Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Stutz

Shortly after I adopted Moose, I saw a big, gorgeous red brindle boy with a big white blaze that had just started racing at 96lbs at Derby Lane, Happy Stutz. He was named for a greyhound racing pioneer that was in the Greyhound Hall of Fame. His trainer posted photos of him and info on his races and I followed his race career. Because he was only a month older than Miles he wasn't a dog that I was seriously interested in - I had my big guy Moose. Moose was young and even if Stutz raced successfully for a very long time I wouldn't be in the market for another big boy by the time he retired. I did think he was the most gorgeous guy I had ever seen though. He ended up gaining a couple of lbs and raced as high as 98lbs. Love those big guys and just couldn't help but become a fan of Happy Stutz.
The first photo I saw of Stutz- taken at the track

Stutz had another family that planned on adopting him from the start so wasn't actually available. Because he was the biggest greyhound racing in the country at the time, he ended up developing quite the following. His racing kennel put out a calendar of their most popular racers and Happy Stutz was #1. When people went to visit the kennel he was one that they brought out for people to meet. He was a very friendly guy that loved the attention. I didn't go down to Derby Lane to visit while he was racing there but a couple of my friends had gotten their photos taken with Stutz and told me what a great personality he had. Everyone knows how much a like the big guys so they would come back and tell me about this huge guy they had met that was even bigger than Moose. Moose was the biggest greyhound any of us had ever met until Stutz.

My friend Becky visiting Stutz at track kennel
A few hours before Moose died a friend sent me an email about Stutz. He had retired due to a toe injury and had been moved from the track in Florida to Kansas. The family that had wanted him had decided not to adopt him. The timing was bad for them and they weren't sure he would fit in with their pack since he had been a little pushy in turnout with some other males. My friend thought that because I had lost Pinky I might be interested in Stutz.

If I had opened that email that day I would have said that it was tempting but I had a big guy and didn't need another. I opened that email the next day though, on my birthday and right after losing Moose. It was one of those crazy moments where you get cold chills and think that this is too much of a coincidence to have just "happened". A dog that I had had a crush on but knew I couldn't have, suddenly became available the DAY that my big dog died! It had to be fate!

The same thing had happened when I heard about Miles back when he was 3 days old. I was looking for a greyhound puppy because my greyhound JD had died of bone cancer. I was trying to find the right dog to fill his spot when I got the call about Miles and his litter of pups. When I looked at the calendar and saw that they had been born on JD's birthday, I knew Miles had to be the right one. That was the beginning of this blog.

Stutz in turnout pen at the track - another early photo I saw of him
For me I don't think there is a "too soon" after losing a dog to start looking for the next one. Everyone is different but it helps me to stay busy and have something to look forward to. Working with Greyhound Crossroads, I have people that call me years after loosing a dog, finally ready to adopt another one. I have also had people call me on the drive home from the vets after putting a greyhound to sleep wanting another one as soon as possible. Whatever makes you feel better.

So the day after Moose died I called the friend that was handling Stutz's placement and told her I was definitely interested in getting him. Looking forward to getting Stutz really helped me get through the pain of losing Moose. She recommended me as a home to his trainer and owner. While I was still in Florida another of my friends and Greyhound Crossroads coworkers, Carl, started working on getting Stutz transported out of Kansas to a track closer to me. He found a hauler coming from Kansas to Tri-State track in West Virginia that would leave in a week. He arranged to get Stutz and a brood that someone in our group wanted to adopt on that hauler and was going up to pick them up himself. He was going to do it as a surprise but decided he probably should tell me about it a few days before he picked them up. Stutz was supposed to arrive on Friday February 15th! Just a little over a week after Moose died and a few days after I returned from Florida.

Stutz with his trainer at the track
Things sure moved fast. I ended up driving up to West Virginia with Carl pick up the dogs. We planned on picking them up and driving straight back. We were also going to drop off a dog I had picked up in Florida that was going to an owner in Illinois. She was driving down to pick her up. We checked the weather at our end and at the track and it was good. We forgot to check the mountains that we would be crossing in the middle.

When we got to the mountains in NC and WV, they were in the beginning of a 3 day snowstorm. The snow was already piling up on the trip up in the higher elevations. We knew it would be worse on the trip back. We arrived at the track a couple hours ahead of when we were supposed to meet the hauler and had to wait an hour for the folks picking up the dog we transported. They were also driving down from Illinois in a snow storm. Then we got a call telling us that the hauler from Kansas wasn't going to be there for another 8 hours and instead of meeting us at 10pm would meet us at 6am.

We could only imagine the snow piling up for those 8 hours and it was even starting to snow at the track at that point. Not good. We went to the track adoption kennel to kill time and got to meet a kennel full of huge boys. They must breed them big up there. There was only one average sized boy in the whole kennel and only a few smaller girls.

At 6am we were back at the track kennel waiting for a hauler. There was an adoption group hauler in the parking lot that was dark and turned off. No one was around so we headed out to look for coffee. We came back and the other hauler was still there. We sat and waited and eventually around 7:30am a light came on in the hauler and someone opened the door and climbed out. We had called the hauler a couple times to see when they were arriving but got no answer. We got out to ask him if he had heard when they were arriving since they were now 9.5 hours late. He said he WAS the hauler and had been sleeping. ARGH!

We finally got our 2 dogs. Stutz was so tall and skinny and didn't look like the photos I had seen of him. Maybe it is true that photos add 10 lbs even on dogs. He was very friendly and sweet and didn't seem to be phased by the trip. He got out and peed and pooped on leash right away. He was clean so hadn't had an accident in the hauler during the trip. Excellent signs for a dog I would be traveling with. Big Stutz hopped right in the car with the brood. Before the car started he was already making momma dog mad by trying to climb on her. She quickly put him in his place and wouldn't let him look at her or even lift his head for the rest of the trip. He seemed pretty bright and didn't push his luck. Cowering in the back of the car he sure didn't look like the dominant, confident dog I had expected. Those broods know what they are doing! Love them and I try to learn from them. She could control him with a look, a growl or a raised lip. She was wearing a muzzle so never hurt him or even put her teeth on him.

We did make it back safely through all the snow that Saturday. It was more than a little scary though. The dogs traveled well Stutz hardly moved. It was hard to guess how much was due to the brood's influence on him and. He was at my house until he went in for his neuter on Monday then came back on Wednesday. He was a little push with us when he first arrived demanding attention but I took my cue from the brood mom that had successfully made him behave and firmly let him know that wasn't they way to get the attention he wanted. He was a bit of a marker at first and needed a lot of supervision but he only had 2 or 3 pee accidents and one poop accident because we supervised him and didn't give him his freedom too soon. He only put his nose on the counters a couple of times. He responds very well to correction.

He ended up being a complete surprise and is more like my sweet snugly Moose than I thought he would be. He loves to snuggle and wants to have his head or a paw on you. He doesn't seem to have any space issues with people and loves to touch and be touched when laying down. We can scoot him over or put our arms over him without any grumpiness. He has growled at Miles a few times over his spot on the bed but never over food, bones or toys but no growling at all with humans.

Stutz and Miles are starting to play together and seem to get along well. Miles is more pushy than Stutz is and tries to correct Stutz for running around rather than the other way around. Stutz roaches and has been very comfortable since the beginning. He is silly and so friendly. He has been to 2 meet and greets so far and is very good with kids and adults and goes from person to person for love. He is much calmer than Miles definitely more of a laid back guy like Moose was.

Happy Stutz shortly after he arrived making tall Miles Per Hour look like a tiny girl

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Moose (Kickin Kevin)

Kickin Kevin when he arrived from the track
We lost another one. It has taken me a month to be able to write this. Moose died the night of February 5th right before my birthday which is Feb 6th. I was in Florida with Miles visiting the tracks to pick up 11 retired race greyhounds. I hadn't even been gone from home 24 hours when I got a call from a stranger saying my dog was hit by a car.

So many things rush though your head in a few seconds. Can't be my dog! I have one on a leash standing beside me and the other is safely at home with my husband in South Carolina. Can't possibly be MY dog. I asked him what color the dog was and he said "white and brown". Moose is white and red. Everything started swirling around then. I remember asking him if he was alive and he said "No lady, I am afraid he isn't". Then I asked him what street he was on - it WAS my street! I had to accept it at that point that it was my Moose.

To make it more confusing, suddenly I heard my husband's voice on the phone telling me it was Moose. He had pulled up and taken the guy's phone. It is all a blur but later that night he called back to  explain that the realtor showed the house and left the gate open earlier in the day. He had put Moose out for his final potty break and he didn't come back in. He went out to see where he was and saw the open gate about the time he heard the horn honk on the street. I found out later that Moose was killed instantly.

I have actually had nightmares about this happening several of them. I check and recheck the gates and doors because we do live on a busy road. Moose had wanted to come on this trip so badly. I almost brought him but wouldn't have had room to bring back as many fosters since he is was so big. I decided to leave him home this time. I was staying with people and didn't want to crash at their homes with two large dogs. I so wish I could go back and do it over. I had no idea when I told him goodbye that day that that was the last time I would ever see him.

