Do you really know the role of the lurcher in history? Of course you don’t. So much has been suppressed by the so-called authorities – the paramilitary division of the Kennel Club alone has twenty seven officers dedicated to thwarting recognition of the lurcher’s deserved top-dog status. Only greydogtales has the courage to tell you the truth. This, then, is what really happened, from the Book of Kells to the First World War (selected entries only)…
(Oh, and in view of the many new enthusiasts of weird fiction, horror and weird art who have been visiting us, we should point out that this is what happens every so often on greydogtales. It’s the price you pay for getting cool features on your stuff.)Continue reading The Utterly True History of the Lurcher→
Get the bandages out, it’s time for some violence – although this may not be what you think. We’re not talking about horror stories where body parts get eaten or pulled off, or weird stories of people’s heads going wrong today. Instead, we’re back among the lurchers and longdogs, and we have some guests along for a change.
Not only are there some jolly good photos provided by Mandy Locky, Gina Beck, Richard Woolley and Julie Stringer, but we have an American guest, Katrina Stumpf, as well to share something from her blog. More about them in a minute, but first, the Great Game…
Lurchers are weird. Yes, they do share many characteristics with other dogs, but they have peculiarities which seem to be seen more often in the type. We’ve said before that many lurchers don’t like to sit, that their deep chests and joint articulation give them a gait and posture of their own, that they like sleeping upside down with their legs in the air and so on.
And though almost all dogs play, our extensive scientific studies show that bitey face is more common in lurchers and sighthounds than in other dog breeds or crosses. You might be able to prove us wrong, but do you really have the time and resources of the dedicated greydogtales research team to do so? We think not.
Bitey face is a game well known to lurcher enthusiasts. Basically, it consist of two or more lurchers posturing and doing play-bows, bums in the air and tails wagging furiously. Before you can say “How sweet,” and pour another cup of tea, they are launching themselves at each other with their jaws wide open.
It is, on the surface, a game which looks like two insane predators trying to eat each other. Teeth clash audibly, heads end up in mouths, ears get put at serious risk and so on. You think it’s over, and then one of the little darlings does that play-bow again, and they’re off for a second or third round.
The play-bow is, incidentally, a good sign that your dogs are having fun, not itching for actual violence. Bodies are generally relaxed, they will take pauses, and sometimes swop who’s on top. There will be fur grabbing and snapping, but not ‘sink your teeth in’ biting.
Lurchers may have long, slender muzzles, but they still have serious teeth. Django has teeth which belong in Jurassic Park. Let’s not kid ourselves – bitey face is an alarming sight. The first time our neighbours saw it, they were almost shrieking with concern, convinced that Django and Chilli had decided to murder each other. Two pleasant, licky dogs had turned into a blurred ball of bared canines, wild growls and quite a lot of legs. The dogs were fine, but we did have to sedate the neighbours. Who’d have thought chloroform was so expensive?
Is bitey face actually dangerous? The general answer is no. Dogs aren’t stupid (except the odd one who is). A lot of the time it’s only a fun muzzle-rubbing bit of rough and tumble. The dogs take it in their stride.
OK, they can very occasionally catch each other’s lips, noses and ears by accident. Ears, for some reason, bleed like a blood transfusion centre during a January sale, even though the wound itself is quite minor. But we’ve not had a bitey face game so far where anyone got seriously damaged, so we don’t worry about it.
If it’s getting out of control, and we’re sick of the noise and the over-turned chairs, we spray the dogs with a house plant sprayer full of cold water. All this does is surprise them, and they stop the game to see what’s going on. Bitey face is an important part of their play. They don’t unplug your television, so why should you stop them enjoying their own entertainment?
Bitey face on the run is hard work to monitor. Once they get up to speed and start snapping at each other as they charge (their idea of fun and egging each other on), the lip cuts get more likely – not because they’re being nasty, but their momentum is so great. Even then no harm is usually done. As we tend to run ours with open basket muzzles on, the loudest sound is of them bashing the plastic muzzles together, which they seem to enjoy.
We have heard of humans trying to play a version of bitey face with their lurchers. We do not recommend this. Firstly, you will lose. Make sure that you haven’t wagered any money (or chicken carcasses) on the outcome. Secondly, there may be parts of your face which you quite like. We suggest that you hang onto them. Time alone will do enough damage there without helping it along.
