After The Race

by Betty Zubritsky

Typically, a 5/16 race lasts about 30 seconds. That’s like “blink, blink, what was that??”

For all the preparations , the turning out and the weighing and the feeding and the cleaning and the turning out again and the stroll across the official scale .. for all that Morning Work is 4 hours of frenzied activity and feeding is calculated to a tenth of a pound, and somebody has to turn out the kennel while the races are going on, and you might get a dog leaving or arriving in the middle of everything else you’re doing and everything HAS to happen on time… for all that, the race is 30 seconds.

Or there-abouts.

My dog has delivered every ounce of himself in his chase. He would do that whether there were people wagering on him or not. He doesn’t care a drip about the spectators, or the noise they make. His entire being, from the moment his great-great grandaddy first drew a breath, has been The Chase. It is who he is.

And so, since he does that for me, I tend to cater to him when his race is done.

There are several “ways to do it”. This is mine:

I cool out my dog. On a summer afternoon, that includes a pretty thorough hosing, special attention to the feet, which is one of only 2 places a dog can sweat. Also important to wash away any sand that can accumulate under the cuticles. Those feet carry my whole dog, and they’re a critical factor in his overall fitness. I also do goodly hosing under the chin and the entire chest, front and under. I rarely hose a dogs back. It’s gotta be scorching hot for that. I use an eye squisher to get any sand out of his eyes.

Oh, eye squisher. It’s a ball syringe generally found in the infants department for human baby ears. Or something. What the crap are those things for, anyway?

Some dogs hate the hose, and I try to at least get the feet on them without causing distress. My dog has just worked a whole lot harder than I ever have in my life, and I will not frighten him. His trust in me matters.

Out to the yard for a drink and a peepee and a rest. Do whatever you like, darlin. Depending on the weather and the overhang and the direction of the sun (or the lack of it) and what my next race is, I adjust the out time to accomodate my dog. Frankly, if it’s cooler inside on a summer day, I get my dog in quickly. If it’s a lovely breezy day, he can stay out for a little while. If it’s nasty hot, he comes in just as soon as he pees. I’ll get him out to pee again within the next couple races.

Peeing is of crucial importance, especially in Boys. That there mighty fine tool of his is a muscle (yeah, guys have been saying that for eons) and the expenditure of energy makes muscles temporarily expand. An expanded Migthy Fine Tool muscle makes the peeing a little difficult because it wraps around the urethra. This is described as “Tied Up”. He strains to pee, produces little drips or unsteady streams. (We all wanted to know about dog pee, right?) An untended tie up can lead to further complications, not to mention that it’d be miserably uncomfortable, so I watch my boys pee. Yes, I’m a pervert.

Everything that comes out of my dog describes what is going on inside him.

So here he is and he has peed, and he goes to bed. He got an abbreviated breakfast this morning, so now he’s ready to eat, right?

NONONONONONONO!!!!! A dog that has not yet cooled out thoroughly cannot be fed. Why? Here is what I was told by the very best vet I know:

“Because a dog is horizontal, his stomach is suspended from front to back. It’s not just Greyhounds, all dogs are shaped this way. Any running, be it in the yard or on the track or in the field, will often cause a bit of a turn in the bowel end of the tract.” (Aside, this is because that is the least supported part of the digestive tract.) “A turn of this type will almost always correct itself, as long as there is nothing in the stomach that would make it too heavy to turn on its own. Feeding a dog does NOT cause a twist. What it does is makes it too heavy to turn itself right.”

What amazing things my babies are! All I have to do is rely on them to tell me when they can eat.

My rule is 45 minutes, and even then I check breathing and pulse before I feed. Each racer gets a cookie (I am using Vanilla Wafers right now) as soon as he gets to bed. One cookie isn’t heavy enough to interfere with his tummy orientation, and he sure deserves a treat for all the work he just did. He rests in bed until I’m absolutely sure he can eat his meal.

Now here’s where there are conflicting opinions. Some folks turn out everybody that has raced, all together. I prefer to give each one his (or her) special time outside alone, without a muzzle. This is relax time. Pee a little, walk about a little, take a deep breath and not have anybody else in the way of it. Particularly with my boys, I can watch them pee and be sure of who might be having a little trouble. I can medicate immediately. And it gives me the intimate “just you” moment that matters to me.

We had a good evening. My dogs did the very best that I gave them to do, and I kissed them goodnight. I love you, babies.