft touch, a little raising of goosey bumps, a realization of self. It’s more lasting than a night of passion, more complete than a lifetime of wealth and success, and frankly more humbling than it’s intended. To be a dogman is not to be glorified in any context… other than the one we know. And I asked him why he chose to label me so, because there is so much I’m lacking. He replied “your hands are automatic. Your senses are acute. Every part of you is about your dogs, and I watched you make that miraculous 2 dog catch. (he referred to a time when 2 dogs got loose and I snagged them .. easy stuff.) So I’m a dogman?
Because I caught 2 dogs on the loose?
Nah… I just watch and know the dogs. And if that’s all there is to it, being a dogman is purely cake.
“You really don’t know how good you are” and he walked away.
Maybe he’s right and I really don’t know. If I’m good, it’s because they are my true loves. Knowing them is a joy, a treasure. They are treasures themselves.
Not for the money they may earn nor the awards they may gain. Not for the flashy lights and the satin bankets and the photos on the cover of the Review. But for the light in their eyes, the prance in their feet, the depth of their souls, for all this, they are my treasures. I am paid to care for their needs, and this little fact amazes me. How can it be that somebody would pay me.. PAY ME… to do something so joyful? To tickle and cuddle and coo, to be pounced and throttled and bruised (ok, I see why I get paid now) .. to hold in my hands the very finest dogs that ever put foot to ground.
Greyhounds. GREYHOUNDS!!!!! I know how much we all like to shorten things up for the ease of typing and it sure takes a long time to add “hounds” to it all, but he’s not a Grey. I don’t know a nicer way to do this than to simply say, quit doing that. Please, I shudder every time I see it. He’s a Greyhound. He can be your oootchie smootchie kissy boy, and she can be your twirly swirly girly, but please, when you refer to the breed, it’s a Greyhound.
Because there is perfection in his every moment. The lay of his ears, the shape of his feet, every crease in his beautiful face, it is all part of his design. The depth of his chest, the set of his tail, the flex in his spine.. it is all who he is. The mommy who whelped him, even more than the daddy who squirted him, is every minute of who he is. The light in his eyes, the tremble in his muscles, the chase the chase the chase… the passion…. but even then, the cuddle in the bed and the playing with bananas and the grabbing my badge off my hip pocket (bad boys, I found it the next day and thank you for not pooping on it) and the breaking my ribs for being happy to see me. For his ability to adapt to a home where there are cats and stairs and ceiling fans and pokey fingered little people and traffic and new rules, and not a race to be run ever again…. when all the world changes and he honestly doesn’t know that he’s retired, and we’ve loved him so much… the majesty in him is apparent.
It has been carefully made majestic.
Of all the breeds in the AKC, one of the least represented is the Greyhound. The gene pool is miniscule and the dogs in the breed are not particularly good. Like with most AKC showdogs, the form may be right on the money, but the dogs can’t DO what they were bred for. (Anybody know what a poodle is for? Why the fancy haircut? No matter) The small gene pool absolutely describes the failing of the Greyhound as a breed if left to show breeders alone. In the NGA, our dogs actually DO what they were bred to do. The gene pool is enormous. Hip probelms (which plague almost every AKC breed) are virtually nonexistent. Why? Because our dogs are carefully bred, and they actualy DO their job.
Please, How many German Shepherds in that there showring have ever seen a sheep? Sure, they do the floating trot like little champs, but I’d give you every dollar I may ever expect to earn if his hips are sound. Show me a foxhound that has ever seen a fox. Or a rat terrier that has met a rat. They LOOK like they can do the job, but the function has been completely bred OUT of the AKC. And poodles? The standard poodle actually was bred for something besides bows in his hair. Come on… put a poodle to his original task.
It’s only a prettiness show.
Our dogs do the job, and they do it with the perfect grace and the constant humor that has described them through the centuries. The NGA Greyhound is flawless. He is music on legs, and there isn’t a one among us who doesn’t thrill to see him run. The truest test of the dog is how he performs, and we do that. Go trace any Greyhound you like… you’ll find him to have a diverse ancestry. The greater the gene pool, the better the future of the breed.
deep breath, because I may never speak here (or anywhere) again.
I’m an old lady. In all my life, and that’s a weary number of years, there has never been anything that gripped my soul like they have done. These babies of mine, these Greyhounds. I have loved them each and all. Some when they landed in my hands as infants. Most when they landed in my care as adults. I have dreamed of having a racer of my onwn, and I have 13 pages of names for him. I still wish for at least one to be recorded. A Greyhound that I could name. But really, the name is less important than my loving him. And all of you know how easy that is. So do I.
I have 78 dogs and I love them. I’m the richest woman in the world.
——————————– Addendum ——————————-
I wrote this piece a couple years ago, and while most of it is as true today as it ever was, I am pleased to have been educated since then about the AKC Greyhounds bloodlines and performance. Hey, even an old lady like me can learn a thing or two. I know now that there are some very fine breeders of AKC Greyhounds, and they have chosen to supplement their gene pool with NGA bloodlines. This can only be a benefit, and it gives me hope for the future of this breed that I so adore. I’m also delighted to learn that some of those dogs are able to participate in coursing events, and they do it admirably! Way To Go, AKC!! For this breed, you have surely stepped up to the plate and done your part to provide for his future excellence. Thank you, thank you so much.