This lovely narrative, written by Conny Brandt, is a wonderful testimony of the value that Greyhounds bring to our lives each and every day. Additionally, this piece perfectly illustrates the fact that Greyhounds make wonderful family pets and can teach us important life lessons, if they are just given the chance. Andrea Lynch, PR Officer for GRAI.
When Harry Met Kayla… and Molly!
A Narrative by Connie Brandt
Kayla was one of the lucky ones. While her story is pretty “typical” for most greyhounds bred for racing in Ireland, she fortunately had a trainer who cared about her. When timing trials revealed that she was too slow to succeed on the racetrack, he took her to Dungarven Rescue in Co. Waterford so that she could be re-homed as a pet.
Next, meet Harry, who was picked up in quite poor condition as a stray. He had clearly been bred for racing and his ears are even tattooed, but there are no records of him ever taking part in a race. Obviously we can’t be sure but we think he simply did not have the right temperament for racing. If you took Harry to a racetrack, he would be delighted to meet all the hounds. As far as chasing the lure around the track, Harry would think it was a fun thing to do with the other dogs, but would have no real interest in being first across the finish line! Luckily, Harry was found by a kind couple from New Zealand who were on holiday in Ireland—they even took him to the vet, paid the bill and looked after him for the duration of their holiday. When the time came for them to go home, they took Harry to a rescue centre – Dungarven Rescue.
Being stretched for resources as most rescue centres are, Dungarven didn’t have enough kennel space to give each dog its own kennel, but they decided that two greyhounds would get on well together and they put Harry and Kayla in the same kennel. This turned out to be a match made in heaven as Harry, who was shy with people but loved other dogs, took a huge shine to Kayla.
[pullquote_right]In terms of personality, Kayla turned out to be a happy girl who loved cuddles and would try to climb our laps when we were sitting on the sofa.[/pullquote_right]Volunteers at Dungarven Rescue felt that the rehoming prospects for two greyhounds in Ireland were rather slim, so they arranged transport for the two dogs to Bristol, where they were destined for Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE), who listed Harry and Kayla on their website. Initially, the dogs were listed separately with a note to say that they would go well together – however, volunteers at GRWE decided that Harry benefitted so much from Kayla’s presence that they would only rehome them together.
About this time, my partner Stephen and I had lost our previous three dogs – a terrier-cross, a collie-cross and a lurcher, all rescues and in fairly close succession. We were looking for a pair of dogs to fill the void their absence had left in our home. Our last little pack had had a number of behavioural problems, not the least of which was fighting between two of them, so one of our priorities was to find two dogs who would get on well together. We wanted two dogs so that they could keep each other company, and because dogs who live with other dogs are generally more sociable. Harry and Kayla looked like they would fit the bill perfectly.
However, there was a complication – I was pregnant and GRWE were concerned that with the pressure of a having a baby it would be too much to take on two greyhounds. Determined to prove our worth, we submitted a letter outlining our experiences with our previous rescues, the dogs and their assorted problems, along with a letter of recommendation from a local RSPCA home-checker who knows us well. Thankfully, GRWE informed us that they were willing to consider us after all.
As a further complication, we found out at this stage that Harry and Kayla were kennelled in Dorset, in the South of England – we live in Merseyside in the North West. So, one snowy December morning, Stephen and I set off at 5 o’clock in the morning to drive to Dorset, to meet Harry and Kayla. We were to take part in an organised GRWE winter walk with our two prospective dogs. It took us just over 5 ½ hours of driving mostly quiet, partially icy roads, but we made it!
Harry and Kayla were lovely – Kayla was lively and enthusiastic, Harry more reserved, but both were friendly and we took to them straight away. Harry kept very close to Kayla for the entire walk and at times even walked while resting his chin on her back! Unfortunately, we could not take them with us. We had not had our home check yet and we were also going away to visit relatives over Christmas and New Year’s Eve and so would not be able to accommodate the dogs just yet.
Fortunately, our home check was successful and on 22nd January 2010, we set off for the South of England once again, this time to pick Harry and Kayla up and bring them back with us to their forever home. Harry and Kayla settled in very quickly. Both instantly recognised the purpose of sofas!
[pullquote_left]Harry and Kayla are a joy to take out, they are friendly, sociable and walk nicely on the lead.[/pullquote_left]It was both interesting and amusing that there were a number of things in our home that they had clearly never encountered before. The TV seemed to confuse and bemused them at first, and they had also obviously not encountered stairs before! For quite a while, they simply ignored this strange feature in our house. Then, one day when Stephen was upstairs, Kayla made a dash up, shortly after followed by Harry. Once they were upstairs, they realised that getting down was more tricky! Kayla appeared concerned, standing at the top of the stairs and looking down. Harry did what we soon learned was his response to most situations: he went for a lie down. Stephen eventually had to carry the dogs back downstairs. They attempted the stairs again later and soon got the hang of going both up and down. Another new experience was the pond in our back garden. It had a lot of plants and weeds in it at the time so it must have looked like solid ground to the dogs when they ran into the garden. Harry looked deeply indignant at finding himself suddenly in water up to his chest but Kayla thought it was great fun and made a beeline for the pond every time she went out after that!
