Meet Captain SLO

Captain SLO is not Top Gear’s former Captain Slow. For one thing, James May has participated in one more race than Nick has. Rather Captain SLO take his nickname from the cause of Nick’s dodgy nails, symmetrical lupoid onychodistrophy. That’s a scary sounding mouthful. This post is about the onset of Nick’s disease in 2011 and what I’ve learned about managing it since.



Revision History

  1. 4/25/2016 initial draft
  2. 4/26/2016 added references 1 and 2 and dosage information taken from Reference 2.
  3. 12/26/2022 Replace deleted reference URLS.

In doing the research for this article, I discovered that I’d been giving Nick an excessive amount of fish oil and will recalculate his dosage and stick to it. I divide his dose between morning and evening meals to improve stool quality and have a more uniform therapeutic effect.

See your vet

If your hound is experiencing splitting or peeling nails do not attempt to treat the condition on your own. Splitting nails are a condition with several root causes including infections in the nail growth bed, SLO, and other systemic causes. A veterinary dermatologist will perform a differential diagnosis to determine the proper initial treatment and maintenance treatment. The information given in Reference 2 is typical and is included to indicate that SLO is easily treatable and inexpensive to treat.

It began with a split nail

One evening I came home, took the dogs out into the back garden for after work toilet, and let them in. After a bit, I noticed Nick exiting my bedroom with a limp and leaving a trail of red dots everywhere he stepped with one foot. I found a split nail and took him in to his vet’s after hours clinic to have the nail cleaned up. We’d both assumed he’d split it in the garden or in a clumsy attempt to mount my bed where he’d like to hang out. After initial treatment, we thought nothing of it until about the 3rd visit for split nails. My day vet had not encountered SLO before so she arranged a specialist consult with the local dermatology practice.

At the dermatologist

Doctor Cook took one look at Nick’s dodgy nails and immediately recognized the symptoms as indicative of SLO.


This fore-paw photo looks largely unremarkable. But to the trained eye, it says SLO. The primary indications are a nail grown in a J with the bend parallel to the ground when standing and the stubby nails that looks like a carpenters pencil sharpened with a dull knife and the dull rough feeling horny covering. And from above


Contrast this with healthy nails on Missy.


Confirming SLO

SLO is confirmed by biopsy. This involves removing the dew claw or another nail to examine the growth plates. Most dermatologists are sufficiently confident of diagnosis by appearance and will treat without a biopsy confirmation. If the condition does not respond to tetracycline and steroids, then a biopsy is indicated.

SLO is an autoimmune disorder

SLO is an autoimmune disorder of the nail growth plates. The nail is actually a specialized bone designed to help with traction and serve as a tool for digging, defense, etc. SLO causes inflammation of the growth plate and poor formation of the nail. The nail is crumbly and weak and the horny covering is poorly attached to the quick. In the early stages, this presents as the nail peeling like a shrimp. The horny covering separates from the quick yet is attached at the growth plate. The separation is very uncomfortable and will usually result in a limp and possibly some minor bleeding.

As the disease continues, the nail sheaths (skin from which the nail emerges) can become swollen and infected. Most owners notice something is amiss long before this point and seek treatment.

Initial Treatment

Doctor Cook started Nick on a course of oral steroids and tetracycline. He also prescribed topical steroid (Synotic) to apply to the nail growth area at the knuckle. Doctor Cook also started Nick on Vitamin E (400 IU), niacinamide, and fish oil. I was to give the fish oil 180 mg EPA per 10 pounds of greyhound.

Your dermatologist will prescribe the dosage rates for the niacinamide and fish oil and leave you to calculate the proper amounts for the products you are using. It is important to give the fish oil at the proper rate to get the dosage he recommends. Excessive fish oil adversely affects blood clotting. Do the math.

Your vet will prescribe initial treatment based on the assessment of the hound’s condition.


SLO is an autoimmune disorder. It is not cured, just managed. The initial treatment with tetracycline and steroids brings the inflammation under control quickly to restore comfort. Continued treatment with niacinamide, fish oil, and Vitamin E manages the condition long term.

One issue I encountered was that I had misplaced my vet’s instructions and treatment began to drift.

Reference 2 gives dosages for a typical 60 pound greyhound.

  • EPA 180 mg per 1o pounds of greyhound (5 kg)
  • 500 mg nicainamine every 8 hours
  • 400 IU Vitamin E every 12 hours

The combination is synergistic so both the fish oil and the niacinamide must be given to maintain relief. The Vitamin E replaces E lost to fish oil metabolism. Some fish oils are supplemented with Vitamin E so don’t double up if you give a fish oil with a stated Vitamin E potency.

Not all Vitamin B are equal

Niacinamide is one of the many forms of vitamin B manufactured. Get this one. Not niacin, nor the non-flushing alternative. The body converts each of the three into Vitamin B but the but each has different secondary effects. Only nicinamide has the correct internal therapeutic action though all 3 will prevent deficiency diseases.