It may also be relevant to point out that the pain of having a dog’s tooth accidentally rammed up one of your nostrils is, well, not to be sneezed at. We have experienced this. Trust us.
Finally for this section, we were sent a couple of short bitey face videos by a nice chap called Richard Woolley, who clearly knows the phenomenon well. Richard says “We adopted Maggie in August. A very shy and timid girl and didn’t come out of the kitchen or conservatory for about 6 weeks! That’s when she bolted out of the front door! Missing for 4 days. At Xmas we adopted Rudy, a big lump who loves attention but very calm and a great influence on other dogs including Maggie. She’s much better but still very timid, still keeps her distance but the two of them are joined at the hip.”
Here’s one of the vids – Maggie and Rudy.
You’ll notice that we sort of cheated in some of the pictures above – some are actually greyhounds – but that’s still cool here. Katrina Stumpf is an American from Virginia who is involved in rescuing retired racing greyhounds. We were looking for neat pictures of bitey face, and came across her lovely blog fastgreyz, which covers all sort of greyhound-related goings-on.
Her current pups are – Cody, a black male 7 years old; Lizzie, a white/red 3 year old female and Cora, a white/brindle 9 year old female who had 4 litters of racing greyhounds after her race career. She also has a non-greyhound Roxi, a 3 year old hound/spaniel mix adopted from local adoption group who rescued her from a high kill shelter in West Virginia.
Unlike us, Katrina has a very fast camera, and picks up photographic gear specifically for action shots. Which is why her pictures show dogs at play in close detail, whereas many of ours show dogs’ bums disappearing off the edge of the shot.
Katrina supports local rescues, and there are tons more great photos on her blog, which you can find here:
An exciting Anne Rice horror feature? No. Last night we read two graphic novels, The Master of Rampling Gate and Young Witches. The first wasn’t very novel (nice art, though), and the second turned out to be very graphic, if you get our drift. Ulp! We’re not doing that. So we’re in Lurchers Mode today.
Concerned about your dog’s thoughts? Wonder if he or she is planning world domination, or possibly working out how to open the fridge? Worry no longer. Yes, thanks to the new patented greydogtales Encephalographic Monitoring(gEM) system, we can now expose the actual thoughts of longdogs as they go about their daily business.
This innovative device, soon to be available in the shops, will be a boon to all lurcher enthusiasts who aren’t sure what’s really going on in those sleek little brain-pans. For potential buyers, we present an example of the gEM at work.
A typical day, a typical town. We strapped ourselves into the handy, portable gEM field model (only 47 kilos, excluding antennae) and went for a stroll with two randomly-picked longdogs. For the record, Chilli describes herself as a lean alpha female, a deerhound cross with a graceful air and a keen interest in nature. Django was peeing and too distracted to speak to us, but he appears to be some sort of deerhound/wallaby cross.
We set off to see what we could record of the longdogs’ complex thought patterns during an average walk…
(Transcript begins five minutes after difficult procedure of actually getting out of the house)
gEM operative: This way, no, not up there. This way! Chilli: Squirrel in fifth beech tree, right-hand side, elevation 10.7 metres. Adult male, acceptable target. High alert shrieking commenced… Operative: No, I said this way! Chilli: Hmph. If you insist, and under protest, mind you. I could have had that, no problem. Django:(totally unaware of squirrel) Okey-dokey.
(Dogs comply, but run either side of concrete street bollard, causing impact with operative’s man-bits)
Operative: Oww! (and some words not suitable for transcribing) Chilli: Three poodles bearing west southwest, low velocity, within strike distance. One older alpha, easily dominated. Django: I hungry. Chilli: On second thoughts, low street credibility in terrifying random old poodles. Strike aborted. Must remember to update data on breed recognition charts. Django: Look, daffodillies!
(Long pause while daffodils are watered copiously. Net curtains twitch in all neighbouring houses)
Chilli: Time to supplement meat ration with 14 grammes coarse grass. Django: Grass boring. Operative: For goodness sake, you’re not a bloody cow, Chilli. That’s enough. Chilli: Consumption terminated at 12.5 grammes. I will be lodging a complaint, mind you. Operative: Can we please get on, now? Django: I hungry. Chilli: Labrador bearing due north. Not resident, needs investigation and check for permits. Proceeding to carry out routine interrogation, possibly with extreme prejudice… Operative: I said this way! Django: Run now?
