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Kate Gaul's Italian greyhounds have wardrobes. And on cold winter days, one of them sports a faux leopard print sweater Gaul says is "to die for."

"You have to look twice to make sure it's not Paris Hilton," Gaul says.

That tantalizing tidbit was part of the come on for a Sunday afternoon dog party at the acreage the self-professed "dog nerd" shares with roommate Nancy Petta and a menagerie of pooches, including two fashionable needle-nosed Italian greyhounds, Ru and Rina.

Gaul also informed me that at their last gathering, the runway-thin pooches had bobbed for hot dogs and played lick-the-peanut-butter-off-the-plate.

Who could resist? Not I.

South of town Sunday, I found Ru and Rina, devoid of couture, hosting approximately 35 of their fellow hounds and their humans.

This was the third such party Gaul has organized for Italian greyhounds, one of many, she hopes, to come.

"Everybody sign in," she said as the fine-featured dogs with matchstick legs and question mark tails arrived, pulling their companions through the gate.

"We have food for the dogs," she explained, "but not the people."

With a pooper scooper and plastic bag stored under the wild plum tree and a circle of lawn chairs set up near the fresh water dishes, the party was set.

New human arrivals stuck name tags on their chests while their dainty dogs made happy with one another.

"I'm Bunny," one of the early arrivals told Gaul.

"Bonnie?"

"Bunny, like a rabbit," the woman said.

Gaul laughed. "Don't say that around the greyhounds." History has it the breed was developed to hunt small animals, another guest explained. You know —  squirrels, bunnies and the like.

Bunny Faling and her husband Jeff didn't come with a dog. They just came to check out the breed.

"Do they travel well?" Bunny wanted to know.

(Yes.)

"They're not really yappers, are they?"

(Not usually.)

"We saw one downtown once," Bunny explained, "and we couldn't figure out what it was so we had to ask."

That's the reaction most people have, said Tanya Seina, who drove from Omaha with her family and four greyhounds in miniature — Lilly, Yano, Monica and Zodiac.

People ask what they are "all the time," Seina said as dogs pranced about her.

"People say they look like little deer, like rats, like space aliens, we've heard that."

Nearly everyone at the party agreed the dogs were a) adorable, b) energetic c) loving and d) hard to housebreak.

Oh, and at least one person thought they have a distinctive smell.

"Their ears all smell the same," marveled Karolyn Husa.

"Are you the one who said their feet smell like Fritos?" asked Anne Hanna.

Fritos?

(Kind of salty.)

Prizes were given for the top four contestants in pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey contest.

"It's a dog game," someone explained to an eager child.

Owners leashed their fleet-footed canines, leading them to a paper cut-out donkey — sans tail — behind which the Italian greyhounds were coaxed to pose with their own waggers poking out at just the right angle.

Not an easy task.

Lady, one of the winners, chose a play toy over a bag of Pooch Pops.

"If they have wheat in 'em, she can't have 'em," her owner explained, bypassing the treats.

Next, Scott Besch, the state's Italian greyhound rescue coordinator, gave a speech about rescue efforts and foster dogs.

This isn't just about fun. At every gathering, they set out an urn and take donations for the organization, $335 at last count.

At the moment, they had six dogs looking for homes, Besch said.

There were more games to come, but some dogs were getting a bit cranky.

"Hey! Spike!"

"Ramsey, be nice."

And at least one frisky boy couldn't keep his hormones to himself, resulting in occasional bared teeth and polite growls.

After all that fresh air, maybe it was getting to be nap time.

Gaul stood up. She would be happy to host more "play dates" in her big backyard.

Maybe they could work on agility training, she said.

"Maybe do a fashion show."

This had been fun, but that I couldn't miss.

Rina in her faux leopard print sweater, prancing in the bluegrass.

The spitting image of Paris Hilton.   

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On the Web

For more information on the Italian Greyhound Club of America Rescue, go to: www.igcarescue.org and click "Nebraska."

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