This is a story about cancer in dogs. But it is also a story about love, about hope and about life after cancer.
About a year ago, beautiful greyhound girl Katie was diagnosed with cancer. She is not that old, the diagnosis came while she was under sedation for tests to investigate, and the vet advised her owners to let her go without reviving her from the anaesthetic. But Katie and her owners were made of sterner stuff. A second opinion was sought, it wasn’t possible to save her leg but saving her life was another matter entirely. She made an excellent recovery after the life-saving surgery, she manages perfectly well on three legs, and after further treatment she was pronounced cancer-free.
Katie’s owners had followed my work for years (well, it’s a small world among Surrey greyhound owners), and they had always meant to ask me to photograph Katie but never quite got round to it. But they decided to celebrate Katie’s recovery with a very special combined studio and outdoor photo shoot with me.
Katie is now fit as a fiddle with, hopefully, many more happy years ahead. And I am so touched that on our afternoon together she honoured me with some of the most precious action shots I ever made.
1 February marks the end of the hunting season in Spain, the day when many galgos will face a death even more brutal than the wretched lives they have led, simply because they are no longer useful. Please show your support for these poor creatures – be their voice!
It’s that time of ear when I am so busy doing secret photoshoots as Christmas gifts, preparing beautiful wall art for clients to give as Christmas gifts and writing Christmas gift vouchers like they are going out of fashion. The rush tends to start in November and go on until, oh, quite late on Christmas Eve was my record for issuing a last minute gift voucher! I absolutely love the excitement of all this, but especially the excitement of seeing my work on huge acrylic panels, canvases and framed prints that will go on the walls of my clients’ homes. I think these images become more and more powerful as the years pass with our beloved dogs. I often change round the pictures in my sitting room but the one constant that never gets shuffled out is the studio image I took of my own greyhound Jasmine when she was young and in her prime, alas over a decade ago and now only a distant memory.
This year I am adding a new product that I am especially excited about, smaller scale than the big wall art pieces I usually supply but perfect for people who want several pictures and simply cannot choose between them. My gorgeous new Portfolio Box includes five prints on professional Fuji Silk or Mohawk Fine Art paper, mounted on rigid board so you can pop them up on a mini easel, stored in a beautiful custom made portfolio box finished in linen or leatherette and engraved with your dog’s name. I love them so much much, it’s what my husband got for his anniversary present and what I’ve been giving my own friends for birthdays over the past couple of months. I’m including one of these in my special top of the range Christmas photoshoot package this year. Or for those who want to gift a Classic or a Premium Shoot for their dog loving family and friends, check out my other packages here.
I can email you a gift voucher on Christmas Eve but I’d prefer you ordered a little earlier so I can send you the real thing by post, all gift wrapped and tied in a bow. So please don’t leave it till the last minute or you’ll make Santa sad…
This is just an old-fashioned love story… Odin (galgo cross) and Maña (podenco) have been together almost all their lives.They have been loved and they love each other very dearly.But things have not always run smooth for them.At the age of eleven they lost their home and almost everything they held dear when their owner died, and they found themselves in the care of Galgos del Sol (GdS) in Murcia in southern Spain.At least they still had each other, and that must have been a solace.
It’s always harder to home aging dogs. Odin and Maña joined Galgos del Sol’s “Retirement, Sickly and Crazies” gang.What’s that?As Tina Solera of GdS said “The saddest part of rescue for me is when a dog is going to die in the center. Basically dogs come to our home that are at risk of dying in the kennels. The chances of (Maña and Odin) getting a new home together are slim so they are living with us under the Retirement qualification”But Galgos del Sol never gave up hope that Odin and Maña would be homed and moreover, be homed together.
Pause a moment…Anyone who thinks this story is going to have a sad ending has never fallen under the spell of a senior sighthound or experienced their powerful charms.
Odin and Maña became firm favourites with the volunteers who come from all over the world to help at Galgos del Sol.Word about them spread, and the pair developed a huge fan club on Facebook and Twitter.Among their followers was the wonderful Carmel of Greys Eleven Plus, which helps older greyhounds who find themselves homeless.
Let Carmel take up the story from here.She writes “I am thrilled and honoured to be allowed to offer Maña and Odin a place here at Greys Eleven Plus. Their story touched me deeply when they first came to GdS – this next and last step in their journey through life will be a happy one. I will keep everyone updated on their progress.”
So they all lived happily after.Odin and Maña travelled all the way from Spain to Norfolk in September.They are now living happily with Carmel and the other senior sighthounds to whom she has offered a sanctuary and a last, loving home. And they trying to bring service up to Spanish standards (Odin grumbles that breakfast is always late even before the clocks went back and Maña is still trying to share Carmel’s bed instead of the sofa). And because they are now just up the road from me (well, a Norfolk country mile or two), we got together and took some pictures.
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Should you change a dog’s name? If you’ve had your dog from puppyhood it’s unlikely you’ve been faced with this dilemma. Your pup will likely have been known merely as “White Tail Tip” or “Orange Collar” and you will get to choose your dog’s first and only proper name.
But if you’ve ever adopted an older dog you may well have come across this issue – the name you simply cannot live with. Our first rescue dogs were all blessed with very sweet names. Who could fail to love a greyhound called Jasmine, or an Arrow, or a Robbie?
Given a blank slate, we quite like Victorian parlour maids’ names for girl dogs. So when we adopted our lurcher Pollyanna, or Polly as she is known, her name was as perfect as she and it stayed.
