When I was nine years old, my parents bought a whippet. From that point, until I left the area in my mid twenties, these little dogs were a constant and profound influencing factor in my life.
Shortly afterwards, we moved out to a small farm with a variably sized cloud of whippets and whippet/ fox terrier crosses. At times we had up to eight, but the number usually hovered around four or five, as one would die, and new puppies would be kept on.
These were gnarly little working dogs, and their job was to hunt rabbits and foxes. It was a task they pursued with a singular passion. Incredibly fast dogs, whatever the whippets could not run down, the terriers would dig out. They made an excellent team of hunters.
For such delicate looking dogs, they have a surprisingly strong constitution. They almost never got sick with anything, and were remarkably stoic, although living the high risk lifestyle of farm dogs, only about one in three ended up dying of old age. With their job involving running at top speed through tangled undergrowth and broken wire fences, skin tears were common. They would quite often come home with an embarrassed look on their face, and a gaping hole in their side. I watched the vet stitch them back together so many times that in the end I learned how he did it. After that, I bought myself some fine curved needles, some waxed thread, a tube of anaesthetic gel and from then on, would stitch them up myself.
Naturally graceful dogs, they always have a sense of neatness and refinement about them. They are born to run, and enjoy nothing more than putting on an explosion of speed. All the best games involve chasing something. When not running, they lounge around, folding their long bodies into delightfully abstract shapes. They tend to be quiet, introverted, and standoffish, although they are also capable of being surprisingly cuddly for an animal which is all legs, ribs and nose.
We have been looking at getting dogs at our house again for quite a while. This is an idea I have taken quite a while to come around to. I was astonished to find that whippet puppies now come with a $2,500 price tag. That is three weeks average income where I live. One of the reasons we ended up with so many whippets on the farm (including my all time favourite, Kaos, the wonder dog) is that back then, we literally couldn’t give the puppies away. By going through a rescue centre, my wife managed to get us a pair of whippets very cheap.
These are two aging besties who made a charming and easy transition into our house. They are from different litters, but are only weeks apart in age, and have spent their whole lives together. They are nine years old so, like myself, are a little past their prime. They are quite dependent on each other, although becoming less so the longer they are here. Each comes with funny little character quirks, which we are not always able to explain. We don’t know a huge amount about their history, although they seem to have spent their days more as fashion accessories than anything else.
The boys love having them around, and I am not surprised. It has been a real delight to have these dogs back in my life again. I enjoy their quiet energy around the house, their graceful lines, and their funny little characteristic traits. They are a constant and charming source of joy.