Yesterday Carmen and I headed out to a Greyhound rescue located about a 45 minute bus ride away. I had arranged this meeting back on Thursday with the notion that I may volunteer for the rescue and gain more knowledge of the breed. I have always thought Greyhounds were a really amazing breed and also thought that perhaps a retired X-racer would do well as a therapy dog. Racing Greyhounds is still huge in the UK and there are so many Hounds needing homes. The conversation I had had on Thursday with the man who ran the rescue seemed quite successful. We discussed the Greyhound a bit and rambled on at length about raw feeding. I felt good and excited about our Sunday meeting, but was thoroughly disappointed upon arrival.
First of all, when we first arrived, the man I had spoken to was insanely busy. I understood as it was a UK walk to raise awareness for Greyhounds and there had been nearly a hundred people in the walk that morning. However, what made me worry was just how unfriendly everyone was. They seemed to know we were outsiders and clung to each other in little groups, avoiding us and only giving one worded answers when we asked questions. I was kind of surprised because we had encountered a woman when we were walking in who had a rescue Greyhound who had no problems stopping to chat with us and allowing us to interact with her Hound. The Greyhound was wearing a basket muzzle and she asked us not to be turned off by that. She went on to explain that her dog could be snappy if there were too many dogs around, but that the Hounds were really sweet, good-natured dogs.
I wasn't turned off at all. The fact that the woman knew her dog enough and took measures to keep everyone safe, made me respect her. Sometimes when dogs are rescued there are just some things that can't be changed. So, you work with what you've got and be responsible about it.
Once we finally tracked the man down who rant the rescue, he didn't even remember me. That hit a nerve as we had chatted for at least twenty minutes-conversing about our dogs, the rescue and as I said before, raw feeding. Did I mention that we chatted about my three dogs? This is an important point.
I sort of brushed his short memory off as it was a busy day, but part of me wondered how many North American women he spoke to on a weekly basis.
After he recognised me, he offered to go get a dog for me to get to know. He seemed bent on me adopting a dog, but I had explained to him on the phone and there on the spot that I was not in a position to adopt right now. I was there to discuss volunteer opportunities and to get to know the breed in order to make an informed decision in the future about whether or not a Greyhound was for our family. I was very explicit that it would be the very far future as I was starting Graduate school in the fall and that we already had three dogs. I don't think he was listening because off he went anyway. I decided to let him go as I thought it would be good to at least handle a Greyhound for a short while.
As soon as he left, his wife swooped in and that is when I really started feeling unwelcome and unwanted. Somehow it came out in my very short conversation with her that I had three other dogs. I think she may have overheard me telling her husband before he disappeared into the kennels as well, but it seemed to be a point she was digging for. I don't know why she made it seem like I was hiding something because I definitely had discussed it quite openly before. I think I was explaining that I had a lot of dog experience, but none with Greyhounds and that was why I was there. She immediately cut me off sharply saying,
"Greyhounds can't live with other dogs! They only like Greyhounds."
At that moment her husband returned, but I was taken aback. There is no way that every Greyhound in the world only likes Greyhounds. Sure, in rescue, it may be a special dog that you have to wait for, but when you are rescuing often you have to wait for what you are looking for, and, considering my current life position, I am more than willing to wait. Besides, if a dog is young enough, often they can be retrained. I didn't have time to respond because her husband thrust the leash of a tall Black Hound into my hand.
"This is Stumpy," he told me "and he's the only dog that I have right now that may be able to live with other dogs."
"May?" How does he not know? Shouldn't he test his dogs before re-homing them?
I was speechless. Had these people not been listening to me at all?
To be honest, Stumpy was a delight and if I had been actually looking for a dog, I may have considered bringing him home, but as I was not, I tried not to get to know him too much. His unassuming nature and sweet little kisses may have won out over logic.
Stumpy had a healing leg that had been broken when he was racing. I was told that he was not ready to go home just yet as his leg wasn't fully healed. We stood talking about Stumpy for a while longer and a few more odd things were said.