Niacinamide plus tetracycline is as effective as oral steroids in the initial treatment of several inflammatory diseases and its low toxicity and lack of side effects makes naicinamide preferred for maintenance. I give Nick 500 mg once or twice a day with peanut butter. Based on my reading today, I need to be careful to give 2 or 3 doses a day. It has a strong taste and is uncoated so pill with peanut butter.

Niacinamide is available over the counter in the US by special order from Target and CVS. A bottle of 90 or 100 tablets is about $5 so I buy in lots of 5 bottles to make it worth while. This usually lasts about a year. It can also be ordered from Amazon. Be careful that your supplier doesn’t don’t substitute on you.

The first year

If you give the fish oil at the proper dosage, the nails should show improvement over the first three months of treatment. It took me a good bit of fiddling around to begin to use bulk oil and to give an adequate amount.

Initial treatment brought improved comfort for Nick but his nails continued to peel while I learned to get the Synotic in the right place and tried various forms of oil. I had been getting capsules from the vet and giving 4 grams of oil a day. That was too little. We continued to treat a peeled nail every month or two.

After a bit, the vet decided that it was easy to get oil out in town and stopped carrying the oil capsules. I picked up some Verus coat supplement from my food dealer and began giving it. Over a couple of months, the splitting decreased while continuing the Synotic, E, and B with the oil.

The Verus oil was derived from Flax seed and was low in EPA and DHA relative to fish oil so I looked for a cold water fish oil to give in its place. I found two that are available in the US, Sea Pet and Alaska Natural. The oil that you give should have a statement like

  • provides 775 mg of EPA, 520 mg DHA and 200 IUs (134mg) of natural form vitamin E with each teaspoon.

that allows you to calculate the proper amount of oil to give. For 70 pound Nick, the dosage of this product works out to 1.6 teaspoons or 2 teaspoons. I’ve used both but tend to buy the Alaska Natural which is about $32/quart from my pet food dealer. The product comes in a thick hard plastic bottle with a 1/2 teaspoon pump. The Sea Pet product comes in a lighter soda plastic bottle without a pump. Both should be refrigerated once you start to use them to retard oxidation.

Sea Pet offers the cold water fish oil in three grades, regular oil, and two oils that have elevated levels of EPA and DHA. These sell at a significant premium proportional to the increased DHA/EPA level but the dosage is lower so they work out similarly cost wise per treatment. If you are experiencing sloppy stools, the more concentrated oil will help with that while still providing adequate levels of EPA and DHA. The Sea Pet products are available locally in the Virginia Tidewater and are easily mail ordered from the usual suspects.

After switching from fish oil capsules

Several months after I began giving bulk oil in the chow Nick experienced a reduced rate of nail splitting. The initial improvement occurred with the flax based oil but the best improvement came with the switch to salmon oil. For the two years that I’ve been giving salmon oil, the split nail rate showed a big drop. Nick is getting about 1 teaspoon of oil per 10 pounds of Nick, maybe a bit more. I had been putting 8 pumps or 4 tsp on a ration. Over time, the amount crept up. Having found Reference 2 and doing the math, I can reduce this to 3 pumps per ration.

Nick likes the salmon oil and won’t eat until I’ve put oil in his ration. He goes to the fridge and barks when time to be fed. He associated the oil with dinner and barks at the fridge rather than at the coat close where the food bin is. So I guess he likes it. It’s definitely a better deal than gelcap in peanut butter.

Four years on

Nick still has SLO. It’s an autoimmune disorder, but his is managed and he is comfortable. Peeled nails are rare but his nails are still dodgy as indicated by the crumbly ends. But the horny covering is smoother and is well attached to the quick. Splitting or peeling is rare because they are short and nail quality is improved. Nick is not not reactive to having his nails wiggled and prodded but he’s a grump about it and will tell me off if I’m overly poky about it.

One nail refuses to grow straight and has a rough porous feeling covering. the others are straight with blunt ends. Normal nails are like a machine sharpened pencil with a slick covering. So his are not normal but he is comfortable and his disease is well controlled.

Fish Oil and Clotting

Nick was due for dentistry about a year ago. In preparation, the vet ran a clotting time as part of Nick’s annual blood work. And found it slow. She prescribed Vitamin K treatment and did another draw. Nick was in spec. We scheduled surgery. They did a draw that morning and he was out of spec. So we did a second round of K and did the surgery immediately at the end of the course of K. Success. And he needed no extractions. Go figure.

I was reading another blog about SLO and discovered that fish oil (DHA and EPA) adversely affects clotting time. Nothing to be concerned about regarding every day nicks and scrapes but of concern when surgery is scheduled. The long and short of it is to consult with the dermatologist whenever surgery is planned as the fish oil is an important factor in the ongoing management of SLO. And to alert the vet when emergency care is needed.

Reference [1] mentions the clotting problem also and cautions against exceeding the recommended dosage for that reason.

Greyhounds Home automation

A few days with TrackR Bravo

Bluetooth item trackers are all the rage if the Interwebs are to be believed. These gadgets are dog tag sized devices designed to be tucked into a wallet, stuck to mobile items, or  added to a key ring. They are basically Bluetooth 4 beacon devices that advertise their presence. To be an item tracker, they need to do little more. Just play Marco Polo with a mobile or other compatible Bluetooth device. About 5 or 6 companies make these things with another entering the market every few months. Most fundraiser on Indigogo so that is a good place to keep an eye peeled for new developments in this space.



