This weekend marks eight years since Greta, or Greta Garbo as many of you will know her, first stepped over the threshold of what would become her forever home. Greta would go on to become a regular feature of our social media posts. Sadly Greta died at the end of the last year. Here, her human, Anna, tells us how she came to be such a great ambassador for Forever Hounds Trust and pays tribute to her wonderful dog.
This time 8 years ago, I was on my way to collect a friend for Holly.
Holly was a complicated bag of bones who I had been fostering for about 9 months. Deaf, underweight, unable to cope in close proximity to other dogs, she would, if provoked by them, protect herself with her teeth. After a short time with me at home it became clear she had two additional problems: pain and severe separation anxiety. So after getting on top of the pain with some medication and then after some carefully managed introductions to some ’sensible’ dogs, it was decided that Holly needed a friend. But it was going to have to be a very special dog that could live with Holly. We had missed out on a male greyhound before Christmas 2010 when my car broke down on the way to collect him. So when we arrived at kennels to do some volunteer walking the following January, I asked casually if any suitable candidates had come in. I was sent to a kennel to collect a girl – called Gretchen. Unlike the rest of the dogs which were all at the front of their kennels, barking and trying to get my attention, Gretchen was fast asleep in her bed and I almost didn’t see her. Once she realised I had come to take her for a walk, she did a delightful little jig on her delicate paws while I clipped her on her lead and we walked to the field together to meet Holly.
Greta got her name because as the 3 of us walked together, a volunteer from the other side of the field called out, “who is that?”
“Gretchen!” I yelled back.
But the volunteer misheard and shouted back: “Greta?”
This dainty blue thing was definitely starlet material – just like Greta Garbo!
Half way home, looking at her in the rear view mirror I wondered how she was feeling. She looked happy and appeared to be enjoying the ride. (She always loved a car journey)! I had butterflies in my tummy. I think at that point I had already decided to promote her from temporary foster dog with a ‘job to do’ – to ‘adopted best mate’! But it was sensibly suggested I wait awhile before signing adoption papers – we needed Holly’s approval first!
Two weeks later we were all driving back to kennels …. to sign the papers!
Jobs for Greta
Once home, Greta was immediately roped into volunteering for Forever Hounds Trust (at the time named Greyhound Rescue West of England). Her first job was to do absolutely nothing – at all! Do not get in Holly’s way; do not eat her food, definitely do not lay by her on the sofa!! Holly soon warmed to this unassuming and perfectly polite girl, and she began joining Greta for company on her bed (which usually left me with my heart in my mouth) or standing with her head pressed against Greta’s neck! I needn’t have worried, Greta knew just what to do – and more importantly what not to do. Her companionship was invaluable and gave Holly exactly the reassurance she needed to go on and live a more content and happy life.
In the early days, we volunteered at many events: whether it was a supermarket collection or a big country show, Greta’s big beautiful eyes and her eagerness to say “Hello” was enough to stop any unsuspecting member of the public for as long as it took them to put their hands in their pockets for a healthy donation and take away the message that they should immediately go home and apply to adopt a greyhound!
She came along to home visits, assessing the resident dogs for me and largely behaving impeccably – (except on the occasion a chicken found its way into the field she happened to be ‘doing a zoomie’ in!! The chicken did live to tell the tale! I went home with a red face and a muddy coat! The lady whose chicken it was went on to adopt one of our dogs!)
She welcomed many foster siblings into her domain which she did with good grace and patience. Their crate was her favourite place! But in return she shared her toys and beds (of which she had many!) She also shared her human, who was busy trying to find the imposter a home and help them learn the ways of a house dog, when I really should have been giving Greta the fuss and attention she deserved! I swear I saw her roll her eyes on more than one occasion! So you’d imagine that when the foster dog finally went to their forever home, she’d be pleased to have me back! No! I was usually met with an expression that said, ‘you have given my new friend away – again!’
As she got older and creakier it became clear that I needed to cut back on the events, or the amount of time we spent at those we still attended. However this didn’t stop her from approaching strangers on our daily walks. Interest was such I had to start allowing an extra few minutes on certain routes to cater for this ’social butterfly’ and I took to carrying Forever Hounds Trust business cards in my coat pocket – just in case!!!
She became a minor celebrity on social media promoting many fundraisers, notably: ‘Toby’s LeJog’ and more latterly Toby’s UK2Spain. Although credit must really go to Toby and his epic peddling – her humorous social media presence helped raise followers, awareness and many donations. This also led to a hilarious partnership with a very special Aunty and a mobile phone app: Greta launched her very own facebark page (she did it all herself of course!) initially to coincide with these two events, but when they were over, Greta went on to provide short, amusing and occasionally informative videos for her growing audience! Like her namesake – Greta was now an international star of the (small) screen.
Greta died quite unexpectedly but very peacefully from a stroke, just before Christmas. (It was also discovered that her kidneys were failing). She was 12 and 3/4. The decision was easy, the parting, less so. I miss her dearly. She was my muse and my constant companion. She gave me a sense of pride, calmed my nerves and made me smile. She was loved by family and friends alike.
I often stopped what I was supposed to be doing to grab the camera and try to capture her elegant form. Sharing her with the world was my pleasure. We were part way through making a series of amusing videos, rather ironically, about ‘how to keep your older dogs fit and beef burger ready!’ I shall finish the series one day, in some format or other as a nod of appreciation to all the canine professionals we had the benefit to meet in her lifetime, and, whose help meant she lived her best life. But for now I just want to pay tribute to her, here, on what should have been her Gotcha day, because she graciously gave up her retirement: the promise of a constantly available sofa, and the undivided attention of her human, to help Forever Hounds Trust rescue and re-home more of her kin. A choice made for her, not by her. So if you are out and about with your dog at a ‘Meet and Greet’ this weekend; or you’re knee deep in rehoming paperwork while your dog waits patiently for its walk; please give them a gentle hug or a special treat and say “fank-roo!”
Volunteering for Forever Hounds Trust has given me many unique opportunities, not least of which was adopting Greta! So if you are looking for something rewarding to do this year, why not consider a voluntary role at Forever Hounds Trust. Pick up the phone or send them an email – #itswhatgretawouldhavewanted