Sandy Paws Wrap Up or "I told you I’d blog that!"

Screaming at the beach is gnome-much fun!
Photo Courtesy of K. Lazenby

In its own unique way, Sandy Paws time has come and gone again.  We spend weeks on Facebook and in text messages and emails planning and laughing and looking forward to seeing each other.  We despair that we only see each other once a year.  We arrive, and from that moment on there is hugging and laughing and screaming and cheering and spending money and all the exciting things we’ve looked forward to for the past 364 days.

And it is gone, it is over, in the blink of tearful eyes.  Even though this year my time at Sandy Paws was infinitely more challenging due to the addition of one big furry puppy who only has manners when she pleases, it was still gone and over too fast, and we were heading back up I-95 to our lives and jobs.  How does that happen?  Why can’t the enjoyment last as long as the anticipation?  I find myself now back in those 364 days, waiting for Sandy Paws 2015 when I can see my FTH family again…hopefully with a much better behaved Bryn next year.

Now, on to the part of the weekend that made me put my “I’m Gonna Blog That” face on:

I will admit that in the past I have been one of those greyhound owners that I’m about to talk about…and I will extend my heartfelt apologies to anyone that owns a little dog or a big dog or any other kind of non-greyhound or non-sighthound dog that has come to a greyhound event and gotten the Hairy Eyeball from me.  I found out on this trip just how unpleasant even the most well-meaning people can be when they identify your dog as Other or NotAGreyhound and make a point of either looking at you like you’ve got four heads or telling you how to manage your dog in the sea of apparently ravenous high prey drive greyhounds ahead.  I mean really…I think if we did a survey of the dogs that attended Sandy Paws this year you would find that a great many of them live…are you ready? WITH OTHER BREEDS or even…gasp…CATS AND OTHER SPECIES.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have known, loved, and lived with some real Cat-Zappers.  I saw a foster dog catch my cat in his front paws in mid-air.  I know the possibilities.  But for crying out loud…the reception that Anne and I got when we entered the conference center with Millie (Boston terrier who lives with a greyhound and a bloodhound and was NOT on a flexi-lead, thankyouverymuch) and Bryn (wild-eyed Irish Wolfhound puppy of a mere 9 months who is still not sure about everyone and everything she meets) was less than welcoming.  Granted, not all of the almost 200 people that attended know me personally and/or know that I have a greyhound as well as the Big Hairy Beastie that came with me to Sandy Paws, but it’s a good guess that I do IF I AM THERE.

Here are just a few things to chew on if you happened to be in the vicinity of the traveling circus that is me, Anne, and our Nons at the Jekyll Island conference center over the Sandy Paws weekend.

1. The fact that Bryn pulls me around is not funny, really.  It happens when you have a puppy brain in a 97lb body attached to an owner with the upper body strength of a Keebler Elf (to borrow from Sheldon Cooper).  It is a little embarrassing, to be honest, because I’ve never owned a dog like her before and am still learning the best way for both of us to be able to walk calmly and pleasantly.

2. My wolfhound is not going to eat your (fill in name of other breed here) as long as I am still attached to her and/or am conscious.  There is no need to glare at me or pull your greyhound around on the other side of you to protect your precious greyhound from Bryn.  In fact, you may be called out on your Death Glare if we happen to see you do it.

3. I understand that not everyone likes big dogs.  But for heaven’s sake, y’all…this is a sighthound gathering and the hound in question is not an Italian Greyhound!  I’m assuming that most of the people there have at least a passing familiarity with sighthounds that are at least 50lbs and some much more than that (not always because they are big boys, either, but that’s another blog for another day).

4. If I tell you that Bryn needs some space then she needs some space.  It doesn’t matter how many whatevers you have raised/bred/raced/whatever in your day, I know my dog better than you do.  End of.  I appreciate all the offers for help over the weekend from everyone (including my friend Brian who asked me to let Bryn come running at him…which I did) and the compliments were fab for her and me.  It’s hard to believe she has only been in my life for just under 5 months…feels like 5 years some days.