The first is a link to a TrackR Bravo referral code. The second is a link to the Indigogo campaign of the European upstart mentioned below. One of the perpetrators designed Steve Jobs yacht. The third is a link to the TrackR Atlas Indigogo campaign. The fourth is Wikipedia on Bluetooth 4.0 protocol.

Web reviews can be stale

Things are highly fluid in this space, especially with the application. Most brands get the hardware right and the app usable then go to market. Once launched, they continually improve the app to fix problems and refine the user interface. Last season’s review on Engadget or Gizmodo will not reflect the current product experience.

Personal Opinion

My personal opinion is that the advertising copy writers are overselling these devices but that they can be useful if you understand their capabilities and limitations and use them within those capabilities and limitations. I’m writing this article to offer you my understanding of these devices and their application in hopes that this will spare you some disappointment and help the product category find its niche.

Apps and beacons don’t currently interoperate. It would be nice if a single app would support multiple beacon families because manufacturers are tailoring the devices for different applications using different packaging. For example, one is credit card sized for use in wallets. Another is packaged for pet tagging. Some are thicker to have longer battery life.

Not for life-safety use

The Bluetooth beacons don’t work well enough to serve as a wander alert for people or pets. The desire to keep them low power and small prohibits putting a GPS receiver and cellular radio in the device which means that location must be indirect. When a receiver hears a beacon, it reports its position and the beacon ID to HQ and HQ notifies you if it is one of yours. This is what TrackR calls “crowd GPS”. It is not a substitute for the real thing when it comes to life safety.

Dave dips a toe in the waters

TrackR, one of the better known brands in the US, held a buy one get one sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Having purchased a new car that has high tech keys, and having successfully laundered one of my two keys (it lived, this time), I decided some precautions are in order. Can a Bluetooth tracker be helpful? So I bought 2 pair, one to go on the keys and one to go on the houndies.

My trackers arrived shortly before Christmas so I downloaded the app, set up the trackers one at a time so that they would actually be attached to the things they were named for, and gave them a try.

The pairing process is simple. You download the App, get an account from the manufacturer, and pair each critter. The pairing starts with the app and the mechanics are app specific. Basically, you tell the app to listen for a tracker, you press a button on the tracker to start it advertising, and the app finds and logs the device. The app will ask you to name the device. Once the device is named, setup is complete and you can move on to the next.

What the beacons do

The beacons announce themselves and listen for the controlling terminal. On command from the controlling terminal, they begin chirping. On a second command, they stop chirping. The beacons are always announcing at a low rate to save battery while allowing themselves to be detected

The controlling terminal listens for the beacons. The Bluetooth 4 protocol lets the beacon report the transmitted power. The receiver includes the received signal strength along with the packet. This lets the terminal indicate if the beacons is near (within a meter or so), close by (within 5 meters), or distant (can be heard but faintly). The protocol does not allow the terminal to determine a bearing or a range.

How are beacons most useful?

I bought my TrackR Bravos with the intent of finding the car keys when they went missing and with the hopes that they would prove useful with my hounds.

Locating hounds

The Marco Polo process is slow and the radio is weak so it is unlikely that a Bluetooth tracker will prove useful in locating a walkabout houndy, I was hoping that I could tell if Nick was exploring a neighbor’s back garden from the street but the radio strength and dynamics just don’t permit it to see a moving greyhound. So dog recovery the old fashioned way, check each back garden.

Locating keys

Trackers do work well for the missing key problem however. Tell missing keys to sound off. If the sound comes from the washer drum, you’ve just averted trouble. The TrackR Bravo makes a distinctive chirp using an FM modulated pulse that rises in volume and frequency. You won’t mistake it for the fridge door ajar alarm, the oven timer, or incoming SMS alert. It is distinctive but not very loud. It might be hard to hear in a noisy environment or across a large room. And not from the neighbor’s back garden. But it can be heard from a pocket,  a laundry bin, or washer drum with the door open.

Locating your mobile

Location works both ways. Pushing a button on the TrackR fob will cause your mobile to sound off. Much more convenient that firing up Find My iPhone if you know the phone is in the house. You may have to send the wake-up in multiple rooms but it does work. The ping is different than the one Apple uses but it can be differentiated from most normal phone noises.

Digression on modern car keys

My VW keys have survived a run through the wash but the dryer will probably fry their brains. Modern keys have RFID transponders and near field transponders that open car doors and allow you to start the car. The transponder ID is matched to the vehicle and the vehicle responds only to the registered transponders. That means you can’t go to Home Depot to have a key cut for a few dollars. It is back to the dealer for expensive parts and a hour of tech time to pair the new key to the vehicle. And if your vehicle is old, you may have to wait for Black Forest elves to make a replacement. So caution is good.

TrackR Atlas, Greyhound Doorbell?

TrackR has an Indigogo project to raise funds for a device they call TrackR Atlas. Atlas is a night light sized plugin terminal that listens for beacons from all manufacturers. Put one Atlas device in each room to be covered and it will tell you by WiFi what can be heard in that room. The app can be configured to give an alert when a devices enters and leaves Atlas’s earshot.