(Rapid detour to other street to avoid worried-looking labrador, and even more worried looking labrador walker)
Chilli: Uh-oh. You do know that this route is full of… Django: Daffodillies!
(Four very long pauses for watering ritual. Mission proceeds down back alley, leaving many badly-wounded flowers to their fate. Operative realises that he has accidentally entered feline zone)
Chilli: Cat scan complete. Ginger, heavyweight male under white van, 10 metres. Scratch factor – 7.3. Proceed with caution. Juvenile female, 15 metres, garden wall. High pursuit value… Operative: No! Naughty dog (tightens lead). Django: I hungry. Oooh, pastie! Operative: Django, that’s not good for… oh well, never mind, you’ve eaten it. Django: Run now? Chilli: Not optimal exercise area, suggest bearing east, major fields with wooded section. High squirrel potential. Django: Run now? Operative: Django, stop pulling. Yes, alright, we’ll go to the woods.
(Turn around, attempt to reach woodland via side-street)
Chilli: Malamute at 30 metres. Large adolescent male. I can take that amateur… Django: More daffodillies! Operative: Chilli, no. Leave the poor dog alone, it’s barely twice your size. Django, I am not stopping for the fifteenth time so that you can destroy another floral display. Come on, both of you! Django: Done poo.
(Several motorists slow down to observe what appears to be a kangaroo relieving itself and looking pleased)
Operative: Django, those are nettles you’ve done your business in. And I’m almost out of bags. Chilli: Two spaniels spotted, northeast and not on leads. Serious intervention required. Prepare for full thrust… Operative: Ow, bloody stingers. I’m trying to pick this up, you (deleted). Django: I still hungry. Run now?
(Repeat ad infinitum)
The test mission was abandoned not long after, due to the sighting of a squirrel, a cat and several daffodils all at the same time, causing the equipment to overload and emit choking black smoke. Our gEM operative expressed a strong desire to have tortoises in future.
Don’t forget, all lurcher and longdog posts are tagged on the left. Just click on the keyword, and previous posts will magically appear. Possibly. And if you don’t like weird fiction that much (it does happen, I guess) , trying clicking on weird art to see some really cool paintings and illustrations.
In a couple of days: Weird fiction, scary stuff and arty things once more…
As a lurcher your language is complex, with many subtleties and nuances. It has evolved over centuries, and is as graceful as you are. Supplemented by small messages in pee left at key points around the neighbourhood, it is the language of athletes and heroes.
Human language, on the other hand, consists of inarticulate grunts and long, pointless lip movements. A lot of what they say serves no purpose whatsoever – even they seem to think that, going by their expressions when they talk to each other.
So today on Lurchers for Beginners, we’re providing you with…
Training Your Human Part Two: Basic Communication
Last time ( training your human part one ) we mentioned that your human(s) will not understand a lot of what you say, and that you should make allowances for that. This week we’re going to explore trying to ‘talk’ to them, frustrating though it may seem at first. With practice, you will be able to interpret their simplistic attempts at communication, and even get them to respond to basic commands.
What Human Sounds Mean
Most of their conversations with you will be peppered with things like “No”, “Bad” and “Get off there”. These are meaningless words which humans include for no discernible reason. After considerable study, lurcher linguists believe that such words are used to make the human feel dominant and in control. This is probably some sort of throwback to before humans were domesticated. You can safely ignore these bits.
“Ohmygodwhathaveyoudonetothatsofa” is another common but meaningless word. If they are excited about your artistic redecoration of the room (such as your mud drawings on the carpet or your sculpture made of cushion stuffing), they will show it by jumping up and down, pulling at their hair and making high wailing noises. Sometimes they will show their gratitude by letting you outside for a moment while they sit and appreciate what you have done for them.
Learn instead to recognise key sounds they make like “Breakfast”, “Dinner” and “Walk”. These are the useful parts of their language. You can even use basic commands to encourage communication along these lines (see Commands below).
