In the corridor there appeared a... no, to be able to call that a dog, one had to have an exquisite imagination. I assure you, it would have taken less imagination to compare IT with a Cheshire Cat. In the corridor there hovered a FACE. Yet upon closer inspection I discovered that there was a skinny, bowlegged body attached to the face.
“Oh my, what an impressive Greyhound you have,” I said with deliberate indifference. “Take him,” was the answer I received from the creature’s owner.
No way was I going to take a second dog, my plans for the future were totally different - a return to my original home country was at hand. Of course I wanted another dog but certainly not now. Besides I had a quite fixed idea – a cool Doberman, possibly a bitch. Foma, my Doberman, was absolutely against any male dogs, especially in his house. But the Face floated in the kitchen steadily winning his place in my heart. Apart from the skinny body and crooked legs the Face had a toothless mouth.
“Well, at least take him for a couple of weeks, my Afghan is about to have puppies and I’m going to my summer house with her. I can’t leave him in the flat,” the owner continued persuading.
“Come on, you know what a fighter Foma is, he won’t tolerate any dogs in the house,” I objected half heartedly.
After about half an hour of equally lame excuses we agreed to go for a walk in the Lefortovsky park tomorrow – and then we would see. How this was going to end was absolutely clear to me.
Once I came home however, I told my husband that the dog, that might stay with us for a couple of weeks, is absolutely unlike a dog but more like a prince from a fairy tale or an elf. Alex didn’t really object knowing that it was up to Foma to decide. We had our doubts Foma would decide in favour of the strange dog. The Face cropped up occasionally in dreams. Well, at least it didn’t talk. What happened the next day amazed me. Foma was either uncertain about the species of the creature or certain that it couldn’t be any competition for him what so ever. For what ever reason the two of them played peacefully in the park and - amazing as it sounds – the Doberman gave him a stick.
My predictions concerning Foma’s behaviour at home were also wrong. The Greyhound was calmly accepted into his residence. It turned out his name was Atlon, he was one year old and his Dad was some great champion. When he was little he had distemper so that half his teeth didn’t grow and those that did were dark brown in colour. The little treasure would be staying for two weeks but if I wanted to keep him nobody would mind.
Days went by. Atlon had hysterics when he saw a bowl of food, obviously afraid it could vanish. Our Doberman stared in amusement. “Gosh, how the doggy eats!” And even gave up his own food. Atlon gulped it down as well. The dog was interested in nothing but food. He couldn’t play or cuddle. When we went for walks he would dangle
at the end of the leash like a balloon. Only once I saw interest in his eyes, when Foma was having a fight with the terror of the neighbourhood, a red American Staffordshire Terrier. Atlon was happily bouncing around them excited by the mayhem.
Soon we found out another unpleasant peculiarity of this dog – it peed in the house. I tried all possible methods of correcting this behaviour, from persuasion to punishment – even taking him to the vet. The only thing I noticed was that the number of puddles decreased when we fed him only dry dog food. Any cooked food had the consequence that in half an hour you had to get a mop. The dog was unable to tell us when he had to go outside. By this time two weeks had passed. There was no sign of the owner. The dog slowly gained weight and stopped resembling a face hanging in mid-air. Still he stayed unhappy. Twice he ran away whilst we were walking. Both times I found him in the flat next to that of his owner. After the very first time my respect towards him increased, my pity increased even more.
The situation changed drastically after about 3 months. We went to yet another show with Foma where we came first in the class. Returned home pleased with ourselves and the judge. The next day Atlon went crazy. He ran about in circles in the park, didn’t let anyone catch him and showed more activity than he had ever done. We had the impression that he wanted to show off and gain self-confidence. We decided to give him a chance.
The next weekend we went to the dog races. It turned out it was the last training before the Russian Champioship. We let him run a couple of times, then signed up for the competition. The dog obviously needed it.
A week later we are on our way to Krasnogorsk. In the train I have a chat with Atlon and explain to him that this is his chance. “Come on, Atlon, do your best,” I whispered to him. “Show yourself and I’ll keep you forever.”
And Atlon did! No, he didn’t become a Champion but do I need that? I am no sportswoman myself and dog sports never really attracted me. But...
“Well, Atlon, you're staying. Now you'll always be my dog!”
Upon returning home Atlon excitedly ran up to Alex to say hello and get patted, the next day he and Foma started playing wildly in the flat. The most amazying thing: the dog began asking to be let out! At first only shyly by looking pleadingly into your eyes. Then he began going up to the door and whining. And finally he learned to wait and adjust to the rhythm of life of his family. So it turned out how much (or how little) a Greyhound needs to be a good dog.
By Natalia Osvenskaya,
Translated by Xenia Wagner.