So, what might this be good for? A greyhound door bell? They never remember to ring the bell. And they may bark once to call you to the door. The bark is optional. So, what happens if I plug in a TrackR Atlas on the back stoop? Will it tell me when a houndy comes up on the stoop? Probably. Most of the time. I can come to the door and let them in.

TrackR Atlas is the first product brought to my attention that will report other maker’s beacons. If you have a Tile or one of the European brands, you can use them with TrackR Atlas. One French brand has an Indigogo to launch their products in the US. To differentiate themseves, they chose to use a bigger battery and go for 100 meters range vs the 10 meters or so that a TrackR Bravo can manage.

So Won’t Ring Announce the Dogs?

I had considered using a Ring doorbell for this task but the motion sensor gives a fair number of cry wolfs from passing traffic. Having an emitter on the hound solves the motion detector cry wolf problem. If only Tracker would make the TrackR Atlas device outdoor temperature rated. Basically, it needs to work from -40F to 120F or so, operating temperature, not storage. Mine is under canopy sparing it the summer sun. It does not need to be drip proof as electrical code outdoor outlet assemblies are required to be drip proof in the US.

Crowd Location

So, what happens if your dog goes walkabout at the park? That’s where “crowd GPS” comes in. Each TrackR app listens for all TrackR beacons, not just the ones paired to it. When a mobile hears a TrackR, it reports the TrackR UUID and the phone’s location to TrackR world headquarters. World HQ tells your phone where your beacon was heard. This mechanism has successfully recovered walkabout dogs in an urban environment.

One of the TrackR sales pages shows where TrackR apps are active. Just where they are, no identifying information. This gives you a feel for coverage in your city and neighborhood. There are several instances of the App active in within a few miles of home. Not enough to find a walkabout dog.


Got Ya Plus 13 Months

I’m late. I meant to write this in October but got distracted by contractors.

Missy, Nick and I have been together for 13 months and she’s been an absolute joy. She’s finally felling pretty settled in as indicated by a drop in nervous play, chewing, and funky emissions. She’s still an active goofball but she’s happy to have a yard in which to romp, loves to hang out on warm evenings, and takes great joy in trolling school kids, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.

Bedtime Dog

At sunset a neighbor would walk her terrier mixed breed. This stumpy little guy was white with black spots and walked the street head out and determined. Because he showed up every evening just past sunset, we took to calling him bedtime dog. Missy would stay in the yard until she’d chased bedtime dog at the fence. Take her in before bedtime dog was chased and she’d pester you to go back out. I think they had a thing going.

Improved Confidence

After a summer of contractors, day care at Judy’s, and random trips, Missy is much more confident with strangers and has taken the lead on our walks. Missy is still reserved with visitors but she’ll usually stand with me while visiting rather than hiding behind. She’s doing much better when out shopping but a trip to Home Depot is still a bit much stimulation for her.

She and Nick Get On

Don’t even think of giving preferential treatment. She figured out that Nick was getting fish oil on his ration and she wasn’t. They both became fussy eaters because Missy wanted fish oil and Nick had to check both dishes to find the one with fish oil. This fall, I found both standing at Nick’s ration grumbling. So now they both get oil. Other than that, they get on pretty well. Occasionally, Nick tries to pull rank for preferred seating but she’s not buying it. Rhea would let him have where ever. Missy tells him off. And when Missy calls out in the garden, Nick comes running to join the chase. He definitely looks after her.


Got ‘yah plus six months

It’s hard to believe Missy has been with us for 6 months, but she has. She is developing into a confident companion with a definitely playful and goofy personality.

Six months on, Missy is becoming comfortable in the neighborhood and is often out front on walks, is learning to visit with neighbors, and to be more comfortable around novel sights and sounds. She’s eager to go for walks and on rides to do errands. She still has mixed feelings about strangers. She’ll visit with some but is shy with others.

Missy has become quite the terrorist at the fence. She’s taken to chasing joggers but not walkers, and kids with wheels: bikes, skate boards, scooters, if they’re not walking, she’ll chase them. The kids have figured out that the fence is good so they largely ignore her. We are working on “calm dog”. I teach that at the door so they’ll stop bouncing and squirming to have leads hooked up to walk. They’re pretty motivated to go out so it is easy to teach. To my surprise, if I tell her “calm dog” as a neighbor walking a dog approaches, she’ll stay calm for much of the approach but she’s still getting excited once they reach the corner and are along side the fence. I think it will come with time.

Missy has become a frenzied digger. The photo above is of the hole she dug where there was once an aucuba. The landscapers moved it for me as part of a general back garden make over. They filled the hole with nice soft top soil which is now scattered. The plan is to make a boarder of paving tiles, put a layer of rock in the bottom, and add some sand on top so that they have a nice clean, dry nest for sunbathing.

Missy is determined that that is her hole. She’s taken to doing some frenzied digging, giving it a heavy marking, and back filling it a bit. Stinking Nick better not dare trespass on her hole.