At one point the man asked me how I walked my dogs. A completely legitimate question, I thought, as I am blind and most people can't wrap their brains around how I do it. I explained my method and that I use a waist leash for the bigger dogs. Again, I don't think he was listening because half way through my explanation he said something about my physique that I didn't quite catch as I was still explaining how I walk my dogs. All I know is that he was not happy with my physique because after I managed to stop talking mid-sentence, I caught something about me being too fit to own a Greyhound and then the next thing he said was something about the Greyhound being able to drag me if he wanted to.
So, which was it? Was I too fit or too small to hold on to a Hound? He couldn't seem to make up his mind. Also quite presuming on his part since he doesn't know me nor could he tell if I could hold on to a Greyhound or not. I'm just confused as how someone can be too fit and not strong enough all at the same time. I think part of what was happening was that they were panicking because I was blind. I hadn't told them on purpose, based on my past experience with rescues, and they were not convinced that I could take care of a dog as a blind person.
Just as abruptly as he had brought Stumpy out, the man said he'd take him back and asked us if we wanted tea. I said I was fine, having had enough already, but he mentioned coffee and Carmen said she'd like a cup. I amended my thoughts, thinking that perhaps he was going to sit down and chat with us about Greyhounds over a cup of coffee. He lead us into the kennels, which I was not impressed by at all, and pointed to the hot water, instant coffee, sugar and spoon and told Carmen to make her own. Then, he disappeared. I was floored. Perhaps I'm from a different planet, but when you have guests, usually you make their coffee for them. You may ask them how much sugar or what not, but you do not plunk things down on a table and leave.
The kennels kind of reflected his personality. There were two dogs to a horse stall and the outside runs were concrete with rusting bars on the fences. Originally, when I had thought to go out there, I had researched the rescue online and read the profiles of each dog up for adoption. There had only been five, which I thought a bit odd, but I figured that they were just a small rescue. When we walked into the kennels and there were at least six more dogs that I had not read about I became even ore confused.
He told us that they were puppies, about 12 months old, and pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.
On the dogs' profiles it talked of some having siblings that had been adopted from that rescue as well as dogs "returning home" from the track. Upon seeing the puppies, I realised that this man raced Greyhounds and then re-homed his own racers under the name of the UK wide rescue organisation. I was appalled. Here was a man and his family claiming to help Greyhounds, while they were really only helping themselves. Maybe others will think I'm over reacting, but in a country where it is over populated by X-racing Greyhounds, why would you breed more to race when you are supposed to be helping those who can't find a home?
We sat and Carmen had her coffee, but the man didn't sit down and chat any further with us. I sat and petted a little female named Susie who was wearing a cone of shame due to a scratched cornea and prayed Carmen would chug her beverage. The man sat down at one point and gave us leaflets about the UK wide organisation and one about Greyhounds in general, but that was about the extent of his interaction. He seemed shocked when I shook his hand as I left. Perhaps this form of courtesy is foreign to him as he is incredibly rude.
I don't know what it is, but it seems like the MAJORITY, not everyone, who works with animals whether they are a trainer or run a rescue, have no people skills. They want their animals adopted, but they are so confrontational that no one wants to deal with them. Not to mention, a lot of assumptions seem to be made without any concrete facts. I don't think Mr. K and I would ever be able to adopt a dog because-at least the ones I have spoken to-,do not think blind people can look after animals. I had one woman from a rescue tell me that flat out when we had originally thought of adopting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as opposed to buying a puppy.
So, what did I learn from this little trip?
1. I think Greyhounds are amazing and would make a fantastic addition to our family in the very far future. (Most important point).
2. Everything that was regurgitated to me by the rescue owners I had found on the internet and therefore I wasted a whole afternoon and six quid just trying to get Carmen and I out there.
3. Rescuing may not be an option for Mr. K and I due to people's uneducated opinions.
4. If I ever run a rescue, I will ensure all of my staff have had lessons in basic people and communication skills and that discrimination is wrong.
5.. I need to stop trying to volunteer with animal related professions because most people working with the least judgmental creatures on the planet, they themselves are incredibly judgmental; and often wrong. (This last statement is a broad generalization and I know that, but I'm pissed and sick of running into these road blocks everywhere I turn).