Our whippet is 10 months old this week. In terms of height, we reckon he’s reached his operational ceiling; now he needs to start growing outwards, rather than just upwards. Even as a gangly adolescent, his power and sheer speed over the ground are remarkable: in a couple more years, when he’s fully mature, he’s going to be truly formidable. Weight-for-weight, whippets are the fastest dogs – and according to some the fastest animals – in the world, and when the red mist descends, he’s blind and deaf to everything except whatever unfortunate dog/cat/squirrel/bird/bicycle he’s pursuing. Otherwise, he’s amiable, indolent and has more ears than brain cells, which are reliable signs of an impeccable pedigree in most species, including our own.
This spring, our evening walk round the local fields and woods has become a routine test of his nascent hunting skills. Thus far, the local rabbits have been winning hands (or paws) down, but on last night’s evidence, they won’t be having things all their own way for much longer. So herewith some blank verse, for a dog with a vacant expression.
Now Venus and the new moon share the sky.
The chill creeps through the fields like a thief,
Sets cows’ breath steaming, steals warmth from folds
And hollows. Blackbirds chatter in the woods
Alarmed at our approach. My friendly dog
Trots easily behind me. Then a flash
Of white fur at the field’s edge ignites
The deep desire bred in blood and bone
And he is running. I can only stand
And watch. The catch and killing bite may come
One day; for now, the chase ends in a yelp
Of almost-had-him fury, and I smile:
Some hunting dog – he’s young, with much to learn
About his trade and harnessing his speed.
But when two summers more have rolled around
No rabbit will be safe on open ground.