Missy is playing less fetch but there are clearly times when she needs a ball thrown for her either in the back garden or in the house. The red ball in the photo is a favorite. It has a soft ribbed design that makes it fun to carry, toss, and snatch on the fly. This got quite animated one evening at sunset and included running yard-spanning figure eights. Missy always sat in the back racing, but probably because it was boring. She’s sure acting like she would have been a super coursing dog. She really loves chasing her ball and playing at it.


Got Ya plus 2 months

Wild Child Full of Chase

Missy is now my wild child full of chase. She is a living fireball full of adolescent dog energy. Generally, she’s quiet about the house but let her out in the dog paddock and she’s a wild woman. She loves to play with her stuffies, mostly hunting play. She’ll charge them, snatch them from the ground, and go ripping about with them, often throwing them into the air. Thankfully, she’s more restrained in the house but she can get pretty bouncy when cabin fever sets in.

Missy’s house manners have been impeccable. She’s a bright girl and assertive. When she needs attention, she comes and asks and has paired words to activities. So 20 questions is beginning to work with her. This skill is always a big help to identify what a needy dog act is about.

Nick and Missy Get On

Nick and Missy Together

Missy and Nick are comfortable in close quarters and get on well. I’ve not seen any possessiveness or indications that one feels that the other is a favored child.

Missy knows how Nick asks for food and comes running to clean up anything he doesn’t eat. Missy’s Delta Tau Chi name is Hoover! She eats everything in sight. That’s why they are “sight hounds.” Unattended food is hers except when Nick gets there first.

That said, Missy has impeccable table manners. I feed her first while preparing my dinner and Nick and I eat together. Missy lies quietly while Nick eats but is right there for leftovers. I’ve been picking Nick’s dish up so he can have his leftovers later. Nick is a picky eater on his current food so I’m going to look about to see if I can find something he likes better.

But he and Rhea always grazed and I could free feed them by measuring out two rations twice a day and letting them nibble as they would. Not with Missy Hoover in the house!


Missy and Nick play a bit in the yard but Missy is a bit fast and rough for old man Nick. He often ducks and covers in the car port when he’s had enough play. She’s full of adolescent energy and will lead Nick about the back garden and then double back on him. All in good fun but greyhound fast and rough.

Sleeping Arrangements

My bed hogs left me the crate

Now that it is cool in the evening, Missy or Nick or Missy and Nick will hop in bed with me. Missy is clever and settles by the feet where there is room. I suspect she learned this skill from Jennifer in a single bed while at Second Chance. Nick has been working on it for 5 years but I suspect there is method to his selective amnesia. He plops down across the pillows and won’t budge until bribed to move. He’s definitely trained me to produce a cookie at bed time!

Missy’s Film Career

I’ve been accumulating a good bit of dog play video. It’s a good way to document their development and to keep entertained when bored. I started filming Lance and Rhea while in Rhode Island. Greyhounds always get frisky in the light snow at the start of a storm so I began by taking snow storm video and just sort of kept on. I’ve been editing the clips in iMovie and posting them to my You Tube account which you can find from my Google+ profile.

This clip is of Missy and Teddy in the back garden. Victor Wooten’s The Hawk from his Music Lesson record provides a groove. The Music Lesson has an accompanying text designed for guided self-study in jazz improvisation. Victor’s text is groove player oriented but these short pieces seem designed for a student to play along either as a grove player or to build improvisation skills.


Got-ya + 2 weeks

Petting Out

I can’t brag on Missy enough. She’s been so easy after a couple of tense days while she was deciding we were keepers. Just 3 months ago, she was in a racing kennel at the Mobile Greyhound Park, a dim spot in the industry. After 40 starts, she was retired because she ran in mid-pack with no prospects for improvement. She received her pre-adoption health care in Mobile. From there she went to a Florida minimum-security prison to go through the Second Chance at Life foster care training program. After 2 months with her trainer in a dormitory environment, it was into a dog hauler for the trip to South Hill and by car from South Hill to Norfolk. Missy spent several hours with Old Dominion Greyhound Adoption. Sam and Gay Latimer looked after her for until I could hook up with them for delivery in mid-afternoon. She was pretty wary but eventually she was willing to load up for the ride home. We delayed delivery until after I had finished a morning engagement so I could stay with her to begin the bonding process.

First Days Home

Greyhounds bond with their new pack mates during the first two or three days at home. Until bonding is well underway, risk of a loose dog running off is pretty great so you can’t be too careful with doors, gates, and comings and goings during the bonding period. Missy pretty quickly decided she had it good and should keep Nick and I. The changes during the first 3 days were pretty dramatic as she dropped the shyness and learned the household routine.

Around home, she was uncertain of me and some spaces at home, especially the sally port into the back garden. This is a narrow area between the car port shed wall and the side yard fence that is about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long. She really didn’t want to go in there, probably a reaction to rough handling being loaded into the starting boxes at Mobile. Over the first week, this behavior gradually resolved itself with patience and gentle leadership on my part and lots of treats.

