Sunday, November 20, 2005

Oreo's Birthday

Today is Oreo’s birthday. She’s eight years old.

Originally, she was MPS Teresa. Born 20 November 1997, MPS Teresa was one of seven pups in a litter from MPS Nancy by Trojan Episode.

MPS Nancy had one 2nd-place finish in a major sweepstakes. In her best year (1995), she ran in 27 races, finishing 1st six times, 2nd four times, and 3rd twice. By early 1997, her career had tailed off and she managed 3rd place just once in her last seven races and retired from racing. She eventually produced two litters, neither of which had any outstanding racers. This is MPS Nancy, Oreo’s mom, in pampered retirement:

Sire Trojan Episode, on the other hand, was a multirace champion, son of racing legend Dutch Bahama. Trojan Episode sired 1504 dogs, nearly two hundred of which were good enough to run in major stakes races. (The greyhound racing industry frequently resorts to artificial insemination; Trojan Episode wasn’t having that much fun.)

But if Trojan Episode sired nearly 200 dogs that ran in major stakes races, then he sired more than 1300 dogs who didn’t. And one of them was a daughter named MPS Teresa. (And the dog on the water noodles that I’ve used as my icon on a couple of posts? He’s Oreo’s half-brother, one of Trojan Episode’s more successful offspring.)

As a racer, MPS Teresa was … a dog. (Her racing stats are here.) In her six official races at Naples/Fort Myers, she placed 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th (twice). There were excuses for her earliest disasters: bumped twice in her first training race, crowded in her second, muzzle loose in the next. After that, she simply was “no threat,” “no trouble,” and “weakened midtrack” (and that was her best finish). There were a few other races at another track. (I saw the records at a Web site that’s no longer functioning.) MPS Teresa finished third in one—her best finish ever: it was a six-dog race, three dogs collided at the first turn, and my girl was able to pass the pile-up and lope in last of the dogs still standing. MPS Teresa retired at the ripe old age of one year, ten months, and began her second career—as a couch potato named Oreo.

But even as a couch potato, she had a bumpy ride. She apparently was adopted at the age of two, but her adopters had turned her in to another adoption group before her fourth birthday. She was a “bounce” that I took home: nicely housebroken, walked well on a leash…and was the alpha dog from hell. She’s fine as long as the “challenger” is nicely subservient. But give her a challenger who won’t back down, and Oreo’s hackles go up, she barks and snarls and growls…and nothing worse has happened because I’ve hauled her back from trouble. (Size matters with Oreo. Smaller dogs are beneath her notice. Big dogs—Dalmatians, Labs, Weimaraners, Dobermans, Greyhounds, etc.—are the ones she vocally objects to.) I think much of her alpha behavior is a bluff; she’s certainly never harmed Sam, but he—a wuss of the highest order—never directly confronts her.

Here’s the birthday girl on her birthday:

You’ll notice that Sam is sleeping with his head on Oreo. This is the result of his (patent pending) “stealth” approach: he carefully avoids looking at Oreo as he rests his head on the back of the couch, then lets his head slide down to rest on her—while she shows all her teeth in a ferocious snarl.

But even as an alpha terror (on announcements for Meet & Greets, she’s been billed as “Her Imperial Highness Oreo, Empress of the Known Universe”), Oreo has her charms. She smiles—wrinkles her nose, shows all her teeth, and sends her tail whirling like a propeller. (Scares the livin’ daylights out of people who don’t know that’s a smile.) She does a very convincing “quiver lips”: her lips quiver as though she were on her last legs and just inches from collapse from hunger. (Strangers say, “Oh, poor doggie” and risk their fingers giving her treats.) When she’s interested in an unusual sound—or she’s just begging for food—her ears swivel forward on her head and she looks adorable. And Oreo cuddles very nicely next to me on the couch or the bed—she’s not a space-hog like Sam.

Oreo has spent just over half her life with me. And here’s to many more years together…

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