It was all so strange, earlier that day I had been to the farm that Moose was raised on and met his racing owners for the first time. I had promised to bring him back for a visit. I had been to the training track where he had actually learned to race and let Miles run a lap behind the lure there. Just didn't seem possible that the dog that I had been talking about all day could be dead. And so closely behind Pinky.
Moose on an earlier trip happy to see his race trainer again after retiring

I suddenly had only ONE dog. Just Miles Per Hour! I don't remember ever having just one pet before. We always had cats and dogs, sometimes horses, cows, chickens, ferrets and even a pet raccoon. Never just one animal.

I thought about leaving Florida and driving home, but there was nothing I could really do. Roy brought Moose's body back home for the night and wrapped him in a blanket. Our vet had the place that does the cremations come pick him up in the morning from our house because Roy wasn't sure he could get a 100lb dog in his vehicle by himself. I had friends that said they would come help if that wasn't possible.

The next day is a bit blurry. I didn't have any waterproof mascara with me and couldn't keep makeup on. I couldn't go anywhere until I could quit crying because I looked like a raccoon. I was supposed to be at the Orlando track helping out in one of the racing kennels but didn't even make it there until after noon. I went out to get some coffee and ended up sitting in a parking lot nearby on the phone for hours. Friends called, people I didn't even know sent messages on Facebook. I had lots of emails too. Lots of birthday messages but most were about Moose because my friends understood there was no way I could have a "Happy Birthday". I hadn't even had Moose two years, but he had touched a lot of people though the meet and greets, Renaissance Festival, home visits for adopters and all the people that came here to adopt dogs and met him. He was such a big guy and so sweet that you just couldn't forget him once you had met him - a real gentle giant.

I was furious with the realtor. It is bad enough when you lose a dog to illness like Pinky. This was so much worse though because it was senseless and could have been prevented so easily. Moose was a healthy young dog one second and gone the next just because someone forgot or was too lazy to latch the gate. Someone that knew we had dogs and knew their names. The family looking at the house had met Moose that day. Their little daughter had opened his crate and went in to pet him. My husband had crated him like we always do while they were looking at the house just in case anyone left a door open. He had gone outside with them and made sure the gates were closed when they went through like he always does. The realtor had gone in and come outside again and must have gone back through the gate rather than around the house though because that gate was open again.

Moose and Miles at the Renaissance Festival

Moose and his favorite pirate Spy Glass
Moose was a special boy. Raced at 92lbs so was a big gentle giant. He was the perfect boy to raise a greyhound puppy and was so tolerant and sweet with Miles. Moose was actually a pretty good racer in spite of his size and didn't retire until he was nearly four and a half years old.
Moose racing
This giant dog that was so friendly and seemed so unafraid most of the time was more timid than he appeared on the surface. He was afraid of kids and wet himself the first few times he was around more than a few of them at a time. It took a couple of days of treats at Renaissance Festival before he was comfortable around little kids and decided that they came bearing gifts. After that he was great and had just passed his Therapy Dog test before he died. 

Moose was a calm guy that loved napping on the bed and had his own twin bed at the foot of our bed to sleep on at night. He would stretch out and take up the whole thing. Moose never really got used to the wood floors at our house and never liked walking through the kitchen unless treats were involved - then he would brave the floors. He loved his crate and loved to travel though. Most of all he loved to chase a lure. It could be a lure at the race track, on the lure pole in the yard or lure coursing. That was about the only time this quiet guy got excited enough to bark. His bark sounded much like Pinky's. A high pitched, ear splitting yip that didn't sound like it could possibly come out of a giant dog. He did have a deep scary bark that I heard only a few times when he thought something was in the yard that 
shouldn't be there or when Miles had annoyed him one time too many. When he would get excited enough to bark it would often be accompanied by a leap straight up in the air - often above my head. He wouldn't pull on the leash so much to get a lure but would leap up and down in place like a toy poodle bouncing at a door. 
The normally perfectly behaved Moose got a little excited while watching a lure coursing competition

Moose was a gentle giant that I could completely trust at meet and greets with kids and adults. He would stand and lean against them and soak up all the attention he could. When they walked away he would walk up to the next closest person and lean on them. He loved to curl up in bed with us and wanted his head and a paw to be on us so that he was as close as possible. Never ever any issue with space. A dog or human could lay on him and he would never even move. He loved to be close to other dogs and people. He was such a love. 

One of Mooses quirks was that if he ever got afraid he would run. If he slipped on the wood floors he would bolt. He wouldn't think and would run into glass doors or walls. Just would go into panic mode and I know that is what caused him to run into traffic. I am sure he went outside and initially was just sniffing around. Once he realized he was in an unfamiliar place and alone in the woods he panicked and ran. He was running when he got hit according to the guy that stopped to help. My sweet boy will sure be missed and I can only think that Pinky needed a buddy up there worse than I did down here. 

Miles and Moose Christmas of 2011

Moose wasn't big on swimming but he loved to lay on the top step of the pool even in cold weather