What the Greyhounds Think of Prefixes

by Dennis McKeon

One of my trainer friends was quite a character. He was a plumber by former trade, and he had rigged up individual water spigots running into each crate in his kennel. So all you had to do to replenish the water in them was to tun on the spigot, provided they were not dirty. He also had constructed an indoor turnout pen for inclement weather, and for the worst snows of winter. He was a fussbudget of the highest order, as you might imagine. His kennel was always immaculate, he had installed softwood floors and hardwood crates, and the place was a veritable showpiece.

Often, when I’d take a break from my morning routine, or was done with it, I’d stop by to visit him and chew the fat. And more often than not, the place would be in a upheaval of cleaning, turning dogs in and out, grooming, and so on—he preferred to work the kennel in the AM by himself.

One day I recall vividly, he was cutting and installing fresh beds, and had piled a huge mountain of freshly slit paper on the far corner of the kennel floor, from which he would wrestle each new bed, and then pile into a crate. He had about 10 bitches in one of the pens, and I was exhorting him to “hurry up and let’s get something to eat.” So he let the group of girls in, who immediately made a beeline for the mountain of paper, and who all began nesting in it at once, having a grand old time about it, too. My friend was beside himself.

With me egging him on to rush, he had forgotten about the paper mountain, and now all the dogs were excited and jealous of the group of girls having such a great time. The girls soon decided that in their excitement, it would be great fun to taunt their kennelmates by running around the kennel floor, rooing and barking, and then dashing and diving into Mount Papier—and back again. It was quite a scene, and my friend was a bit taken aback by the whole shebang.

Rather than scream and holler, he tried to catch one of the girls as she made a dash for the paper pile, and he missed her, and lost his balance in the process. One of his many quirks was that whenever he was flustered by a greyhound, for any reason, really, he would prefix whatever he had to say to that dog with the phrase “You dirty, filthy, rotten….” For him it was not a pejorative, or even a scolding—I came to learn that it was actually a term of endearment. For example “You dirty, filthy, rotten….stop that digging!”

At any rate, as he rose, he composed himself, looked at the offending female, and pointed to her crate, and said, with more than normal emphasis and the appropriate elongated pause in between the words.

“You dirty… filthy… rotten….”….and before he could spit out the words “get in your crate”, the rest of them all came over at once, sufficiently contrite, tucked tails timidly wagging between hunched and lowered hindquarters, ears plastered to their skulls, greyhound grins on several of their impish little faces.

He, being the easy mark that he was, then dropped to his knees and began hugging and petting them all, and cooing sweet nothings to the girls–who I could only assume, all figured out, long ago, that “You dirty, filthy, rotten..” was the kennel prefix to all of their call names.

copyright, 2013