Jet, my Pharaoh Hound, turns a happy and healthy 11 this week. Without a doubt, he is my soul dog and I have come to love the breed. However, since I gave him a starring role in my novel--and I assume readers will enjoy him as a character--I want to warn people about the pitfalls of owning a high maintenance dog.
Jet is a sight hound, which means he has the attention span of a fly. He is also an intelligent dog who is extremely inventive when it comes to having fun. An inventive dog means trouble, especially if you are the type of owner who expects a dog's play schedule to match yours and to nap quietly in the sun the rest of the time.
Here is what I learned about my Pharaoh Hound after I brought him home:
I knew I had a dog that liked to run, so I was prepared with a fenced yard and puppy play groups. The two guys redoing my bathroom were not prepared. Jet got out an open door as they were bringing in a bath tub. They chased him in their truck three miles up the road where Jet finally stopped to make friends with the construction workers at a new shopping center.
Jet does not play fetch. Jet has two favorite games: You Can't Catch Me and I Have It and You Don't. Usually, I Have It and You Don't Is Played first--with the newspapers, a pair of socks or a paycheck. You Can't Catch Me follows as Jet scoots out the door that he opened when he came in from the back yard. If we tried ignoring Jet to extinguish the unwanted behavior, Jet would turn to his third favorite game: No One Wants to Play Right Now So I Will Tear Stuff into Pieces. After consulting with our local dog trainer, he said, "He's having too much fun." In other words, we needed a Plan B.
Plan B turned out to be the Extortion Game. We taught Jet to "bring it," which meant every time Jet stole something, we gave him the command and he returned it for a treat. It did not help that my teenaged children and I found the situation funny. Jet knew he had us. The Extortion Game continues to this day, but less often and less frenetically as Jet ages.
We can work with Jet and love him for his idiosyncrasies because Jet is an empty nest dog. As an alternative high school teacher, I find it therapeutic to adopt dog breeds with a streak of the delinquent in them. They respond to love and education when adolescents might not. Jet has also enjoyed an extensive education: Puppy Kindergarten, Advanced Puppy Kindergarten, Obedience Refresher, Agility, Rally Obedience and Canine Good Citizenship. In families where owners expect dogs to think and behave like human beings, where busy family schedules must take precedence or where people are just basic dog morons, Pharaoh Hounds would qualify as "bad dogs." We rescued a Pharaoh Hound who was a disastrous product of one of these idiotic dog owners. She was fearful, distrustful and had been abused in an attempt to correct her "problem" behaviors. We had to teach her to give herself a time-out when she felt anxious around new people. (More on her story later.)
This blog is my birthday gift to Jet, the most incredible dog I've ever owned. If you are looking for an unusual dog, forget the Pharaoh Hound. If you think you are among the 5% of Americans who would make a responsible owner of a Pharaoh Hound, think again. Get yourself a Golden Retriever or a big, friendly Lab. Let all the Pharaohs out there grow up with the special care and attention they need and deserve.