When out and about, they will use words like “Heel” and “Fetch”. As you are perfectly aware that they have a heel (two, in fact, which tells you something about their ability to count) this needs little response.
Fetch is an odd one – if they’d wanted the ball, stick or whatever, why did they throw it away? You can try taking the ball back to them, but there’s a good chance they’ll only throw it away again. On the other hand, if you do fetch them important things, like a dead rat or a lump of fox poo, they make a fuss. It’s up to you if you want to bother with this one.
Note: Humans are also bad with names. If you are called Twiglet, for example, your humans will vary this quite bizarrely – Twig, Twiggie, Wiggly, Wodger, Old Bear, Smelly, Bloody Nuisance, Pain in the Arse and so on. Indulge them. As long as your name is accompanied by “Breakfast”, “Dinner” or “Walk”, it doesn’t really matter. You know that your name is actually Mighty Brown Swimming-Claw, Scourge of the Lower Street Not Including the Last Lamp-Post, and there’s no chance that they’ll ever manage to remember that.
Let’s look at how to get them to understand you on a verbal level. There are times when they will seem as dumb as a sack of cats, but if you keep at it, some of them will eventually catch on. There are a few simple techniques which can help, as outlined below.
If you suffer a minor bruise or injury – Merely pointing out that you have a small cut will not be noticed. The answer is to shriek loudly at the top of your voice, as if your leg had come off. Rolling your eyes and limping dramatically will give impact to your point. Try to achieve a cross between an over-paid footballer and an opera singer.
If you see another dog off the leash while going for a walk – Bark loudly and pull on your own lead in sudden surges which unbalance your human. That will alert them to the fact that the other dog should be leashed up like you. Or that you should both be off.
If you see a cat, squirrel, rabbit, or lame buffalo that might be potential prey – Combine shrieking and barking to achieve an aesthetic affect which sets everyone’s teeth on edge. This will remind them that you are a proud hunting beast, and not a door-stop.
If a stranger comes into the house at night – Bark and then point at the fridge. If this is when the usual humans are out, it may be a burglar, but they’re not going to take anything of yours, so why get worked up about it? You’re not one of these common guard dogs, for goodness sake, you’re a lurcher. And there’s always the chance that they’ll look in the fridge themselves and leave the door open.
The more intelligent humans can be trained to respond to simple commands. Don’t overdo it, as they still have limitations. We suggest some useful starting points:
The short, single bark – Ideal to indicate that you want something right now, not tomorrow or when they’re ready, thank you. Make sure that the bark is abrupt and penetrating. Useful for walks, going outside and food. If ignored, wait until their attention drifts and then do it again suddenly without warning, preferably when they’re carrying something.
The repeated short bark – Used to point out that they ignored the single bark, and that it’s time they got their act together. This can also be used to get the attention of the human pack and say “Gather round, I have something to say to you all.”
The long, penetrating whine – Useful for indicating that you want more attention, your bottom rubbing or a more comfortable place on the sofa. Remember to keep it up for half an hour at least, and try to sound deeply sorrowful, even if all you want is an ear scratch. They will give in eventually.
The low growl– A simple command to go away because you do not intend to get off the bed, give them your bone etc. Self-explanatory. How would they like it if you took their steak dinner? Well, OK, you did, but that’s not the point. They’re not in charge, after all.
Bark and howl combination – Handy to point out that they’ve left you shut in the wrong room, or that it’s cold outside and you want to come in. Humans enjoy ghost stories, so make sure your howl evokes the suffering of the dead, the mournful fate of lost souls, etc.
Note: If you spot a set of headphones or earplugs around the house, this means that they are looking for ways to block out your commands. Chew these up immediately and leave the remains lying around to make your point. It may also be a good idea to chew up the TV remote, in case they try to ignore you that way.
Practice these phrases and commands regularly. Once disobedience sets in with humans, it can takes months of hard work to get them back under control again. If they are obedient, then reinforce this with small gestures, such as a wag, a lick or the occasional soulful look, but don’t overdo it. Any human who thinks he or she is boss in your home will soon become a bloody nuisance, and everyone will suffer as a result.
Be firm, be fair, and be a lurcher.
Lurchers for Beginners will return soon. In the meantime, we’ll be back in a couple of days with the usual weird and supernatural stuff. Treat yourself – come home to greydogtales…