Written by and photographs supplied by Dalaine Nel
At the end of 2019, before rumours of COVID hit our shores, in a time when we were still blissfully unaware of what lockdowns are and wearing facemasks was a thing that we couldn’t ever imagine, we decided to add a Greyhound to our family and were looking for “the one”.
Fast-forward a few months to March 2020, by which time COVID was a reality in our country and everyone’s lives changed. A full lockdown disabled most of the country, hitting the animal welfare sector particularly hard. It used to be easy to organise travel arrangements for animals from other provinces to get them to foster or permanent homes, but suddenly, no interprovincial travelling was allowed. Shelters were filling up with unwanted pets… animals were unable to move to approved homes, including our own latest addition that we’d found to adopt and were anxiously waiting to get from Johannesburg. (Read Maya’s Happy Tale here https://www.happytailsmagazine.co.za/happy-tales/adopting-maya-our-black-beauty/.)
SEEKING A FOSTER HOME
I received a phone call from Cheryl Campbell of Sighthound Rescue SA (SRSA) in Cape Town, informing me that the Animal Welfare Society in Port Elizabeth had got an old Greyhound boy that was dumped on the side of the road in a township. SRSA was going to take the dog in as he wasn’t coping in the kennels, but they wanted to move him to a foster home until he could travel to Cheryl in Cape Town. I thought it would help soothe my anxiety about my pup Maya being stuck in Johannesburg, so I agreed that the old man could come to us for fostering.
Fynn arrived on the Wednesday following the Easter weekend. As I wasn’t able to travel around without a permit, he was kindly dropped off at our gate by the Animal Welfare Society’s manager himself – I think he must’ve seen the bewilderment in my eyes when I first laid eyes on Fynn.
Fynn was somewhat bigger than I’d expected, though knowing that Greyhounds are big, I guess I underestimated this situation and his size. I’d never introduced an adult dog of this size into my existing pack and, needless to say, I was more than nervous about what would happen. Nonetheless, Fynn was here now – I could only move forward and proceed with the introductions to my existing pack of four.
A GENTLE, BUT UNCERTAIN, GIANT
Fynn took everything in his stride. He must’ve been so relieved to be away from the kennels that he didn’t even bat an eye at any of my dogs. He walked into the yard like he’d known it for years and belonged there. My girls were sceptical at first, but they quickly realised that this big giant is quite harmless. Sniffing was done, licks were given, and before I knew it, Fynn was socialising with my pack. And so he became the first large Greyhound to grace our yard.
I promptly gave him a bath to help improve his shabby-looking coat. He was completely in love with the grass that he was allowed onto after his bath and took great delight in rolling and rubbing on it long after he was dry!
He settled in quickly and would come and rest his head on my leg or push me from behind when I was walking somewhere – he was always just one step behind me. He has such a gentle character and my heart was completely broken for this (then nine-year-old) boy in front of me, with the deepest soulful eyes that look right into and through your eyes. It hurt knowing that someone was cruel enough to dump him in a township and just drive away. What chance would this poor old wonky man have had of survival?
As comfortable as he was in the yard, as uncomfortable he was inside the house. No amount of treats or coaxing or sweet talk could get him to move inside. That first evening, I had to push him inside; he took the typical Greyhound “donkey stance”, refusing to move anywhere. He refused to lie down on a dog bed, I couldn’t cover him with a blanket, and he wouldn’t leave the lounge area to explore anywhere else in the house. So we let him be.
He slept on the cold tiles that night without a blanket, but at least he was inside and fed and loved, maybe even for the first time in his life. It took him a good few days to start feeling more comfortable and then try to climb onto the couch.
He had a long road ahead of him to learn about being spoiled, hugged, cuddled, loved, having a proper name, a warm and comfortable bed to sleep in and humans who dote on him. Some nights, he barked viciously at the television when certain things appeared, and some nights, he refused to even enter the lounge if he’d seen something on television that upset him. But, with baby steps, we moved forward and onward, learning new things about him, and him about us, and the good life, every day.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
In May, our approximately five-month-old puppy, Maya, finally arrived. Fynn suddenly became a youngster again. He’d “zoomie” around the pool with Maya, and he became the most magnificent big brother to her. She taught him all about play, and he, in turn, taught her how to bite not too hard that it hurts, how to eat grass and to lie on the grass and soak up the sun like there’s no tomorrow.
Maya showed him how to be truly free without a worry and instigated play with him daily. Maya adored Fynn, and he adored her. It became the norm that he’d chase after her every afternoon during playtime. And this was the start of the most beautiful friendship. Fynn settled right in together with Maya, almost like they were a pair. Fynn quickly started coming out of his shell, showing more and more of his beautiful character with the help and coaxing of the gentle (or sometimes not so gentle) Maya.
Finally, after Fynn had been with us for seven months and the roads were opened interprovincially, Cheryl said that he could now move to her once a lift was found for him to travel. A few weeks passed with no lift yet, and I let Cheryl know that we were thinking that he should stay in foster with us until he found his permanent home. As he’d settled so nicely, there was no need to uplift him to Cape Town, and then again if a home was found. Then, when he’d been with us for a full year, and a cancer scare later, we decided that he’d become a permanent member of our family.
Fynn has flat feet, and we think that he might’ve had multiple toe breaks that caused some fusion of the bones in his toes, causing him to walk strangely. Initially, I thought he suffered from severe arthritis and that was the reason for walking the way he did. I supplement his diet with an assortment of powders, drops and food to support his joints, but the vet confirmed that there’s good range of movement within his joints, but his toes can’t bend in a natural way.
We slowly introduced him to walks with us. He’ll never keep up with Maya for a walk and will never be able to go for long or brisk walks, but he now loves a good, slow stroll around the block, being allowed to rest and sniff at regular intervals. When he first arrived, he couldn’t even make the first 250-metre stretch, but now, every so often, he proudly notches up a 1.2km leisurely walk around the block. He has a clean bill of health, other than his old, tired heart, which isn’t treatable with any medicine, but we’re sure to give him enough love to last an eternity to keep that heart going for a while longer so that he can experience everything and more about the good life.
At 10 years of age, our dear old man has settled in completely. He now sports a shiny coat, manicured nails, healthier teeth and a good level of energy. He claims every dog bed and blanket in the sun for some well-deserved retirement snoozing. He has a definite favourite bed in our bedroom and will stand and complain endlessly if Maya is on his favourite spot until she moves so that he can sleep there. Fynn now appreciates being covered with a blanket when it’s cold and roams the house in search of the best spot to sleep – he’s spoiled for choice. He sleeps mostly during the day, as any reputable Greyhound does, and he even has his own collection of own coats and collars, just like all our other furry family members. He’s effortlessly become part of our family and wiggled his way into our home and hearts once he knew for certain that this was the home and family where he wanted to stay.
Fynn was unplanned and unexpected, but he’s an absolute blessed addition to our family. He’s so deserving of the good life and comforts now being offered to him and, in return, he gives each of our family members an eternity of good memories in the making and love beyond measure.