Weekend Getaway

We recently spent a long weekend with our friends Janice and Richy and came home loaded with assorted fruits and vegetables from their garden, as well as homemade focaccia and Richy’s famous lime cheesecake. What I also wanted to come home with was an idea for a column.

At first, that didn’t look like it would happen. We boarded Gael, but we took Rhiannon with us because she doesn’t board well anymore. Since Rhiannon is 12 years old, she’s not so likely to supply a subject for a column.

I didn’t even need to put her on a leash when we went out. She just quietly wandered around the large yard, with me following after. Once, she made a circuit of the garden, inspecting the peaches that had fallen, but not showing much interest in eating one. After dark, I did leash her, not wanting her to turn into a predator should we encounter a deer, raccoon or possum. I needn’t have worried. Our evening trips outdoors were short and to the point.

The closest we came to an interesting anecdote was when it was time to leave. Rhiannon had curled up under the guest room bed and was quite comfortable, thank you. She did not want to come out. A spoonful of liver pate was needed to coax her out, and once outdoors, I had to lift her into the car; she refused to do it on her own, and just kept trying to get back into the house and, I guess, back under the bed.

So, a quiet weekend and a looming deadline. Then, Sunday afternoon, Richy’s brother-in-law arrived with his dog Ellie. Ellie is an absolutely adorable black and tan terrier mix. It’s hard to make a guess as to the mix, but it’s certainly a good one. Ellie has a short coat, a sweet expression, and drop ears. Her long tail, with a slight curl at the end, wags almost non-stop. I’d guess that she weighs about 15 pounds.

Ellie and Rhiannon never formally met. Although I was fairly sure Rhiannon would be friendly, I wasn’t 100 percent sure, and I didn’t want to risk a confrontation. Nothing spoils a relaxing weekend like a dogfight. So, for the few hours that Donald and Ellie were at the house, Rhiannon stayed in the guest room, probably under the bed.

Ellie is a therapy dog, and visits nursing homes and rehabilitation centers on a regular basis, giving residents a chance to talk to her and stroke her silky fur. Occasionally, she’ll even snuggle in someone’s lap.

She knows sit and down and will shake hands. She also takes treats gently, which always makes me happy. My male Corgis tended to want to take a person’s entire hand up to the elbow when offered a treat. Even Rhiannon will sometimes take more than the treat into her mouth. With the Corgis, it was always safer to just drop the treat into the waiting jaws.

I finished reading a novel about the Crusades over the weekend, and two breeds of dogs were mentioned, which had me at the computer. One was the Flemish Hound, which is another name for the Bloodhound. The other was the Cirneco, (plural: Cirnechi).

I thought this breed was possibly extinct, but it’s not. Its modern name is Cirneco dell’Etna; the “dell’Etna” was added in 1939 when the Italian Kennel Club recognized the breed standard. The breed is recognized all over Europe and Great Britain, and is in the miscellaneous class of the American Kennel Club.

The Cirneco has been in Sicily for over 2,500 years and is related to the Pharaoh Hound. The breed probably developed from dogs left by Phoenician sailors and, over time, became smaller, because of inbreeding, and fewer resources. It has the same coloring and upright ears of the Pharaoh Hound but is 6-10″ shorter than the Pharaoh Hound. The dog is found all over the island, but especially in the area of Mount Etna, and is a hardy hound who can hunt in high heat, on rugged terrain, and with little food or water over extended periods of time.

So, on my quiet weekend get-away, I met an individual dog, and, an entire breed that I never knew existed. The breed is relatively rare in this country, but the AKC plans to admit the breed into the hound group effective Jan. 1, 2015, so, by 2016, the breed should be represented at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. I can’t wait.