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Lucy, It Seems, Is Not Your Typical Greyhound
By Eileen Mitchell
Greyhounds are lazy, I counseled. Although they're the third- fastest animal on earth, clocked at 40 mph, they're really couch potatoes. Her new dog might be shy at first. She'll be wary of other dogs because, during her tenure at the track, she only knew other greyhounds. She might not know how to play with toys or take a treat from Mom's hand. As a safety precaution, I suggested putting window decals on another foreign concept: glass doors. Lucy may not be housebroken, I cautioned. And initially, she may be reluctant to leave her crate.
When I adopted Elvis, one of my biggest challenges was getting him to relinquish the temporary crate I had assembled in my living room. A crate was the only home he had ever known and it was a couple weeks before he felt safe enough to poke his head out and explore the rest of the house. Be patient, I told Mom. Lucy will come around, but it'll take time.
Well, the only time Lucy took was to prove me a liar. That first night at Mom's, she took one quick look around and made a few prequalifying sniffs. Then, after determining that everything was up to greyhound standards and her personal satisfaction, she emulated Mormon pioneer Brigham Young when he stood over Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the place." Obviously, Lucy decided the same. Before Mom ever decided to adopt the dog she was fostering, the little greyhound already knew she had found her new "forever" home.
There wasn't even time to set up the temporary crate before Mom and I were stunned to see a black and white blur racing through the house and using the hallway as a dog run. When nature called, Lucy sprinted to the sliding glass door and waited until Mom opened it. Upon her return, she made a beeline for the doggie toy box and selected a stuffed teddy bear. And then, with the toy tucked under her chin, she snuggled next to Holden, mom's Shar pei/chow/boxer mix, and promptly fell asleep.
Her jaw agape, Mom looked at me with a dubious expression. "I thought you said ...," she started. Uh, oh. Maybe Lucy wasn't your typical greyhound. I cleared my throat, wished Mom well and bid a hasty retreat. Secretly, I was a little concerned. I had set up expectations for a lazy, mellow dog like Elvis. What if 4-year-old Lucy proved to be too much for my 70-year-old mother? Over the next few days, I waited for the phone call commanding me to come and collect the dog.
But that call never came. Although she is as different from Elvis as Ozzy Osbourne is from Andy Williams, Lucy endeared herself to Mom. She also taught me that a breed's personality can no more be stereotyped than a human's.
Elvis was much more timid at first. During our initial weeks together, I worried about our lack of a connection. Our bond solidified only when my shy boy started trusting me and truly feeling he was, indeed, home.
Lucy, on the other hand, took right away to her new surroundings, forming an immediate attachment and fierce devotion to Mom. She settled right in, starting with the sofa, recliner and bed, even sleeping with her head on the pillow nose-to-nose with her new human. When I asked Mom if she tried booting Lucy off the bed, my sheepish mother confessed, "I kind of like it."
Unlike Elvis, who worships his La-Z-Dog recliner, Lucy is always ready to play, with a mischievous look on her perpetually cocked black-and-white face. Maybe it's a delayed reaction to a crated puppyhood. Maybe it's because she's three parts greyhound and, I suspect, one part kangaroo. She doesn't just walk: she boings, like she has Slinkies for paws. All through the house she bounces, chasing after Mom or playing with Holden. And always, with a toy in her mouth. Eventually, she'll deliver the toy to the living room. Then she'll trot back to the family room, select another toy and transfer it as well. Back and forth, she does this throughout the day until the toy box is empty. Then, when her dozen toys are scattered all over the living room, she lies among the heap and naps in a pool of sunshine. Every time I visit, Mom's living room looks like a Toys R Us aisle the day before Christmas.
"Why don't you just move the toy box to the living room?" I asked one day. "Doesn't matter," mom shrugged, amused at her dog's antics. "I tried that once. Lucy reversed the process and transferred all the toys to the family room." Because apparently, it's not about the destination. It's the journey.
Which is another thing I've learned from this newest greyhound in the family.
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle