Every dog has his day, and every lurcher has her or his bottom, whether a lean, wiry one like Chilli, or a great muscular kangaroo-rump like Django. And make no mistake, a good lurcher bottom is a blessing indeed. It’s somewhere to attach that whippy, waggy tail, for starters. But it has its dark side, and that’s where we must travel today. Where the sun does not shine, there is mischief. And there is poo…
Come back with us in time, dear listener, to a very special moment. Picture, if you will, two attractive, light-hearted people, very much in love and determined to do good in the world. Now forget that. Burn the picture. Replace it with an eccentric Yorkshire drunk who works in a pub and a tough Sarf London girl who has just finished university. Add the fact that they aren’t exactly going out, and are constantly arguing, and you have today’s True Story…
Note: This may be seen as a cautionary tale of two inexperienced people doing it wrong, or a heart-warming story. We do NOT recommend it as a set of dog rescue guidelines.
So, it is 1979 (probably). She who is now our editor-in-chief finds this dog wandering the streets. It is a sad dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier who looks very lost. It has a name and a phone number on its tag. It is called Rocko. Obviously, after consultation, we call the number. Again and again. There is never any reply. The police can get no further than we can, and we’re pretty much pre-chip or database times here. Days later, no Rocko or similar Staffy has been reported missing, and no-one we ask can think of anything helpful.
We are stuck. We have never rescued a dog before. We don’t know where Rocko came from, and we don’t want the dog to be put down. We’ve been told the dog pounds may go down that road. Thirty plus years into the future, of course, we will have lots of options – shelters and rescue organisations we can trust. But we are young, so we try to look after the poor soul.
Rocko is soft. This is the sort of dog who looks at you apologetically if you tread on its paw by accident. The aggressive urges of a lump of plasticine. And Rocko is a she. We call her Rufus, because we do not like the name Rocko. Then we find that our editor cannot have dogs in her bedsit, due to an arsy landlord. Fortunately, the rest of the team (your not-as-drunk-as-he-used to-be author) is temporarily living in a disused room at the university when not assisting Tetleys Brewery in their life=beer mission. As we are not really supposed to be there, Rufus might as well not be there at the same time.
Rufus is delighted to have a new home (single room piled high with books and old crates). She is walked, well-fed and cuddled. She has teeth which can bite through a tin of dog-food – and do – but never gives so much as a nip to people. She is lovely. Dogs need company, so we don’t want her on her own too often. So one day, because of work shifts, sunspots or something else we completely forget now, Rufus is sent to stay with a mutual friend who has some spare time and access to a bit of grassy wasteland. During this time she wanders off, causing panic, but soon toddles back, and is overjoyed to be re-united with us.
We realise that she needs a proper home. So we take her to some parents far away from where we live, parents who do not know that they have always wanted a dog. They certainly don’t know that they have always wanted a large hungry Staffordshire bull terrier with a boy’s name and a girl’s parts.
After a certain amount of sarcasm, Rufus is housed by the sea with people who are there all the time. A perfect ending. Except for the fact that Rufus turns out to be not only pregnant (thanks to that grassy wasteland expedition) but very heavily pregnant. Parental sarcasm gets close to boiling point, but is survived.
Rocko who is Rufus is now Rusty, as a certain mother refuses to call a pregnant Staffordshire Rufus. A large litter of confusing pups is born. Some look Staffie-ish, some look more like golden retrievers. Amazingly, these are all farmed out to various other sarcastic relatives, and at last Rusty is comfy at home. She becomes a basking seal who occupies the sofa every day and is doted over by that certain mother. Rusty is always delighted to see us when we head coast-wards, and lives to a ripe old age. Actual perfect ending – in the end.
So what’s this got to do with lurchers and longdogs? Hang in there. Many years later, with another old dog at home but a bit worn out, editor-in-chief goes to Battersea Dogs’ Home and struggles back up north with a young, utterly bonkers dog found roaming the streets of London.
It has clearly been damaged by some horrible experience(s), and is rather hostile to anyone except the immediate family. By hostile, we mean a tendency to bite people’s calf muscles when alarmed, by the way, not merely bad-tempered. To the family, this little bundle of legs is loyalty exemplified, and like Rocko/Rufus/Rusty, is hugely affectionate, with never even the hint of a nip to our young son.
It is, yes, a lurcher. It is also definitely a she, and she is Jade. Spayed this time, thank goodness. Although she’s gone now, again at an advanced age, we loved her very much and she is one of the reasons why this site is called greydogtales. And she began our deep affection for lurchers. So there.
Next time: The obvious feature to follow this one – an interview with the owner of Swan River Press, Ireland’s only publisher of Gothic, fantastic and supernatural fiction…
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:
We thank all our contributors, and wonder if we actually managed to match all the right dogs and people in the photos. Probably not.
Do join us again on greydogtales at the weekend. It may be weird fiction or art next time, we’re never quite sure…
Something for everyone today – which means everyone complaining at once. Life as a writer is such a social whirl – grand society balls, new racing cars to buy and ships to launch – that we’ve been forced into medley-mode. The End of Furniture as We Know It, some fabulous South American weird art, music from Italy and Things We’re Planning. It doesn’t get much more medley than that.
