Seven years ago, a very special dog came into my life: a two and a half year old rescued greyhound. The numbers tattooed in her ears told us she hailed from Ireland, and, together with the scarring on her leg, hinted at the hardship she had endured.
My husband Mark and I soon realized Jinty was going to be completely different from Tarski, the beloved mongrel I’d rescued seventeen years before. Greyhounds are, in the nicest possible sense, the aliens of the dog world. They have been raised in a totally different way from most dogs, mostly in kennels, and don’t understand things other dogs take for granted.
On her first morning with us, I let Jinty out into the garden. She ran about and sniffed happily. All very well. Then I heard a yelp as she stepped off the bridge straight into the garden pond! She’d never seen a body of water before, and she expected it to be as solid as a concrete floor. When it gave way and engulfed her, she had a nasty shock. As did I, standing knee-deep in water in my dressing gown, trying to fish her out.
Then there are those evil brutes, washing machines and vacuum cleaners, whom Jinty distrusts as works of the devil. Particularly the vacuum cleaner, which—according to Jinty—would like nothing better than to suck her into its bellowing innards. She gazes at me with a look of pure disgust, trying to work out why I let these monsters live in our house.
Greyhounds are very intelligent, and know perfectly well how to obey commands. What they don’t understand, is why they should obey commands. It still amazes me how Jinty detects the rustle of the cheese packet at a hundred yards, while fast asleep, yet manages to appear completely innocent, not to mention deaf, when she bolts into the distance at the command ‘Stay’ or ‘Come’.
Aside from feigned ignorance of all command words, Jinty boasts a wide vocabulary. She understands cheese, chicken, beef, pork, fish or biscuit, without turning a hair. The word cat has her frothing at the mouth—she has little time for those pesky upstarts slinking about in her garden.
She also knows the names of family members and friends. When a visit is announced, she accords each guest their due enthusiasm, according to the number of treats they will bring. When they arrive, she sidles up to them and lingers until she’s extracted her due quota. Despite our disapproval, Grandad insists on giving three. As soon as the third one lands in her mouth, off Jinty slopes to her bed, with the satisfied air of a job well done.
I think she could count much higher, but we’d never put it to the test. She’d be too fat to move.
Not that she’s mercenary. Not really. We know she loves us.