Happy birthday Stubbs! Today my big chicken turned eight years old although it seems like such a short time ago that I brought him home. Stubbs, he came with his name, is a terribly shy dog, pathologically afraid of new people and easily upset by any change in our daily routine and yet he has made so much progress. When Stubbs came into the adoption program he was two-and-a-half years old and has never raced at all. At the same time we also received his brother Gary who is, if anything, even more nervous than Stubbs.
The two brothers took a long time to warm to anyone new but because I volunteered at the kennel where adoptable dogs were housed I saw them every week. After a few months they both began to get a bit more comfortable with all of us regular visitors and we walked all the dogs so they got some one-on-one attention. Sadly after a year both of the brothers were still in the kennel, no one seemed to want to try to love a dog that they suspected might never love them back and at the time I had three other greyhounds, two of my own and one foster, so I felt that as a single person it would be too much to take on one of these nervous boys.
After a disastrous attempt to place Stubbs in a home after which he came back with bruises from a panicked fall on the kitchen floor and thinned coat from stress (after only ten days in the home) the folks who tried to give him a chance regretfully returned him to the kennel. It was then that I decided that Stubbs was going to come home with me. I had become very fond of him and we would cautiously wag his tail when I came to see him so I took that as a good sign. At the time I had already concluded that if he was just a pretty ornament that lived in a quiet corner of the house I would be fine with that situation.
A month passed and, because I have a tiny yard, Stubbs was used to our walks around the block. My eldest greyhound Falcon has some orthopedic issues and could only comfortable walk around the block once before his feet would start to bother him so that has been the route that Stubbs insists on ever since. With all his nervous energy he doesn't need much more exercise than that and it was traumatic enough as he acclimated to life with me.
In those first few weeks Stubbs pretty much lived in his crate, it was the only place he felt safe. We would go for a walk and when his leash was removed he would run to his safe place. More than once I would leave the house and the door to his crate would be left open by accident. While I didn't think that he would do anything in my absence I worried that he might try to escape. Before the end of the second month I would routinely come home to find my bed turned into a greyhound nest but Stubbs would always be in his crate.
The one day, as I sat at my computer in my large bedroom suite, Stubbs walked out of his crate and hopped into my bed. When I stood up to get a better look he looked back at me, slowly stood and returned to his crate. That was the beginning of his transformation. Shortly afterwards he would get excited and play in the backyard before our walks. Then he would lay in my bed and would let me sit by him. That was a happy day, it meant I no longer had to climb into the crate with him to give him attention!
Eventually he would let me go to bed and then would climb up with me. He rarely stayed more than a few minutes but it was progress. Stubbs was beginning to act like a normal dog. The only problem as I saw it was that he would revert to his timid ways if anyone else was around. It was kind of like having a Ferrari that you could never drive anywhere but the track. With time though I got over that shortcoming.
Today Stubbs is a wonderful dog. He is still afraid of new people but he cuddles and plays and enjoys his walks. With other dogs he is generally indifferent unless they are also a greyhound in which case he is overjoyed. Eventually he warms to new people but it takes repeated exposure and I can leave him with some friends when I travel and he enjoys staying with them and visiting with their dogs. Normality is something he will never achieve but that's okay, the bond we've developed as I have worked him through his many fears is something rare and wonderful. Stubbs is the biggest baby in the house, the least demanding and the most rewarding, I've had him for over four years now and in that time I have learned so much for this fantastic neurotic dog. Happy birthday Stubbs!
*Addition* With recent news coverage I wanted to assure everyone that Stubbs shyness is not the product of any kind of abuse or neglect. While we no longer have greyhound racing in Oregon he was born the year before it ended to a couple who loved him and his entire litter. Stubbs' mother was their pride and joy, she was first and foremost a pet and companion. If my friends cannot look after him when I go out of town the people who bred and raised him happily take him for me. There are few people in the world I would trust with any of my dogs and fewer yet that I would allow to look after Stubbs. His shyness is innate, it is part of his personality not the result of any trauma; he is forever my sweet shy sensitive boy.
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 24/f1.4L Mark II
24mm, f1.4, 1/100 sec @ 2000 ISO