The Greyhound Trainer

Note: This is Emma’s story from 2017.  She crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. I have left the original ending .  My Road America postscript with photos has been bumped to tomorrow. You know I’m a fan of bumping.


She had to be pulled out of the truck.  The other retired racing hounds gladly escaped their kennels and were straining against their leads, eager to explore and stretch their legs. Not this one, the one called Rouge. The frightened greyhound huddled behind her new foster person, unsure of this new world she had entered.

It was a bitter cold December evening. Twenty-one hours ago the greyhounds were in warm, sunny Florida. Now they were in Indiana, soon to be in a forever home.  Most greyhounds welcome the change.  Rouge did not budge. Her foster mom urged her gently to walk a bit, but she planted her feet and stood stiffly.

Vicki and I had lost Cody, our first hound, last month. We loved having a hound, and we were eager to get another one quickly. We came to the drop-off to pick out our new companion. All of the others were already spoken for. Rouge was the only one available. We thought she’s just upset from the trip as they sometimes are she’ll change.

As soon as we got home, we started the adoption process. Rouge’s foster parents kept us updated on her progress. There was not much change. She would not come out of her crate to eat. She didn’t interact with their hounds. “Rouge is the strangest foster I’ve ever had,” Erlene, her foster mom, told us.  “ I understand if you want to consider another dog.”

We decided to continue with the adoption. Surely there would be a breakthrough. In early January, Erlene and her husband brought Rouge to our house. There had been minimal progress behavior wise. Our excitement to have another greyhound overrode our concerns about her shyness. We signed the papers. Adopting a greyhound involves more paperwork than a house closing.

At last we were alone with our new dog.  We tried to show her around the house, but when she saw the crate she zoomed into it , lay down and didn’t budge. She stayed there all night. We always fed our animals in the kitchen. Rouge wasn’t doing that. It was too far from her crate. The first morning I put her dish twelve inches from her crate in the bedroom and left. A few minutes later I returned. She was in crate, but the food was gone. She moves! Each meal her food bowl was place a little farther away from her crate, eventually into the hall, until it was in the kitchen. Ruby, as we renamed her, followed the bowl on its path to the proper eating area.  This process took two weeks.

We were not happy. Ruby only left the crate to go outside or to eat. Occasionally she would come out to say hi and get petted briefly, but then went back to her sanctuary. We are at a loss as to what to do. Perhaps another greyhound would help? Vicki talked to others in the greyhound group about it and they thought it would. I called the kennel manager in Daytona who told me Ruby was afraid of the other hounds. “I was very worried about her when she left,” she told me before I hung up.  What to do now?

We enrolled in an obedience school with a private instructor. Ruby would not have done well with other dogs or people around. We went to the first class with high hopes, which were quickly dashed.. Ruby immediately dived under a row of folding chairs and wouldn’t come out. The teacher coaxed her out, but she was too traumatized to continue. I was ready to return her to the group.

Vicki, however, refused to give up on her. A friend who works with a sheltie rescue group called the day after the great training wreck. She knew of a terrier mix puppy that needed a home. “Are you guys interested?” she asked.

I thought the last thing we needed was a puppy to train. Vicki thought it was worth a try. How could things be worse? So we did the marriage compromise and went to get the puppy.

We named her Emma on the ride home. She was everything Ruby was not- outgoing, friendly, energetic. Usually the ride home with a new dog is a happy one. This trip was filled with tension. What would their first encounter be like? Would Ruby crawl deeper into her crate never to be seen again??  We would have just a few minutes to see if this was the answer.

Ruby, to our shock, was waiting for us by the door to the garage.  Emma charged in and stopped abruptly. “What’s this big thing?” she thought. Ruby, also puzzled, asked, “What’s that little thing?” They sniffed noses, both unsure of what to do. Ruby didn’t run and hide. Emma was happy to see another dog. Ruby was probably relieved we didn’t bring another greyhound home. This dog was small enough to not be a threat.

Emma got right to work teaching Ruby to be a dog. She taught her to play, to ask to be petted, and to roll in droppings in the yard. Well, two out of three isn’t bad. Then the toy wars began. Ruby decided that she needed to put toys in her crate so Emma couldn’t play with them. Emma took the toys from Ruby’s crate and transferred them to hers. Ruby retaliated.  One day Ruby had all the toys in her crate. She went to lie down and could not get in.  In just a few days, Ruby began to emerge from her frightened shell.

Ruby remained shy when we took her away from the house or when people visited, but she was a regular dog with just us at home. While Ruby has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Emma is still with me. We have been through a lot together.  She welcomed our last adoption, Saki, who had been in a home previously, and she also helped train our thirteen foster greys.  Emma is now a happy only dog. I want to foster hounds again. I’m not sure Emma wants to come out of retirement.