Missy and Nick

Missy and Nick hit it off pretty well. There’s been amazingly little indoor posturing on Nick’s part. For the most part he has been gentle with Missy and Missy has been comfortable with normal encounters in the confined spaces of a small mid-fifties modern hip roofed ranch. It is not unusual for there to be some telling off when a hound approaches a lying hound but she’s told Nick off only twice that I’ve seen and he’s not told her off. As you can see, they are both comfortable piling on the big Bowser life raft bed and will share my bed.

While I’m Out

I’ve let them have the run of the house unmuzzled while I’m out. I’ve tried to limit trips to 4 hours or less so we’re not testing Missy’s endurance limits. So far no signs of separation anxiety or unpleasantness during my absence. I expect this will continue as both are generally well behaved while I’m in.

The Back Garden

Missy likes to rip about with a ball or stuffy and actually plays fetch. Nick may be angling for a more dominant position while they are out in the garden. I’m seeing some posturing during chase play. If there is some tension, the dog in back will do some vocalizing and possibly some air snapping.

Missy will start play with a stuffy, Nick will get in trail and hang in for a few laps with some vocalization. Missy will entertain him for a few laps of the garden then turn out and tell him off. You can see this in this video. I pieced this together from short clips taken over the past two weeks. So far, no bickering matches and no evidence of teeth.

The catch is that most outings are calm and orderly. It is only when I get Missy spun up with a toy that this happens. Nick ducks out into the carport for a bit, screws up his courage, and emerges for this bit of chase. Nick is starting to feel his 8 years and Missy is still less than 3 and track fit. Fortunately we have 40 by 90 fenced so they can’t get going fast and are always in sight. I’m working on teaching them to come to me when things appear to be escalating. So far, so good.


During this period, I gently introduced her to walks in the neighborhood. You have to let them take things at their own pace. It can take a while to undo the harm of a scary encounter with common neighborhood hazards like children, other pets — especially those with rough coats who appear aroused to a smooth coated greyhound, charge the fence dogs (greyhounds are particularly sensitive to fence posturing), cats, the hoody shuffle teen, etc. So far, this process is going well but we are careful of when we are out and that we’re away from the bus stops when school buses are releasing packs of rowdy children. I’m also careful to alert folks at a distance that Missy is newly retired and may react to them. If I see ears go up, I get the dogs onto a yard and we watch whatever prompted the reaction pass. So far, so good.

After 2 weeks, Missy likes walking with Nick and Nick seems more confident with another hound at his side. This summer he was becoming shy about walks after being charged by a couple of loose dogs and an encounter with a nest of tracker-jackers (red wasps). Yes, one trial learning is possible. He avoided that street for a month. Missy was a bit uncertain out in the hood the first week but she’s getting pretty confident and will walk our two favored blocks (less dog posturing at the fence) relaxed and in a decent heel. When she’s concerned, she’ll constantly change sides and generally be obnoxious so I am glad to see this development.


Jennifer taught Missy table manners so we were off to a good start for my meal. Missy’s Delta Tau Chi nick name is Hoover. She puts her food down pretty quickly then shifts suction to Nick’s dish. Not a dog to free feed. Her idea of free feeding is “food is free so I should eat it all.” So Nick and I are working out how to feed Nick. What works best is to feed Missy first, then feed Nick while I eat. Missy is good about taking a place in the corner and staying to be fed treats once her supper has kicked in and she is feeling satiated. The hard bit is to get Nick eating again on a schedule. I’ve cut his ration a bit so he’ll eat it all and we all eat together (approximately) as described above. Fortunately, Nick is not shy about asking for seconds and only as needed. He maintains weight well.


Missy’s Foster Mom

I thought I’d take a few minutes to introduce Jennifer, Missy’s trainer in 2nd Chance at Life’s inmate dog training program. Over the years I’ve heard stories about correctional institutes working with outside groups to introduce selected inmates to dogs and dog training. These stories have been favorable with good rehabilitation for both dogs and inmates. The rescue dogs get a chance to start a new life and the inmates experience the joy of life with dogs, learn compassion and responsibility, and dog training skills.

Missy came with the following wishes from Jennifer.

  • To never have to be scared again, to only be happy.
  • To have a big yard to run around and catch balls.
  • Lots of yummy treats and maybe even some peanut butter
  • A big, fluffy, comfy bed or to be able to sleep with you in yours.

Jennifer’s Letter

Jennifer wrote the following longer letter

Thank you so much for adopting this sweet, amazing girl. Im sure she will seem a bit scared at first but give it a little time and I know she will get used to you and trust you. You are going to be happy with her.

Her favorite thing to do is play catch. She has so much fun playing with toys and balls. That could be a great way to get her out of a fearful state.

When God chose me to train Missy, He is always right. God always knows exactly what’s good for everyone. He truly blessed me when He put the two of us together. She is a spectacular friend and her love is amazing. Get ready to laugh at her goofy personality. I am so grateful for the time we got to spend together.

I pray you are blessed even more than I was, and that was a lot. I pray you guys live a long, happy, and joyful life. A life filled with love and peace. For an abundance of blessings.

Thanks for being the greatest part of the Second Chance at Life Program. Without people to adopt the dogs we would be doing this for nothing. But you make it possible for these dogs to leave hear and go on with their lives the way they were meant to. To be the animals they were born to be. Also, you make the Second Chance available to us here in prison. 


