Sunday, November 30, 2008

Apollo And The Greyhounds

Justa quick note before I tell you about my beloved Apollo.

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Now about Apollo....

All my photos of Apollo are from pre-digital camera days and not very good quality. This photo of a Maremma is from
At one stage in our farming career we decided to go into breeding Maremma Shepherd dogs. Our reasons for breeding Maremmas was twofold. One: the dogs would guard the members of our then Angora Goat stud, and two: earn us some income through selling their pups at the considerably inflated prices Maremmas were going for back then. After three litters we’d managed to sell all but one of the offspring. We had more than re-couped the cost of Robbie and Apollo and with visions of having one dog left over from each litter we decided not to breed Maremmas anymore so we had Robbie and Apollo and their daughter Penny desexed.

There was a vet about half an hour from where we lived who desexed dogs for a greatly reduced fee, even though his specialisation was in Greyhound veterinary services. Robbie and Penny were spayed first as the vet could only fit two more in on this particular day. We then took Apollo there for his turn a few weeks later. We arrived at the vet's with Apollo in the back of the car spoiling for a fight. Being a Maremma, he wasn't impressed with being wrested from his goat flock and exposing them to who knew what dangers now that they were unprotected. He was in his prime back then and was a huge, muscular specimen that no human or dog would want to want to meet up a dark alley. As I always did when we took Apollo to the vet's, I left Graeme and Apollo in the car and set out on reconnaissance duty. I entered the surgery looking for other dogs and potential Apollo victims. As soon as I walked through the door my heart sank. Today was obviously Greyhound health-care day. The room was full, as far as the eye could see, there were people holding Greyhounds of all colours and sizes. There had to be around 16 of them - Greyhounds that is - there were a few less people because some were holding multiple Greyhounds.

I tottered to the receptionist and told her in hushed tones that I was bringing in a Maremma for de-sexing (as per appointment) and tried to impress upon her that this particular Maremma would consider all these scrawny dogs no more than a light snack. She was a bit of a battle-axe and took the line that she was an experienced vet nurse who could handle any doggy drama that might come her way. She wouldn't be told anything about dogs from a mere owner.
“Everything will be fine if you just keep hold of your dog and everyone here keeps hold of theirs,” she said.
I tried to point out that that would simply make the greyhounds easier for Apollo to catch, but she wouldn't listen.

The only thing I could do was turn around to the now quite interested audience, most of them sitting on the edge of their chairs so that they could better hear my conversation with the battle-axe, and say in my most take-me-seriously, concerned voice, "Whatever you do, HOLD ON TO YOUR DOGS!!!"

A few of them looked a little nervous, but every one of them clutched their skinny charge to their breasts. As I got to the door, I turned around again, and as a parting shot, said, "Make sure you hold on to them tightly." I then departed to get Apollo, with the air of the ancient Greek seer Cassandra after she’d foretold ensuing carnage only to be laughed at by the general populous.

Being seriously out-classed in the weight and strength department, I opted for Graeme to lead Apollo into the surgery. It was around this time that I regretted never thinking of buying a muzzle before. Apollo never left the property(this was his first excursion since he'd come to us a a four week old pup five years ago) and was a pussy cat in his dealings with family and friends. Graeme held tightly to Apollo’s lead and headed for the surgery. It took us less than two minutes from when I'd left the surgery to opening the door again. I was just about to go through my "Hold your dogs" spiel once more, when I looked around the room with disbelief.

Somehow in the space of about a minute and a half the many Greyhound owners had managed to empty the room! There wasn't a Greyhound or Greyhound owner to be seen. Apollo looked around the room, with a satisfied sneer on his face and pulled Graeme over to the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist, goggling at the site of this massive white dog who obviously felt nothing but ill-will towards all strangers, was now much more polite in her dealings with me. Keeping one eye on Apollo who was watching her intently with the steely gaze he reserved for his next victim, she slowly backed out of the room to call a vet to see to us immediately. I don’t know what she said to the vet but it apparently impressed him. He arrived with a sedative which he insisted on giving Apollo before he even weighed him. Apart from regular vengeful glares and the odd curled lip accompanied by his trademark low rumble, Apollo behaved himself very well. Admittledly he had Graeme holding on tight to the lead and me holding on tight to his jaws. I can't say he was the pussycat he is at home among friends and family, but he didn't actually bite anyone so that had to be a plus in his favour. He looked a bit vague with the sedative inside him but he was visibly mellowed out.

I never did find out what happened to the Greyhounds and their owners. I imagine that, after my earnest pleas to protect their dogs, one of them grew curious and looked out the window when six feet tall Graeme was being dragged to the building by Apollo. I suppose he or she then sounded the alarm for everyone to get out and get out quick! I've kept a vision of them all crammed into a cupboard somewhere, nursing their dogs, trying not to tread on each other's toes, whispering "Ouch!" when someone did, and hiding out until that huge dog with the pitiless eyes was well and truly under the anaesthetic.