“Yet noble descendant Of fierce fighting sire You are playing tonight With my child by the fire.”
(Excerpt from Hound of the Heroes by William Dammarell)
One does not so much “own” an Irish Wolfhound, as be “owned by” an Irish Wolfhound. I am currently “owned” by two, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are typical of their breed and are a never-ending source of amusement and joy. Once you’ve been “owned” by a Wolfhound, you’ve been touched by a special magic, and you’ll never be the same. But be warned! They are addictive! You can’t just stop at one!
I am an owner, not a breeder – the thought did cross my mind, but I had to be honest – I’d make a lousy breeder – I’d never be able to give any of my “grand-puppies” away! Not for any amount of money!
“I will give thee a dog which is got in Ireland. He is huge of limb and for a follower equal to a man. Moresoever, he hath a man’s wit and will bark at thine enemies but never at thy friends. He will see by each man’s face whether he be ill will or well disposed towards thee. He will lay down his life for thee.” (The Icelandic Saga of Njal; A.D. 970-1014)
I am now an experienced Irish Wolfhound “mummy”. A great deal of time and expense has gone into my “education”, but now my furry children have me well trained. I don’t claim to be an expert on Irish Wolfhounds and all I want to do is share the wonderment that is ownership of one of these magnificent animals. You can laugh with me or laugh at me… nothing phases Irish Wolfhound owners… we’re well-trained, you see!
If you’re one of the hundred or so who has ever stopped me in the street to slobber all over one of my dogs and ask me “where can I get one?”, you may want to consider just what you’d be getting into if you DID get one. So let me begin at the beginning…
So you want to adopt an Irish Wolfhound!
Years ago, when my husband and I first saw “Chewbacca” (the “Wookie” who travelled around the universe with a youthful Harrison Ford in Star Wars), we looked at each other and said, “I want one of those!” Alas, the Wookie was a mythical creature, and to our knowledge, nobody was breeding them here on earth.
Then one day we came across a photo of an Irish Wolfhound, standing with his face to the wind. The resemblance was uncanny. “There’s our Wookie!” We cried simultaneously, and without any preparation, promptly decided to adopt one. Ah, those were our innocent days!
Irish Wolfhounds are noble animals; gentle giants, whose basic nature is that of your typical “couch potato”. They love their comfort as much as you do. They make perfect “nannies” for your children and have the patience of a saint. Nevertheless, ownership of such a large dog brings plenty of responsibilities, as well as immense pleasures – as we were soon to find out.
First there was the added expense of having to trade our beloved Mercedes for a large four wheel drive station wagon – to fit the dogs in. Next came the sofa repairs, although, as there is no longer any room on the sofa for us, I just cover the ripped areas with a blanket and hope for the best. Fencing has had to be strengthened, and I’ve lost count of the number of times hubby has replaced the flywire in our screen doors. Our once smooth suburban lawn (well, it used to be a lawn – not sure what you’d call it now), is looking decidedly rustic. Actually, it looks like a horse paddock. As for my carpet and walls, well, let’s not go there, but please don’t be offended if I never invite you into my house.
I love my gentle giants, and so what if they’ve almost ruined the garden, the carpet, the walls, the sofa, and nearly sent us bankrupt with the food and vet bills – I couldn’t imagine life without them. They have many wonderful qualities which enable me to feel this way. They share every aspect of our lives, and like nothing more than to help “mother” in her home office, and “father” in the garden. In fact, our two Irish Wolfhounds have been quite industrious this summer, helping father with garden renovations. I do believe they are trying to build a swimming pool at one side of the house. It must annoy them so when father keeps filling it in again. They play very nicely with our daughter too. They particularly like to sneak into her bedroom at night and select a toy each to romp with outside. They never destroy the toys. I always find them in pristine condition, albeit a little wet and icky from the experience.
Our initiation into Wolfhound parenthood began with the adoption of Wookie, a grey male. (What else did you expect we’d call him?) Our daughter was around two years of age, so we felt like we had two babies to take care of. Wookie was a real clown, and to describe him as clumsy would be putting it mildly. When Wookie was only six months old, we realised that sharing our small house with him was going to be a challenge. Wookie’s tail could clear a table with one swish, and leaving food on the kitchen bench was inviting trouble. Unlike other dogs, who can only smell the delicious leftovers sitting on the sink and dream about it, Wolfhounds can see it, and reach it.
Soon after the arrival of Wookie, we found ourselves adopting a “rescue” dog. (Sadly, some people don’t research the requirements of owning one of this breed, and realise later that they should have bought the miniature poodle instead.) Standing at approximately 90cm (almost 35 inches) tall at the shoulder and weighing in at 78 kilos, she was, and is, a sight to behold. We guessed her age to be around three years, and we decided to celebrate her “birthday”, with chocolate cake, every St. Patrick’s Day. Wookie took a shine to her immediately, and although Guinny, as we decided to call her, sometimes found him to be a bit of a handful, she developed a fondness for him, and the two became firm friends.
Guinny, we discovered, loves a nice cup of coffee. Not the plain black stuff. She likes hers white with two sugars, and no, of course we don’t give our dog coffee! We don’t need to. She helps herself. I always know she’s been at my coffee by the telltale spills around the cup, or if I miss that (sometimes she cleans up after herself to hide the evidence), I know she’s been there by the strange taste left behind in the cup.
Irish Wolfhounds are warm and affectionate with sensitive, gentle natures. I don’t know whether I’d recommend them as guard dogs, although owners can be confident that if attacked, their Wolfhounds would defend to the death. The sheer size of these animals, combined with their deep, impressive barks, is probably enough to scare off most would-be burglars, but I don’t know whether that would work at my house. I can just see it now. There they’d be, standing at the fence, each with their own favourite toy held firmly in their powerful jaws. My two fearless defenders of home and hearth… “Don’t come in here or my teddy will get you!”
Owning an Irish Wolfhound is an honour. To be accepted and loved by one in return, is truly a gift from God. My own furry children are a never-ending source of amusement and companionship, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of my experience. (Talking of scratching… is that a flea?)