5. A Boston Terrier on a stationary leash that is being held by her owner is probably owned by someone savvy about the prey drives of greyhounds and other sighthounds and will NOT be putting her dog or anyone else’s in a dangerous position, at least not consciously.  A person who brings a small breed into a sighthound event on a flexi lead is a different matter, but that, again, is a blog for another day.

Overall we had so much fun…Bryn slept most of the way home when she wasn’t trying to chew on her Auntsie’s ears or get in the front with Millie.  My FTH family is more precious to me than I can express and even now, as I sit here typing, the thought of THEM…the thought of US…it brings tears to my eyes at how important we all are to each other.

Metrognomes of the world, unite.  Onward and upward…to Mountain Hounds if not before!  (You can see pictures of Bryn at SP14 on her blog, Our Daily Bryn, beginning with the entry for 26 March.)

Sandy Paws and other Peaches

Clowny’s paw print, Jekyll

It always amazes me how Sandy Paws is up on me and then is over so fast.  I spend all year waiting, anxiously, to see a group of people that in some ways are closer to me than my own family…and like a flash, I blink and I’m on my way back home.

This year’s get together was no different.  My Mister and I rented a minivan (go on, get that out of your system, me in a minivan) and headed down to Jekyll Island with Clown and Daisy.  Those two rode in STYLE…I was even more irritated than normal that the Mister hasn’t gotten his SCDL yet because it would have been HEAVEN to crawl back there on the gooshy dog beds and nap all the way to Georgia’s Golden Coast.

The hotel where we stayed was okay…older, and definitely not the posh affair of the last two SP events, but homey, in a way.  What was NOT cool was vending from hotel rooms rather than in a large vendor hall as we’ve done in the past.  You didn’t get to see anyone if you were vending, other than those you were staying with or your vending partners.  I was lucky enough to glom (is that a word?) onto Janet Schaffer of Casual Bling and Suzie Collins of Skinnyhound Designs so that I could sell my books.  I sold seven, which is a record for a greyhound event.

Sandy Paws started out as a means to an end for me, and remains so.  I didn’t go initially because I wanted to attend an organized gathering with workshops or because I had a stack of books to hock.  I went because I had preadopted an amazing creature called Daisy (FTH Oopsie Daisy) and was now a part of the Follow That Hound family.  So changes to the venue or schedule, ice cream socials and over-priced buffet meals really aren’t a factor to me when I think of Sandy Paws.  The only thing that I do, really, that has anything to do with the event, is help sponsor the creation of crowns for the greyhounds named King and Queen of SP (even though my own hounds have never even been nominated…not even after Daisy went to SP 2012 a mere 5 days after a transatlantic flight-turned-nightmare).

Anne and I pay to have someone make crowns that fit the theme of the gathering, and this year was no different…except that prior to this year’s SP someone in the organizing group got her pants in a bunch over a design for a Tshirt that the aforementioned Suzie made…for us, the FTH family…because she wanted EVERYONE to know that it was NOT an official SP13 shirt.

Well, duh.  Suzie didn’t make it for everyone.  Not everyone is a Peach.  🙂  Not everyone is part of the FTH family. But the WAY that the person made it clear to anyone that was listening was just over the top and plain rude, really.  You would think that it would be common sense not to make an enemy of a very popular vendor, but apparently it wasn’t.

So jump ahead now to the crowning of the King and Queen at SP13.  Anne and I are there, she has the crowns and I have the bling that Janet made for the winners.  The person with the twisted pants approached us and took the lot, heading up to the front of the room to get things started.  We didn’t think anything about it until we heard HER announcing the King.

Problem…part of our sponsorship of the crowns and bling means that we get to present them to the winners. It’s a neat way for us to be a part of the gathering and to get to meet the winners…or, like at SP12, crown one of our own as King when Lightning (FTH Lightning) won.  Well, because Anne is a superhero, she charged down to the front with me, Mighty Mouse, trailing behind her to find out what was going on.  We were offered the chance to announce the Queen, but she turned it down, pulling a victory lap back to her table, and I continued on Anne AutoFollow back to the back.