PS: Please do not crate

Thank you, Jennifer

You did a great job with Missy’s transition from track life to home life. Adopting a greyhound is always an adventure and I’ve had some that were messy rooms when they came to me. But with patience, consistency, and creative use of peanut butter, most problems can be solved in time.

Lord Nick, Missy’s consort, is an outgoing adventurer originally lacking in emotional control. Easily frustrated, he spent his first year with me being a total delinquent. At the end of our first year together (his 4th birthday), the frustration behaviors came to a stop and he’s matured into a normal adult. Four years on, he’s as nice a male greyhound as you’ll ever meet.

Nick and Missy hit it off pretty quickly as Nick escorted Missy around the back garden and showed her the house routine. She amazed me by recalling at the end of day 2, sitting on cue at the end of day 2, and by actually playing fetch. I’ve only met two former racers that would play fetch and Missy is the second. You’ve done a great job at getting her started.

I know it is tough to give one up. Foster dogs have a way of coming to stay out in the world. She’s been a real joy. We both fell for each other pretty quickly. As you know, it takes about 3 days for them to decide to keep you and she’s done that. Your compassion and concern for Missy are touching and the notes that you sent along with her have proven invaluable to me in helping her bond and settle into the household.

It was invaluable to know that she liked to play ball. Saturday morning (day 2), Nick wanted out at 0600. Missy hopped up too so I took them both out to the back garden without putting Missy on lead. She played little miss spook for 2 hours while I went through every stupid human trick I could think of to get her to let me approach and put her on lead. Then I remembered the note about balls and ran in to retrieve this dodge ball sized red thing that is designed to squeak and to be carried. It had sat unused as Nick and Rhea totally ignored it for several years. A few squeaks and the game was on. I played fetch with her until she finally tired, flopped down into a submissive position, and let me hook her up. Since then, we make it a point to play fetch on each long outing.

That note and the caution not crate here were invaluable. When I have to leave them alone, I’ve been turn-out muzzling and baby gating them. They use the back bedrooms (mine and my study) when I’m out. They quickly settle and nap until I return. I don’t think I’ll need to muzzle them. I took the photo up top after day 4 morning turnout. They are already comfortable together in tight spaces!

I hope things continue to go well for you, that you have more pups to train, and that you have a successful return to the world when your term is up.



Got Ya Day

She’s here!

And she’s a bit shy. But she had a pretty unsettling couple of days being loaded into a greyhound hauler for the trip to Tidewater, a few hours with Dominion Greyhounds adoption coordinator, then hand-off to me. The original plan was to do introductions at my friend Judy Schooley’s home, then take the dogs on home. Missy was so shy that I nixed that plan, stopped to retrieve Nick, and took her straight home. Of course, this was Friday, a mid-day beer tasting outing at O’Connor Brewing here in Tidewater with Judy, send Nick to Judy’s, drive to Gay’s to get Missy, then to Judy’s to retrieve Nick and home. We got in around 4 PM on Friday.

Missy loaded up without fuss. I put some treats in the way back, told her to kennel up, and she did. Nick crawled in the back seat of my Audi A4 Avant and snuggled up with the X-Pen that was in the foot well. The trip home was uneventful. Missy quickly settled down in the way back to watch the world go by. No words were said. No dirty looks were given. An auspicious beginning.


Once home, I brought both hounds to the back garden to meet. These things generally go easier when both dogs are off lead and have some room to move around. Missy and Nick walked around a good bit, Nick with Missy in tow as he showed her the back garden. Nick also introduced her to the back garden squirrels who are now picking pecans next door in a velociraptor free yard. Nick and Missy beasted one squirrel together then played a bit of chase. Nick was ready to go in but Missy decided to play hard to get. It took a good 30 minutes to coax her back in. She was shy of me and shy of the narrow back garden entrance. But after a half-hour of silly human games, I was able to get a lead on her and escort her in.

Nick settled right down while Missy toured the house. Eventually, she settled down and both goofed off until supper. Missy had not been fed before her trip north so she was ravenous. She ate her ration, then Nicks, then another two cups. A very full dog, she tossed the third ration up later that evening. For the rest of our turnouts, she went out on lead and dragged a lead to make her easier to retrieve.


Saturday got off to one of those starts. Nick wanted to go out at 0600. Missy wanted to come along. I let her off lead, mistake! Two hours later, she finally let me bring her in. Same not quite sure of me or the back garden gate thing. But her Second Chance trainer mentioned in her letter that Missy liked balls. I went in and brought out this big red thick-skinned dodge ball that can be rolled but is ribbed to allow a dog to carry it. I rolled it across the lawn. Missy went after it, grabbed it, and began ripping around the yard having a grand time. When she tired, she was ready to be retrieved and go in. During the course of Saturday, she realized that the retired moocher life was not so bad. By evening, she came when called to be put on lead and actually sat on cue. She slept through the night.


They change so much in the beginning. Missy and Nick trotted out into the back garden, did morning toilet, played some chase with the ball, and came in. I showered up for church with Missy paying special attention my bathing and dressing. Fortunately, shower doors open outward or I’d be chasing a wet dog about the house!

