One of the best things about boarding other people’s dogs is that I get to have all the puppies I can handle and none of the expense. In my situation, that’s a HUGE benefit. Over Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to find out what my maximum capacity really is. Well, just in case anyone asks – 5 greyhounds, 1 Chessie, 1 Troller. It was a blast, but I can’t say it is an experience that I would want to continue indefinitely. For anyone not familiar, a Chessie (Chesapeake Bay Retriever) is similar to a lab and a Troller (Novia Scotia Duck Troller) is a medium (40lbs), golden retriever type hair, mild mannered retriever.
The challenge is always, who is alpha. In my house Baffy is Alpha – since the day she walked through the door there was no disputing where she was in the pecking order. As most experienced dog people know, there can be times when your Alpha dog will try to challenge you for that spot as well. I’ve been in houses where the dog has obviously taken over Alpha and the humans are bending to their every demand. Usually I’m at the house because it’s a friend who is having problems with their dog and none of my suggestions have helped. At that point, I’d say about 70% of the time the owners haven’t established the appropriate hierarchy – you can’t discipline if you aren’t in charge.
So the first to arrive for Thanksgiving were the three greyhounds. Now, in my experience, a greyhound get-together is like a high school reunion in a small town. Everyone always knows everybody, at this point some of them might be related, married off to relatives, have family members dating relatives, etc., etc., etc. Thankfully I’ve been in a small town my entire life and know just how this is going to go. First, we have to organize the groups; Princess, Jock, Dork.
Most of you know, I have two greyhounds and from previous conversations – most of you have probably already guessed where my two fall – Princess and Dork. Yep, my little lover boy Opie is the epitome of the band-geek that his mommy has always been! Baffy is the ever popular, slightly conceited, always glamorous, girly-girl in charge, Princess of all she deems important. Argus, my big boy who passed away this year, probably would have been squeezed into the category of protector/ jock. He lacked some charisma that I would attribute to a popular jock, but he was first out the door – last in, high play drive – always in the middle of the action – even when it meant stealing the toys from everyone else. I can attribute his aloofness to an initial bad placement that only lasted a month, but even his foster family noticed a personality change when he came back. We all have our cross to bear and this was his.
So as the little 3-pack came charging into the house that Sunday before Thanksgiving, I began my questions. I always ask clients face-to-face about the personalities of their dogs because they come with stories and antidotes that tell me so much more than just a quick list of characteristics on a sheet of paper. Dodger, Trol and the beloved Ms were obviously loved and spoiled. Betty told me all about her lovely greyhounds and the things she thought were important. Then we let my two join the malay. (Yes, at every initial get-together I try to isolate my dogs either outside if the weather allows or in our bedroom.) It took very little time to realize that Trol and Opie were going to be best of friends. The dorks always unite quickly and these two seemed to be two peas in a pod. Opie and Trol trotted off to check out the beds and toys. They might lay claim temporarily while the rest of the group was distracted and getting to know each other. This would be their only opportunity to “own” anything since the others would eventually take over.
Before Betty left I got treats out. That almost always brings the crowd together. There I stood amongst the throng and when I said sit, there were only two who had to be asked twice – Trol and Ms. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me. Betty referred to Ms as a princess; well actually, when I called Baffy Princess she reassured Ms that she was a Princess from a different kingdom. I don’t know if Ms understood, but I thought it was a wonderful analogy! I knew my problems were going to be Ms if she decided to challenge Baffy for the alpha job and Trol, because of his attention span (or more appropriately his lack of attention.) She forewarned me that Trol suffered from separation anxiety and I have dealt with mild cases before so I was pretty sure I could manage.
The five greyhounds got along wonderfully. Ms agreed to let Baffy have charge of this kingdom as long as she got special privileges. Can’t say I really know when these conversations occur, maybe while they are crated and I’m at work, but I can assure you that they most definitely do occur. Baffy knows that the couch is hers – some days she will share it with Opie and me. The couch was apparently one of the agreement points because the first night, Ms and Baffy were bookends on the couch, each with a head on an arm to look out over their minions.
Another point of agreement apparently was Baffy’s food dish. I have to admit, I was totally blown away by this. Baffy is adamant (and VOCAL) about that food dish. From anywhere in the house, if she hears someone even NEAR her food dish she comes scampering to give a lecture. She doesn’t get physically aggressive, just very vocal – which for Baffy means YIPPY. Yep, you read that correctly, I have the only greyhound with a Yorkie yip, but only when she is ticked off; otherwise, she barks like a normal big dog. (Thank God for small miracles – I’m pretty certain that constant yipping would have been grounds for returning her.) But Ms and Baffy shared food at the dish on a regular basis. The first time it happened I started to admonish Ms for getting into the dish, but I got a nasty look from both the girls so I stopped. Wow, not only were they agreeing to share, but they were agreeing to chastise everyone else as well. Fantastic, I was going to spend my week getting dirty looks.