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Dog's Life: Elvis Ain't Nothing But a Loved Dog
By Eileen Mitchell
When a recent business trip forced me to find a dog-sitter, the rescue group connected me with Ellen, a fellow greyhound owner. Elvis and her dog, BJ got along so well that Ellen suggested occasional play dates during the workweek. "Drop him off anytime," she urged. "He's good company for BJ."
What a great way to treat Elvis and appease my guilt for abandoning him during my 10-hour days at the office! So recently I dropped Elvis off for the day. When I picked him up that evening, Ellen said the "boys" had a great time,
romping in the yard and sharing each other's toys while she watched their antics. It warmed my heart to think of my baby having fun.
And here's where this great idea went astray.
Shortly after his visit with B.J., Elvis started marking in my home. This from a dog who was house-trained in just three days and uses his doggie door with frequent ease. Something wasn't right.
I called Stu, who runs Golden State Greyhound Adoption Program (www.goldengreyhounds.com/). I explained the strange behavior.
What's that old saying about the road to hell being paved with -- what, again? Although I'd had good intentions, Stu said an occasional play date was a mistake. Dogs like routine. And I had upset that routine by introducing Elvis to the joys of a huge yard and doggie playmate -- Disneyland to a dog. Now that he was back in my quiet little townhouse, he was feeling abandoned. Most likely, Stu explained, Elvis was marking because he was lonely.
That crack you heard? It was my heart, breaking. Because that tapped into the very reason I had hesitated getting a dog. I was only able to justify adopting Elvis with the knowledge that, as an ex-racer greyhound, he was being rescued from a life of neglect.
At the racetrack I'm sure his drafty crate hadn't contained a $150 velour bed, nor did he enjoy a basket full of stuffed squeaky toys and beef-flavored Nylabones. I doubt there was a cabinet filled with Greenie dog treats, and I'm guessing racetrack personnel didn't bother brushing his hair every morning or rubbing his belly in the evening. Even though I was away most of the day, our evenings and weekends were quality time. There couldn't be a dog more loved.
Or (gulp) neglected?
My co-workers must have puzzled over the sniffing sounds emitting from my cubical throughout the day. Teary-eyed, I wondered: Had I adopted Elvis for my own selfish needs? Would he be better off with an attentive family and a big yard?
I called Stu again.
Should I return Elvis for placement in a better home?
Only I could make that decision, Stu said. "It's up to you to figure out how to provide quality time."
I felt like Mommie Dearest when I came home that evening. As Elvis romped toward me and buried his head into my chest for his much-loved neck rub, once again I became tearful. I just couldn't bear the thought of giving him up. I would manage, somehow.
I called Stu the next day and told him I was keeping Elvis. "Thank God," he sighed with relief. "We dream of placing our dogs with owners as attentive as you."
The next day I called pet stores. Veterinarians. I looked in the phone book, made arrangements with Ellen, talked with friends. And in the process, started collecting phone numbers for doggie day care centers, dog walkers and dog sitters. I found a variety of resources that, if somewhat expensive, are worth it for the peace of mind they buy: that at least a couple of days a week my dog can be tended to when I work long hours or have evening plans.
Is this going to the extreme? My mother laughs that I'm acting like a typical "new mother" and my sister reminds me that most dog owners have to work, thus leaving their dogs alone. It's a reality of life, she says.
Maybe. But the reality is that I feel better knowing that my dog is getting adequate exercise and attention while I'm at the office all day.
Because whatever I can do for Elvis is just a fraction of what he does for me.