It came to pass, many years ago, that my dear lady wife, Maureen, decided that she had had enough of being civil and servile, not mentioned being similarly disposed to mushroom management. Thus she beat my intended move into premature retirement into a life of luxury(?) by a matter of weeks, thereby condemning me to further decades of turning an honest copper.
Having thus changed our lives, she almost immediately brightly observed "Oh, we can have a dog now!". She ,having been brought up with whippets, it was barely rocket science for me to know what that meant. The first puppy dog was duly acquired and named Alex (after the snooker player Alex "Hurricane" Higgins), which quickly became corrupted to Licky, because he did, especially toes! His full pedigree name was Shalfleet Seris Blue Jester, hmmm. We started going to dog shows, but he was never really good enough.
Then it seemed like it would be a good idea for him to have a friend. At this point I must digress to point out that whippets are rather like peanuts, you say you'll just have the one, and then another, and then, well you get the idea. And thus was acquired Pippin(Shalfleet Songscore) , who rapidly became known as Poof, due to his habit of snuggling up on the sofa by your side with his nose up by your ear, so Mozart became replaced by this Poof sound in one ear, sigh.
When Pippin was still little, we were on our way back from a show and decided to drop in at the local greyhound flapping track. It was other breeds day. Well!!! The way Alex watched the other dogs racing we figured perhaps he might enjoy racing better. So we joined the Andover WRC and that was that. Or so we thought.
Alex (racing name Blue Jester) took to racing but was always in the seriously slow dogs races, as were most of those that came after. But Pippin never took to it. He really seriously wanted to chase the lure, but not with other dogs thank you very much. And then it all went pear shaped. At the tender age of just 2 Alex suffered a major kidney failure and had to be put down. And so it was that Kris (Secret Agent of Baldrey) came into our lives. Another slow, but enthusiastic dog.
Thus we trundled along for a while, but then it went pear shaped again. At the age of 3 Pippin developed an immune system failure and after fighting it as best we could, he too had to be put down at a depressingly young age. At that point we decided to stick to purely race bread stock, they seemed hardier. And so Ash (Sir Ash) walked into our lives. He was shaping up to be a good racer but after only a few races suffered a leg injury. He was patiently nursed back to health and enjoyed several years of beating up the lure before we retired him, but he had been robbed of his speed and could only manage the slow dogs races after that.
Not long after we got Ash, one our racing friends, who knew we still wanted a blue dog because of Alex being blue, said they had a blue puppy. Well he was a very dark blue and by the time he came to us he was just plain black. Oh well, whippet puppies are far too endearing for that to matter. His full name was Blue Chip, or Chip for short.
Again we trundled along and became lulled into a false sense of security. We should have known better. When Kris was 7, he too contracted an immune system breakdown and had to go. They all like snuggling up in their own different ways, but Kris used to wait till you were lying on the sofa, then he would stand on you and just look at you! Those paws didn't half dig in! Thus we acquired our one and only seriously fast dog, Jazz. We called him that because of his "Art Deco" colour scheme! To be fair, Ash may also have hit the heights had he not been injured so soon, we will never know.
There had to be a snag of course. Jazz grew too big for the rules, so we had to race him at some of the independent clubs, his biggest win being in the 1996 Windsor Derby (the only bookie sponsored it and I got a whole £50!). Having done us proud for a few years, he also got a leg injury. Although we nursed him back to health, there was no way we were going to risk racing him again, his injury having been somewhat worse than Ash's. So there was our pride and joy, our one seriously fast dog, laid off when still in his prime. And so to 'Arry (Razor Back).
We now had four dogs cluttering the house and only one to race. And he was painfully slow. He was so keen to race that he was always the fastest out of the traps. But that was it, the talent stopped there. 'Arry raced under the name 'Orrible 'Arry. There were no "H"s because the people we got him from spoke like that, and the 'Orrible came from the day when as a puppy he forced us to get a closeable shoe cabinet, having chewed all the shoes in the house!
We finally stopped racing in 2001. In the spring there was the foot and mouth epidemic which curtailed animal activities. We had just re-started racing when 9/11 happened. Our club raced at a military base, so we were denied access until the security worries died down. And when, on a rainy cold day in December I got the call to say racing was on again, I looked at my slow dog, I looked out of the window, and figured that getting back to walking miles in that weather just for the dog to lose really wasn't what I wanted to do.
We slowly lost the dogs to the sort of ill-health old dogs get. Ash made it to 14, Chip to 15 and Jazz lasted till he was nearly 12. Much more like it in terms of ages, and in our minds at least a justification of sticking with racing breds. And as of April 2012, 'Arry is 13 and curled up on the sofa with me, living the life of the idle, pampered whippet, as they all did in their turn. (Update December 2012, time sadly has caught up with us and due to severe kidney problems is no longer with us. and for the first time in 27 years there is no dog in our house. Wierd. Very Sad.)
I suspect he will be the last, but the racing was fun (a totally Heath Robinson amateur affair), it was the dog's hobby (they loved it), and we met loads of nice people we would otherwise have not met. And despite the heartbreaks, the dogs have given us years of pleasure. As the wife said of our two lads, when they were still young enough to be naughty, "I told you we should have stuck to whippets!".