Just remember that you can’t get blood from a rolling stone when it’s headed for a mossy greenhouse with too many cooks in it…
The End of Furniture as We Know It
Very occasionally people ask “Do you allow your dogs on the furniture?” Well, if we knew what the word ‘allow’ meant, we suppose we might think that one over. We’ve never had pets, as such, and no, we’re not trying to sound pretentious. Our dogs have always been companions with additional legs. They get to do mostly what they want, as long as it doesn’t cause too much mayhem.
The mayhem, sadly is growing. There is little doubt that the house needs a teensy bit of work on it. Plastic explosives and a pick-axe would probably improve the place. Two lively lurchers and an obstinate, incontinent labrador do not make for a spread in the Sunday Times. The latter does mean keeping a copy of the Times spread out for accidents, but that’s not quite the same.
Regular visitors will have seen photos of Django sprawled in his chair. What we dare not show you are the graphic pictures of what lies beneath, and the fact that he has systematically gutted it. Every day we force the stuffing back in, chuck a throw over it and pretend nothing has happened. He knows he shouldn’t do this. All we have to do is say “What are you doing, Django?” in a normal voice, and he looks suitably penitent, an effect somewhat spoiled by the cushion filling on his nose at the time.
Our females, on the other hand, have no shame. Twiglet determinedly licks, chews or scratches at anything she fancies. She actively likes poking her nose into things, and has done for 16 years. She has always pulled equipment out of electricians’ toolboxes, wallets out of handbags and shopping out of carrier bags.
It’s a very bad case of ‘labrador mouth’, exemplified by her attempt to chew her way into a bottle of Drambuie some years ago. She’s trained in many other ways, but she is of a bloody-minded and unapologetic nature. Point out bad behaviour to her, and unlike dear Django, she looks directly at you with an expression which says “What’s it to you, flabby?” Physical removal of dog, furniture or object to another room is the only known remedy.
Chilli is quite responsive, but again, seems unashamed. If we mention that she isn’t supposed to un-stuff the sofa (her own preferred victim), she stops, but doesn’t look at all bothered. The sofa is a nesting area, and she doesn’t like some of the lumps in it. We’ve trying pointing out that many of these lumps are from her previous efforts, but that cuts no ice.
The end result is that this year you should make every effort to buy the writing we produce as soon as it comes out. Not because we’re greedy, no. It’s just that we have to get new furniture faster than the dogs can destroy it.
South American Weird Art
The main mission of greydogtales is to introduce people to new stuff. We’ve said before that one great pleasure of the last year has been getting to know some vibrant and interesting writers and artists from South America, especially Argentina.
We did manage to interview the talented artist Sebastian Cabrol last autumn, and his terrific art occasionally illustrates our articles. We’ve also mentioned the work of the multi-skilled Diego Arandojo a number of times, along with coverage of artists such as Quique Alcatena and Santiago Caruso.
We want to do better this year. As a sign of this, Santiago Caruso is joining us in a few weeks for a full illustrated interview, which is exciting, and we’re going to work on some dedicated features.
Between the physical distance, our own dubious Spanish and so on, it’s harder than usual, but worth it. Today we’d like to mention a few more names, and maybe we’ll be able to give them proper coverage eventually. We also hope to have our friends Sebastian and Diego back with us again later on in the year.
This weekend’s pick for a mention is Pablo Burman. Pablo is a cartoonist, painter and comics artist whose work always catches the eye. Pablo produces a fantastic range of art:
And here are two other Argentinian talents in whom you might be interested:
Ziul Mitomante is a writer/editor at Mitomante and is behind some fascinating comics, with a different take on comics literature.
Hernan Gonzalez is a creator/editor at Buengustoediciones, and an illustrator who has also worked with Ziul and who produces some striking work.
Although the art is international, when it comes to books and comics the text of most of these is only in Spanish. Diego’s Lafarium site, however, does have an English version:
As an extra, we’re just getting to know Carlos Duenas. Carlos is a director/cinematographer living in Ecuador who also has an interest in folklore and folk horror, so we hope to be talking to him about South American myths as well as his work.
Things We’re Planning
The moveable feast, as always, keeps moving. Still somewhere in the pipeline are many great interviews for April and May:
Authors – Writer/editor Lynne Jamneck; fantasy author Joanne Hall; horror/weird writer Rich Hawkins; writer/artist Alan M Clark; SFF, occult and comics writer Mike Chinn, and more.
Artists – Santiago Caruso, as above, and Richard Svensson, Norwegian fantasy and supernatural illustrator.
Other features on the list include:
- Sandra’s First Pony – the new Enid Blyton/Lovecraft story with Mary and Bottles the lurcher at school
- Two Immortals: Torchwood and Roger Zelazny
- Raw feeding and Your Lurcher (with explicit pictures of a chicken carcass, naturally)
- H R Wakefield’s supernatural fiction – the impossible article started last December and still not finished
- Nautical Weird – the wonderful world of aquatic superheroes
- An illustrated guide to trying to walk your longdog
Remember, if you don’t like the above, we’ll only tell you more about our own writing, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?
Firstly, a mention of the music of the Italian dark ambient group, Nostalgia, because they have a whole album based on William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland. It’s creepy and it’s good.
And secondly, we featured writer/artist Raphael Ordonez last year (fractals and fantasies).
This year, Raphael’s blog/website Alone with Alone has included some fascinating articles on many aspects of strange and classic literature – C S Lewis, Edwin Abbott’s Flatland and geometry, Zardoz and the nature of ghosts. He’s also completing his next novel The King of Nightspore’s Crown. Go have a look!
Thank you, you’ve been a great audience… oh, everybody’s gone. Rats.