In terms of personality, Kayla turned out to be a happy girl who loved cuddles and would try to climb our laps when we were sitting on the sofa. She greeted any visitors (and I mean any – whether they were our friends or just a random delivery man!) with great enthusiasm and was everyone’s friend. Harry was much quieter at first. He wasn’t a very waggy dog and we think he had been beaten as he was afraid of anyone carrying a stick. He also clearly preferred women to men. The one thing he really enjoyed was meeting other dogs, and he was fantastic with every dog we met, no matter how small or yappy they were. But, nothing got his tail wagging like meeting another greyhound and being able to say hello to one of his kind.
[pullquote_right]A number of people had told us that we were mad to adopt dogs when we had a baby on the way and that we were taking on too much. But if anything, I would say it helped to have the dogs around.[/pullquote_right]I had a good pregnancy and was able to pretty much keep going as normal. When I went overdue and the baby turned out to be in the wrong position, I was told I would have to go in for a C-section. So, come April 2010, I went into hospital where Molly was born on a Wednesday morning, came home on Saturday, and we took the dogs for a walk on Sunday, with Stephen pushing the pram! We had been advised by an acquaintance that we should let the dogs lick the baby’s feet when we first brought her home as this would help them accept her as one of the family. I have no idea whether this is true or not but we did let Harry and Kayla sniff and lick Molly’s feet, and they certainly have accepted her very well!
A number of people had told us that we were mad to adopt dogs when we had a baby on the way and that we were taking on too much. But if anything, I would say it helped to have the dogs around. Molly was a very colicky baby and would not settle in the evenings and she did not start to sleep through the night until she was ten months old. But no matter how tired or stressed out I felt, I always felt better after taking the dogs out. Getting some gentle exercise in fresh air and doing something that wasn’t focused on the baby was wonderful. Harry and Kayla are a joy to take out, they are friendly, sociable and walk nicely on the lead. They are also a very handsome pair and a lot of people will stop to comment on them, which is always really nice (on walks, we actually got more random compliments on the dogs than on the baby!). I am certain that Harry and Kayla saved me from slipping into post-natal depression.
Kayla turned out to be very maternal. She would look concerned if Molly cried (or even if we were out on a walk and she heard another baby cry) and she also liked to check Molly’s nappy to see if it needed changing. Harry wasn’t particularly paternal but he is a very gentle and tolerant dog and both Harry and Kayla are great with Molly.
From when she was a tiny baby, Molly demonstrated a great empathy with Harry and Kayla. If one of the dogs got hurt and yelped (which doesn’t take much), she would get upset and cry – but she could differentiate between a hurt yelp and a happy yelp. As she got older, she once pulled one of Kayla’s ears and made her squeak, which then really upset Molly and she hasn’t pulled any ears since. On the rare occasions when one of the dogs has barked at her, she actually looks like she knows she has been told off!
As Molly turned into a toddler, it was great to watch her interactions with the dogs. On a few occasions, I watched Kayla lying on the dining room floor, largely blocking the way, and Molly carefully inching her way past. Kayla clearly trusted Molly not to step on her, and Molly was ever so careful not to! A few times she has been bowled over when the dogs have rushed past her, which doesn’t take much as she is not very physical. However, she has learned to stand aside when we come home as she knows Harry and Kayla will be very excited to see us!
Molly is an only child and we think it is really valuable for her to have someone else around the house that she has to be considerate with, and she is turning out to be generally kind and gentle with people. Molly’s first ever word was ‘dede’, which we took to mean ‘daddy’ at first, however it turned out to be her word for ‘dog’! Staff members at Molly’s nursery have even told us that they have never seen a child who loves animals as much as Molly does, and that she often talks about her dogs.
Harry has really came out of his shell these days. Greeting other dogs in such a friendly manner usually had their owners patting and stroking him, and he learned that people generally are friendly and trustworthy. He is now just as “waggy” as Kayla. He is also no longer really reliant on her.
As for Kayla, she demonstrated quite an aptitude for agility at an event organised by our club and she now goes to a weekly agility class, which she clearly enjoys. After meeting quite a few small noisy dogs at both obedience and agility classes and after seeing Harry’s interactions with them, Kayla is also now a lot better with little dogs–she largely ignores them but is happy to say hello if one approaches her. She is still loves people and has an unfailingly sunny and happy temperament.
It is great fun and very interesting to watch Molly and Harry & Kayla together. We are adapting our routines and walks as Molly grows and her needs change to make sure that everyone gets what they need in terms of interaction, play and exercise. We could not imagine doing this without Harry and Kayla – they make our family complete!