Yesterday I loaded up Aero and Katie to try a little coursing. It was a private party and I was coming as the friend of some invitees. Nellie, Betsy and I met up with Julie, her whippet Rio and Aussie Tansy and headed out. A couple of one-lane bridges and lots of windy roads later, we arrived at a gorgeous home in the country with a beautiful barn and acres of pastures.
The rest of the party attendees mostly had big dogs. Really big dogs. Turns out our host and hostess breed lurchers and most of these were their pups from over the years. I guess it's kind of like a Timbreblue reunion but open to more guests and other breeds (we limit ours to whippets because though they can be fairly bigoted about other breeds, whippets generally get along with each other.)
Lurchers are a purpose-bred mix of any sighthound breed with any herding breed, and they are
generally used to bring in game. Our hostess told me they wanted dogs who could take down larger game than rabbits. (I didn't tell her about Boo and the groundhogs and I don't think she believed my story about Django and the deer, but I let it go.)
Lure coursing is a competitive sport developed for sighthounds -- the hounds chase a white trash bag attached to a string on a pulley. The course goes through a big open field with various turns and ends up back at the lure machine. It is supposed to test a dog's instinct for chasing game, but most dogs who are taken lure coursing never do hunt live game. It's just a doggy sport these days. On this day, there was no competition. It was a private get-together of friends and their dogs. We had a lovely day relaxing in the field watching dogs run the lure and not run the lure. Nellie had her Border Collie Jeb, who spent the whole day "giving eye" to the plastic trash bags. When his turn came to run, he tried his best to herd them, and I guess he figured he did okay since they went back to where they started. He must have thought those were the smallest, fastest sheep ever.
Our vet tech friend Marlena showed up later with her Boston Terrier
Barley, who was so eager to run I thought he would have an asthma attack waiting for his turn! That little fellow could fly! Julie's Aussie would not run, but whippet Rio is a pro and we gave Katie a try teamed up with him. She was a little confused at first, but figured out quickly what to do and though she never caught Rio, she was no slacker.
Next we thought, well, if Katie knew what to do, maybe she would show Aero. Wrong. Julie helped me get them lined up, the lure took out, we let the dogs go, and they headed off at a dead run. In the wrong direction.
They'd apparently decided to go for a lengthy "free run" up at the house, where there was a kennel, a barn, lots of interesting smells, a few other people.... Well, you get the idea. Julie and I hiked up that way to call them back, but they were having none of it. I kept catching glimpses of them darting in and out of hedges and checking out the horse barn. Zip zip zip.
"Food Chick is calling us."
"Shouldn't we go back?"
"Are you kidding??"
"We might get in trouble!"
"So what's she going to do, beat us?"
"Well, no, but she is going to be pretty mad."
"Nah. she's a pushover. She'll be so glad we didn't get hurt she'll forget she's mad."
"Oh grow up, kid! We're whippets! We don't take no steenkin orders!"
A lady who was headed down to the coursing party helped us by blocking them off finally. Eventually Katie came dashing back to me, grinning from ear to ear, and not long after, Aero came looking for her and we managed to snag him too. Then the long walk back down to the coursing group.
That was it for Aero, though I promised him we would try again another day after my heart rate recovered from this time. And after he has had a few obedience lessons. While Katie had the decency to look a little guilty for not coming when I called, Aero didn't even look my way!
Aero has a history, you know. A few years ago when he belonged to Cal Perry, he was sold to a breeder in Ohio. En route to his new home, he overnighted in West Virginia and escaped. In spite of lots of people searching for him, he seemed to have disappeared. This was in December, I believe. He lived for two months on his own in the WV mountains in the dead of winter. Eventually he was found and recovered, though by then his new owner had changed her mind, so (lucky for me!) he went back to Cal's house. But let's just say I was not looking forward to calling Calvin and telling him that Aero was on the lam again!
Anyway, after the great adventure, we let Katie run again with Rio and she almost caught him this time! Jeb the Border Collie got to "herd" the bags a few more times, and an interesting dog called a Leopard Cur took a shot at it. She decided against it, however, and ran back to her mom.
After the sun began to go down we all retired to the house for drinks and a really good dinner. Katie and Aero curled up together and slept till I came back out and I think they would have quite happily slept in the car all night.
Lots of fun and it made me wish once again that we had some regular lure coursing closer to our house. Watching whippets doing what they are bred to do is an experience that anyone who loves the breed should have!