Our little lurcher Lindy was a different matter. The name just didn’t seem to suit this cheeky little girl and I couldn’t face yelling “Lindy” across a dog park or signing our Christmas cards with a Lindy. But she already knew the name Lindy, even though she’d only had it since she was rescued. We compromised and she became Lindy Lou, or Lulu for short.
The more I ponder the question of changing names, the more complex I think the issue is.
As a sailing sort, I’d always been told it can be bad luck to change a boat’s name. You can do so if you really need to, but a careful process needs to be followed to avert any bad luck. Since we misguidedly changed the name of our very first boat in a fit of hubris and foolishness, we have always treated the superstition with great respect.
On the other hand, a former name can sometimes carry unpleasant baggage from the past that the dog needs to move on from. I met a beautiful setter in the park the other day and her owner and I got talking. He told me she was a rescue, an abuse case who had been trained as a gun dog using the most barbaric methods. The turning point in her healing process had been the decision to change her name. From the moment she took her new name, she cast off the horrors of her past life and became a new dog, happy and confident, the dog she was always meant to be.
I think these days I might approach the issue of name-changes more thoughtfully and sensitively. Our greyhounds Arrow and Robbie were both rehomed by us after they had been returned to rescue kennels late in their lives and in very sad circumstances: their names were one of the few things to remain constant through all that upheaval. And little Lindy may only have carried the name “Lindy” for a short while when she first came to me but it was clearly important to her. It was probably the first time anyone had addressed her with love and gentleness in their voice and touched her with kind hands. These days we call her Lulu when she is having a special fussing but mostly we call her Lindy. It is her name after all.
Nearly a decade ago my dear friend Phylly Clarke adopted a greyhound, the beautiful Leah from Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. She quickly discovered that while there are thousands of dog coats on the market, very few are designed for the skinny deep-chested shapes of our sighthounds. So, being a very clever and skilful person, she made Leah the most beautiful fleece coat to her own design. And everyone who saw it said “Wow!”
Fast forward a number of years and Phylly offers her hand-made hound coats through GreytCoats, with a donation to Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare for every coat she sells. She also offers bespoke Harris tweed coats for greyhounds and sighthounds, every one is made to your hound’s exact measurements, every one is a work or art, and they are probably the most sought-after item of hound attire on the market.
She made one of these coats as a special gift for my greyhound, the late and greatly-missed Jasmine: it was, quite simply, the most beautiful thing my beautiful girl ever wore. I have long hankered after one of these coats for my lurcher Lulu but as a rescue she is a late developer and has still been growing in the first years we’ve spent together. Then along came our second lurcher Polly and we decided it was time…
Tweed choices were considered; samples were ordered and tried against the dogs; decisions were made, then unmade; some tweed was ordered, and slowly the final choices emerged. Then there was the question of lining, Polly was an easy choice with a coordinating lining of soft camel fleece, picking out the pale biscuit stripe in her tweed. Lulu was, as usual, more difficult. Being sensible I should have gone with a pale fleece colour which would disguise Lulu’s occasional but prolific moulting. But somehow I walked out of Fabric Land with a length of wine-coloured velvet in my bag and a silly smile on my face. The dogs were measured all over and in places they’ve never been measured before. Then it was all in the hands of the maestro and we waited with much excitement to see the results.
When they arrived, we went to Oxshott Woods to do some photographs. It seemed somehow right. Years ago I had photographed the lovely Leah there, modelling one of GreytCoat’s very first tweed coats (and this is still one of my favourite photographs ever). Soon after I photographed Jasmine there, wearing her own special GreytCoats tweed. And now it is the turn of our two young lurchers.
These coats will outlast our beloved dogs. There is something both comforting and immeasurably sad in that thought. And after our dogs are gone they will become a precious legacy, steeped in the love that made them and our love for those who wore them. The late Leah’s tweed is currently on loan to another greyhound who is struggling with ongoing problems from an injury. And the buttons from Jasmine’s coat are now gracing Lindy’s new tweed.
We have a mole! (maybe more than one…). In one short week it has destroyed all of Nick’s hard work to recover our grass from “builder’s scrap area” to normal family lawn and the place looks like the Somme (without the mud of course).
We called in The Local Mole Catcher. He said he wasn’t sure it even was a mole, there were no mountains, no obvious tunnels, just piles of ripped up grass. But, said Nick, something has done all this, pointing to the desecration that was once a garden; our lurchers have been sniffing the area with great interest, and they were used as working dogs before we adopted them, so they are probably sensing something.
The Mole Catcher was not impressed. If it was a mole, he said, a “proper dog”, a terrier, would be identifying exactly where it was with pinpoint accuracy, and he looked with undisguised contempt towards our lurchers Lindy and Polly (who were busy playing a gentle game of bitey face). He left, saying if there was any fresh evidence it was a mole, he would visit again, perhaps. We felt like townies being dismissed as silly children.
Last night we were enjoying a glass of something cool out in the garden while the light faded and the bats began to circle. Polly suddenly became very animated, did a quick dig and carried something out in her mouth, dropped it a few times, trotted round with it a bit and then, alas, let it go for good. By the time we got a torch it had disappeared, so any plans to shift it out of our garden to safety over the wall were thwarted.
But we are so very proud of Polly. She didn’t harm the little mole but she proved beyond doubt that we do have one. She is a proper dog after all!
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