Monday, January 12, 2009

Moyen Chien

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. (Andy Rooney)

Folklore suggests that the word "Cheyenne" comes from French fur traders, who took it from their word "chien," meaning "dog" because the Indians were using the canine animals for pulling their travois.

La Cheyenne -- the "La" from her mom "LA Josie" whom, we were told, has roots in the City of Angels -- arrived in Monica and Bram's life on December 20, the first Saturday of Mars and my Christmas vacation with our Santa Fe resident daughter-in-law and son. She is a two-year old greyhound from a litter of eight, each with its own "La"-prefixed American Indian name. -- the database of greyhound racing -- reports that none of the brood made it to the big leagues.

Greyhounds begin training at about a year old. They run and chase by instinct, so initially their training consists of chasing a lure dragged along the ground. As they mature, they are taught to run on circular tracks, with the artificial lure suspended above the ground Most begin racing at about a year and a half, and continue to four years old. Some will race beyond their fifth birthday, and a select few past their sixth. Because they are generally well cared for and in excellent health, most Greyhounds live to twelve years or older. (

But only the winners advance to the majors. La Cheyenne raced four times -- all in 2008 -- finishing fourth, eighth, fifth ("blocked far turn") and second ("Won place photo"). And ran her fastest (33.38 seconds) in her final competition.

Not good enough!

Without formal, grand scale racing, there would be no way to sustain and to continue to nurture the 46 different female families of racing greyhounds that exist, and comprise the most diverse genepool of any breed of functional canine. Racing greyhounds are galaxies removed from any other sighthound breed in genotype, phenotype and athletic adaptation. Racing -- and breed custodianship -- has compelled the emergence of this truly phenomenal breed of sighthound. (Op. Cit.)

Thanks to the efforts of rescue organizations such as Greyhound Companions of New Mexico, many of the also-rans are released for adoption, where they are initially placed with an experienced foster family to ease the transition. La Cheyenne was with her Albuquerque based interim hosts, who also have two rescue greyhounds of their own, for a week before Monica and Bram met her. During that time she had been spayed, microchipped, tested for heartworm, vaccinated, and examined by a veterinarian.

La Cheyenne welcomed us at the door by offering herself for petting. She was still partially under the effects of anesthesia. When the other hounds were let into the room they greeted us with jumps, licks, and other assorted forms of dog contact. Cheyenne strolled into the maelstrom but seemed unsure whether to join in or not. She left willingly with Monica and Bram, but without much enthusiasm. And -- due to inexperience, not unwillingness -- needed to be lifted into their car.

[Racing] Greyhounds live in climate-controlled kennels, usually on or near the tracks where they race. They are turned out several times daily for mild exercise and play, exercised on sprint paths and taken for walks. (Op. Cit.)

La Cheyenne had been introduced to curbs and steps by her foster family but still took a few days to negotiate them without aid or prompting. On her initial walks through Monica and Bram's neighborhood she submissively followed along never even tugging at the lead. Gradually she began to explore more on her own -- but always on a leash. (Because of their natural chasing instinct, race training, and forty-five mile per hour speed, they can never be let loose except in a confined area.)

She laid in her bed a lot. Greyhounds are short distance sprinters who would gladly spend the remaining 23:59:26.62 of each day resting their muscles for their next effort -- whenever, or not.
And La Cheyenne willingly, but passively, received the pets, scratches, rubbings, and verbal stroking of her adoptive family -- not yet exhibiting any puppy-like, unallayed expressions of joy at just being with the people of their pack.

The racing greyhound is the physical manifestation of greyhound racing - as form is compelled to follow function. (Op. Cit.)

With help, the rest learn to become something even more special -- moyen chien -- an average dog.

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