09 June 2008

Monty dog

Monty is no.4 dog. He was always going to be the last, we were sticking at four, under no circs were we to get another...we lasted an impressive 18 months until another hard luck story tugged at the old heartstrings. It is fair to say that had we not taken Monty, he would have probably found himself taking a last visit to the vet within the year. He just wasn't rehoming material. He was extremely nervous initially and the only reason the rescue centre let us take him on was that we had other greys. That meant he had company, his own pack to give him confidence, and it certainly helped, although he struggles to this day from his contrary desire to protect us all, when his mental make-up just doesn’t allow him to. He’s trying but he’s frightened, which invariably leads to him barking if he gets to a certain fear threshold.

He is also incredibly quick and has a strong prey drive. In Ireland, it’s very common for grey pups to be let loose on the hills to fend for themselves. The classic line is, ‘When did you last see your dogs?’, ‘About a fortnight ago’. That means he is not safe off the lead, unlike the other four. Despite intensive recall training – and he’s brilliant on a long training lead – once he’s running, he won’t come back. As I understand it, when a sight hound runs, with the wind in his ears and a song very probably in his heart, all his senses close down other than the sight. It’s not that he disobeys me, he just can’t hear me. Of course, Monty is the dog that most wants to run free but because he is the way he is, he can’t be allowed to. That’s not to say he doesn’t, as he’s a bit of a Houdini hound.
In the early days, he seemed to be trustworthy in as much as you could let him off with the others once you’d moored up, and they’d all have a pee and a pootle. But then he started to test the boundaries and there were so many occasions that I found myself crawling on my belly through a hedge, Marine-style, to retrieve him from whatever field he’d bust into. So we started keeping him on a lead at all times but even then, he found ways and means – and still does - of getting free (usually either from the boat when a door was left open by mistake or when he somehow ‘magicked’ his way out of his lead).

If he does make a break for it, the critical thing is to try to keep him in sight. If you do, you will always catch him in the end because after about 15 minutes of running, he stops still and lets you put his lead back on. It’s just that I wasn’t built for sprinting after a 40mph greyhound. Hence when he escaped from the boat at the Marple facilities point, I was dependent on the good people of that town – plus two decorators up a ladder – all saying, he went that way! By the time I got eyeball with him, I was into my third coronary but he ended up corned in a garden and I was able to recover him.

He’s also a bit wary of other dogs, which can make towpath encounters strained, particularly if other dog owners don’t have their wits about them ie letting their dogs run up to a pack of unknown dogs. Similarly, he’s bad with strangers, particularly men, and that’s problematic as people naturally like to approach them all and have a pet and a stroke. These days, he tends to stand just away from the others while they get all the fuss and we explain that past abuse has left Monty a little bit scarred. People are very kind and understanding, incredulous at the way he has been treated, and some lucky people even get his favour. Liz of Snecklifter has been sniffed up by him and there’s no greater honour than that, let me tell you!

He’s got a great bark on him too – a definite little scrote scarer – but I suspect he’s all talk and no teeth really. At home, in the boat or in the motorhome, he’ll sleep cuddled up with A or myself and if one of us is feeling off colour for any reason, he’ll be the first to jump up with you to keep you company.

So Monty hasn’t been the easiest, smoothest rescue but one of our most worthwhile. I couldn’t honestly see anyone else taking him because of his behavioural issues but he has found a safe, loving forever home with us. He’s a handsome chap and if you see him running past your boat, please have the oxygen ready as I’ll be coming past shortly about to expire.

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