They both went out for pre-church toilet. Missy came right in and entered the house with minimal prompting. She’s getting the hang of this pet life pretty quickly. I brought them in and set up the baby gate with them in the two back bedrooms. Missy hopped up on my bed and settled down. Both were muzzled for some extra safety if someone stepped on someone and the stepped upon one took offense. It is rare for things to go to teeth in that circumstance but caution is wise in the beginning and during rough play.

By this point, it was pretty evident that Missy has decided to stay around. She’s sweet on me and on Nick and is a real hoot. She’s got the nicest ears and carries them half erect while she’s up and about and she is definitely playful. Nick has the running buddy he’s always wanted.


Introducing Dancin Bahama

The new chaos unit is in a halfway house beginning the transition from the working girl life to retired moocher life. According to Jennifer, her mentor, she is doing well with her house manners but is startled by noise. Not one to take to the Harbor Fest fireworks!  She’s expected to complete charm school in about 2 weeks and will be traveling to Tidewater Oct 16.

Thanks to her original owner, Peter Limer, for offering Dancer for adoption. Peter is a well respected NGA member and has campaigned a number of top gear dogs. He is well thought of in the industry and is regularly mentioned in NGA articles.

Dancing Bahama at her farm
Greyhound Data reports that Dancer had 40 starts, all finishing in the middle but off the back a couple of times. She was not covering her grocery bill so she’s petting out at 2 years 6 or so.

She’ll be my 6th retired racer. They’ve all been unique individuals and each one has presented his or her challenges. Dancer joins Lord Nick, also known as Nearly Headless Nick, Captain SLO (a story for another day), or Nick Nut. Nick fancies himself Alpha and can be a bit full of himself. But he’s acting like he’s ready for a best buddy. From her trainer’s notes and from her running style in her racing stats, Dancer is content to go along and get along. She didn’t have to be out front but was always in the thundering herd. I think she’ll be content to be Lord Nick’s consort. Lord Nick and Lady Dancer has a bit of a ring to it.

Messing around with available light


How Lance was Named


I adopted my first greyhound during the 1995 Tour de France. With Greg Lemond recently retired and a new American star, Lance Armstrong, beginning his career, I was following the race as best one could from Connecticut. Needless to say, I needed a name for a dog not knowing whether my luck of the draw would be a male or a female (bitch is the term of art). Application approved, I drive out to western Connecticut to pick up my new hound. The adoption coordinator brings out the two year old black boy pictured above, Boligee Pistola, called Pistol around the kennel. And Pistol had no idea he had a name. Needless to say, he really needed a name.

A few days before, there was a mishap on the Tour. An Italian rider on Motorola (Lance Armstrong’s team of the day) had gone off the road and over a mountain cliff to his death. With the Tour drawing to a close, young Lance decided to do something to commemorate his fallen comrade. On the last day of road racing, about 30 kilometers out (20 miles) Lance Armstrong attacked from the front of the pack opening a 2 minute lead. Out front by himself, he held his lead until the finish through the final climb up to a ski lodge. Breathless, he comes to a stop, dismounts, seeks out the Italian TV interviewer, and says in rough Italian, “Today, I rode with the strength of two men.” Lance showed serious courage on the final climb and some serious class with this act. I believe this win was the first stage win of his career. Up to this point, he had been learning the art and riding in support of the team stars.

I was so impressed with Lance Armstrong’s gesture that Pistol became Lance. Lance Armstrong, like Michael Phelps, has that unique combination of body structure, physiology, and competitiveness that it takes to be a world champion. Lance Armstrong is driven to excel while his namesake was content to sit in the back during his 1 month racing career. Lance Fourlegs quickly petted out. Lance Armstrong, gaining experience, learned the art of the Tour, and began to rise to the top of his sport to have his career interrupted by testicular cancer.

I can understand the temptation to use performance enhancing techniques in the Tour de France. What those riders do is amazing and if you’ve not tried to race bicycles or completed a 100 mile ride, it is hard to appreciate the challenges they are facing. The peloton races 200 kilometers (120 miles or so) and, tomorrow, they get up and do it again. The Tour is probably the toughest sporting competition on the planet. At the pace they are riding, the athletes deplete the body’s glycogen stores and must efficiently burn fat to complete the race. By the end of the Tour, each rider is ripped, probably 4 to 5 percent body fat even though they are eating 9000 or so calories per day. This is an event that places great demands on the body’s ability to recover to race again tomorrow.

The longest I’ve ridden is 108 miles on my first century ride. I love to ride and to bike trek but I don’t have the physiology for it. The next day, I was a dehydrated zombie walking around in a fog. It took a couple of days to recover. And no, I didn’t get up and do it again tomorrow; I was useless. Having this experience, I can understand the desire to have a technical edge to be ready to race next morning. European cycling started an arms race to make it possible to ride today’s times on today’s courses day after day with a rest day every four stages or so. Lance Armstrong joined that arms race and competed with the same drive and pursuit of excellence that he showed us on the road. I can understand why he did so and that he did does not lessen the courage and class he showed in that first stage win in his learning years.