You ain’t nothing but a hound dog

10 February 2017 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Adopt a rescued rabbit week (seriously)

It’s been much too quiet around here, dear readers. “A house without a dog is incomplete,” Father Francis X. Wallace kept reminding me. Growing up (literally 95 years ago), Frank had a dog named Pete. He also, as a young curate in Sandwich, had an English setter named Duke (with permission of the pastor, Father George Sullivan). Frank, an army chaplain, brought Duke with him to Camp Edwards. Duke decided army life wasn’t for him. The dog went AWOL. On his own, Duke somehow made his way back to Corpus Christi Church. Seems the food was better.

Father Ray Cambra has had several pet dogs: Duke (No. 1 and No. 2), Lady, Champ, Razmus, Tucker, and Maximillian Rufus the Great

Here at St. Patrick’s rectory, we three priests are “The Dog-Fathers.” Among us, we’ve had some 20-plus dogs over the years.

I firmly resolved not to get another dog. I’ve already rescued nine greyhounds: Aran, Molly Malone, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Transit, Miss Piggy, Lolo the Galgo, Gabe, and Justin. I’ve done my part. I’m too old for that sort of thing now. No more dogs for me. And that’s my final answer. 

Well, it was for awhile. 

Then I started getting text messages from a young pastor. I’ll call him Father Rob. The name has been changed to protect the guilty. Rob was considering adopting a greyhound. He asked me all sorts of questions about the care and feeding of a rescue dog. I, of course, encouraged him. In the process of extolling the virtues of owning a retired racer, my unshakable resolve began to wobble. 

Rob started visiting area kennels to check out the greyhounds up for adoption. He would send me pictures of the ones in which he was interested. What do you think of this one? How about that one? Father Rob was leading me into temptation. 

One sunny afternoon, on a lark, I drove to Hopkinton to visit the Greyhound Friends adoption kennel. No harm looking, I told myself. 

 I asked to see their oldest dog.

I was introduced to a dog named Ronnie. Ronnie had been waiting seven months for adoption. Nobody seemed to want him. He was half the size of other greyhounds. Come to find out, he wasn’t a purebred. 

Louise Coleman of Greyhound Friends explained that Ronnie was on the lowest rung of the greyhound ladder: mixed breed. He was no champion. In fact, he had never run a race in his life. Not to mention he was already seven years old. Everybody wants to adopt a puppy. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and all that balderdash.

Greyhounds, raised since ancient times as hunting dogs, have been bred in recent centuries as professional athletes. But with the gradual decline of the dog racing industry in the United States, there’s an effort underway to repurpose the breed. Greyhounds are being cross-bred.

Ronnie, like any greyhound, is a sight hound but he is mixed with some sort of scent hound. There are no records. Ronnie is someone’s attempt to produce a dog with both exceptional sight and scent capabilities — a super dog. He may be a “Frankendog,” but we ended up riding back to Cape Cod together that day. I blame the whole thing on that Father Rob.

Ronnie had never before been in a house, but he quickly made himself at home. After inspecting every room, he decided the guest quarters would be his space. He liked the sun streaming through the south-facing window. Father Cambra came in and placed a dog bed near the nice warm radiator. I’ve been sleeping in the guestroom ever since — just until the dog understands I’m the leader of the pack, of course. 

“And now,” pronounced Father Wallace, “this rectory is complete. We have a dog.”

Ronnie learned to negotiate the stairs within a couple of days. He still sometimes whines for my assistance, but he’s only training me to come when he calls.

He enjoys being out in the yard. He runs around like a crazy person, frequently stopping in front of me to make a play-bow. He’s training me to have fun. We’re busy bonding.

If he hears a rustle in the bushes, he’ll stop dead in his tracks, extend his tail, and bend his front leg in the direction of the sound. I figure he’s part pointer.

He hasn’t, however, responded to the name “Ronnie.” What name shall I teach him? 

A greyhound mixed with another breed is called a “lurcher.” They’re bred and trained to lurch after rabbits. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, may I introduce dog number 10? His name is “Lurch.

He ain’t nothing but a hound dog and that’s fine with me.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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