OOh! Spookie Eerie!

by Betty Zubritsky

There are about a thousand “truths” about timids. Most of them are lies.

The anti-racing contingent will convince you that a retiree is timid (or a “spook”) because he or she was horribly mistreated somehow, somewhere in his or her life. “They beat him with their hats!” no wait.. “they beat him while they were WEARING hats!” No, that’s not quite right either. “They beat him and made him WEAR a hat!!!” Yes indeed, it just gets dumber and dumber.

I can go on and on about how much we love the dogs. I can and I do. The bottom line is….. very simply … it would be plum STUPID to abuse the dogs that provide my livelihood. Just … Plain … Fucking … STUPID. And, no matter what you may think, we aren’t.

We understand dogs a whole lot more deeply than you, the average adopter, probably can. Unless you have bred, whelped and raised this litter .. you don’t know much about the babies in it. So here is some very real truth about it … and them.

Personality happens AT CONCEPTION. It is documented and proven, and any behaviorist who isn’t trying to suck you dry will tell you, puppies in utero have a pecking order. There is an alpha long before the whelp. You can feel it when you put your hands on the mommy belly. Sure, there are the normal flutters and whatnot, and then there are some very real squabbles. MomDog rolls her eyes, knows she has a big job ahead of her.

The Alpha pup is often the first one whelped. Not always, but it seems to follow. He gets the first nipple, the richest and most sustaining of them all. He .. Is .. Golden. By the time MomDog has labored long enough to produce 7 babies (this is an average sized litter), the last one out is already at a disadvantage. Everybody else is already fed, and consequently bigger, and MomDog is tired.

In nature, it follows that way. Dogs are predators, and they produce litters of adequate size to create the future pack. (I almost said “populate’, but that would be making them people, and they aren’t.) The weakest among them will not survive infancy.

This is where we, as responsible breeders, step in. MoMo was the last baby whelped in this litter, and she was a long time coming. We made sure that MomDog was aware of her (mommy was tired). It’s been a long night.

Babies will sort out their heirarchy all by themselves. As helpless as they seem to be, they are fierce little things and they recognize (without the ability to see or hear) the weaker brothers and sisters. Alpha Baby has already established himself, on Day One. Our MoMo is the Omega. She gets swatted away from the nipple, and she tumbles over. She is directionally challenged, and paddles off in the wrong direction. MomDog lets her go, because this is nature. We interfere, and send little MoMo the right way. MoMo HAS to suckle, or MomDog will stop tending her.

Maybe the harshest thing in the whole wide world .. is nature. MoMo is going to be a timid. We did not create this in her. Indeed, we work to help her overcome it.

As the babies grow, they are even more fierce than they could ever be in utero. Oh my, yes. Now they have teeth and sweet little baby growls and my precious MoMo is really getting the worst of it. She doesn’t get to play with toys, she gets shoved aside at the feed pan. She .. is … timid. It is her place in this emerging pack, and it is nature doing its job. We understand nature.

Everybody can’t be everywhere, and little MoMo grows all the way up with some, but not a whole lot, of special handling. She has some scars from baby bites. Anybody know baby teeth? They’re pretty pointy. But here she is and she has an enormous ass and she chases like a monster and … well, she’s a little timid.

Having been raised with her littermates, she is Who She Is. My job, now that she is here, is to race her. Sounds horrible, right? But I also need to be able to handle her, so I play the games. BobbleHead and Little Pigs, and I get her coming TO me. She was timid before I met her, and I need her to trust me.

People often make the mistake of putting a timid dog in the back of the kennel, thinking that being apart from the daily goings-on will be a calming influence. It doesn’t work. I move them right up front where they can see the constant activity and the preparing of food. I want my timids to be familiar with my comings and goings. I want to be able to walk right on by them without reaching into their space. Routine is everything.

So is BobbleHead. I wish I had been doing this when I had Freak, but I hadn’t figuired it out then.

BobbleHead shouldn’t work. It is invasive. It is touching a dogs head. They don’t like that. It is about the stupidest thing in the whole wide world, but since discovering it, it has not failed me.

Enormous huge stress on this… I Am Not The Whisperer.

But BobbleHead works.

I love my dogs, and I spend as much time with them outside as I can. I rely on my bold ones to lure my timids near me. Just near enough. Hi sweetie. Can I touch you?

The first touch describes the rest of our world. Dogs are like that. They live In The Moment and they remeber everything. Especially timids. I part the swirling tide and cup my hands around her face. Stroke my thumbs across her brow. “Oh, bobble, bobble, bobble.” And I step away. I need her to step toward me. This is crucial. If she doesn’t, the game is over until tomorrow, and we’ll try it again. But if she does (and she probably will) we do it again. Softly, hands and thumbs and words. Step away. The game is hers now.

I call them “timids”. They are often called “spooks”. Afraid of everything, can’t get a hand on them, dammit dammit dammit. I make them my special project. For as much as I want to win races, and I’m about as competitive as anybody you’ve ever known, every dog is an individual. I want them to race well, and I want to be a part of their lives while they do. I need them to come to me, and I will spend my entire self on that. My dogs must be happy in my care, or I have failed them. When they leave me, when they go home, I want them to be adored. And quite honestly, it’s easier to love a dog that has no issues.

No old age, no medications, no personality stuff. Damn people, go out and buy a pet rock.


These are my babies. I have loved them from the moment of their birth, and I love them still. They are as precious to me as my own life, and I know them more intimately than you can ever understand. They raced for me! I know every ripple in their bodies, every giggle in their faces, and her name might be Gobby Gooby XQZ, but she is my MoMo, and she might be afraid some. Ask me!!!! When she leaves me, I only want her to be happy and well cared for. The very best I can do for her, and for you, is to tell you. I can’t do that if you refuse me.

Spooks and timids… funny. My Pikey was a horrible timid. He was my second adoption from an anti-racing group. Took me 6 months to get him to take a cookie from my hand, so I simply believed everything they said.I could have saved Pikey a lot of distress by simply knowing who he was. REALLY knowing who he was.

There are spectacular folks who take on the special needs dogs. The elders, and the epis and cancers. Seek them out, and I applaud them. Thank you from the very depths of my soul. I honestly do know how tough it is. My timids aren’t “special needs” in the same way, and I understand how difficult it is to place them. But I honestly need you to do this:

Understand dog mentality. They aren’t really cool 4-legged children. Greyhounds are dogs, and they don’t have the same rules you do until you teach them the rules. They have histories that don’t include you, and YOUR job is to embrace the histories and do your very best to introduce your tomorrow.

I promise you, I will love my dogs when you don’t anymore. When she pees on the carpet and when he chews up the sofa. I will still love them. And when my MoMo ducks away from your hand and you get so impatient with her, she will still be my precious girl. Don’t demand or even expect her to be what YOU need. Be what she needs. She always came to me.