Fast dogs

Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for power to return, I finished Eco’s Search for the Perfect Language. Interesting and useful – especially the second half, from Wilkins onward, where a priori languages are discussed. More on the topic later- I mention it to set the stage for the book I dove into last night: Salmon’s Gazehounds & Coursing. I’ve been reading a paragraph here, a page or two there – now it’s time to start at the beginning and stop at the end.

For double suspension gallop dogs – and owners – everywhere, allow me to tell you a story about Boone, my 12 year old German Shorthair. About 10 years ago, Boone and I used to visit a local town park – Wagon Hill Farm. Back then, Wagon Hill was a popular spot to run dogs (it was eventually killed by it’s popularity – the town started enforcing it’s leash law). Boone thought he was pretty hot stuff – although there were a few (very few) dogs that could keep up with him, nobody could outrun him. He figured he was the fastest dog on earth. Until… We pulled into the lot one day and I started to grin. There was a car I’d never seen before – clearly a dog car – blankets covering the back seat and (here’s the kicker) retired racer greyhound bumperstickers all over the back end. We got out of the truck and walked into the field a bit; since the greyhound car was the only other one there, it was not a big assumption to guess that the not-so-little old lady in tennis shoes was the one with the retired racer. I said “hi” and did introductions, she whistled her greyhound over so he could meet Boone, and off they went. I’m likely reading way too much into it, but here’s what I saw. They ran off together – not a hard run, but Boone wasn’t trotting – and as they got out into the field the pace started creeping up. At no point was the greyhound trying to drop Boone (he seemed happy just to be running), but it sure seemed like Boone was trying to make a point. Up and up they went – Boone’s effort increasing until he was going pretty much flat out. The racer, of course, was matching stride for stride like nothing was going on. Boone let it all hang out – 105% effort – the kind of thing that one can sustain only briefly. The greyhound was cool, calm and collected; he stayed right at the shorthair’s shoulder. After 10 seconds or so of heart bursting effort, Boone figured it out – not the fastest dog in the world by a long shot. To everyone’s credit, that was that – no spitefulness from Boone, no ‘neener, neener, neener’ from the greyhound. They circled the fields for another 20 minutes or so, just loving the wind in their faces; Boone got a great workout, and I imagine we at least got the greyhound’s heart pumping a little faster.

Now when I’m out running the dogs and someone comments on how fast they are, I just smile. They are pretty fast when matched against most folk’s experience, but Boone and I are here to tell you – there’s a whole ‘nother speed range out there that just gets going when my dogs are topping out. My best to Steve, Gail Goodman and Dutch Salmon.