Y’all…I don’t have time for grownups that act like children, I really don’t.  Not during a swiftly moving weekend with people that I adore that I only get to see once a year.  To the organization’s credit, a few of their members approached us afterward and apologized, but you see, the damage was done.  Once again, I’m not “in the know,” or a part of the core crowd…and finally, after over a decade of doing greyhound adoption and hanging out with greyhound people…that’s okay.  I don’t need it, or as my perfect niece Joy says, “I can’t use it.”

Keep the drama.  I love my Peaches, I know what is important in my life, and I’m off to celebrate it.  GEM and Mountain Hounds ahoy!

A Falk in the Driftwood Worest..with Peaches.

Are we there yet? by Nancy Dunne
Are we there yet?, a photo by Nancy Dunne on Flickr.

(thanks and love to Zilch the Torysteller for part of the title…)

This weekend was the annual Sandy Paws event…and if this were years past I’d be doing something uber fun right now in Jacksonville before getting ready to go to Orange Park to watch the dogs run. But alas, with gainful employment in higher education does not always come annual leave, so here I am, back from my break, blogging. Yeah.

I headed down Thursday night after work to spend a whirlwind weekend of meeting, greeting, laughing, and even a little tired crying (on the way home yesterday) with people that are one of my families of choice: my greyhound friends and more specifically my Follow That Hound friends. Even though with the closure of B&J Kennels this year the FTH program is no more, we all still get together and we all still feel like a big extended family.

Friday afternoon Anne and Leah and I went out to Driftwood Beach for some photos of me and the dogs…but I ended up just wandering around and taking pictures because HOLY MOLY is that place amazing. Oaks felled by a hurricane created petrified sculpture. It’s like walking around and seeing dinosaur bones. Insane.

Friday night was spent laughing until we cried with good friends. I need more of that in my life. I need my Peaches.

Saturday was more Sandy Paws fun, including the crowning of the king and queen, a live auction (including one of Daisy’s books that went for $55 I think?), and then the tired returning to the villa for one last night’s sleep to the sound of the waves.

Yesterday was awful…I hate the annual theft of an hour by Daylight Saving Time even though it means I’m only 4 hours behind Simon rather than 5. But the pretty face in the picture there kept me company for the ride back to Greenville, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of that time even if it did seem to be an hour earlier.

I’ll get my pictures uploaded to Flickr soon…stay tuned. Roooooooo!

Just around the bend…

Simon and Daisy by Nancy Dunne
Simon and Daisy, a photo by Nancy Dunne on Flickr.

It seems like it was just yesterday when I took that photo over there. It was at Sandy Paws 2007, and I had only had Daisy in my life full time for one less day than I’d had Simon!

Five years ago today I drove to Hartsfield International Airport to pick up Simon on his second ever trip to the United States. I was scared to death…that he wouldn’t like me, that I wouldn’t like him, that the dogs would be TOO MUCH, etc. etc. etc. But everything changed as soon as I got out of the car and bent my neck backward for the first of whoknowshowmany times to hug him. It was right and perfect and it still makes me hoppy to think about.

Hoppy: to be in a state where one’s feet simply cannot remain on the ground. Eg: me in a fabric store.

Moving on…

I was scared and nervous and and and to pick up our Mei Mei at Sandy Paws the next day, but we headed on over to the villa where Cathie and Anne were to get her. Once again, all that melted when I had her precious little self in my arms, even though she wanted to run from the crazy lady strangling her.

Five years, gone in a blink…and just around the bend, Daisy in my arms and picking Simon up at the airport. Life is good…or will be, just around that very happy bend.

March, Interrupted


First stop in Philly…
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne

It’s been a month today since I headed east to North Carolina for Sandy Paws and a short visit with my friends and family. In the four weeks that followed that day, I ate at Chick Fil A (admittedly the thing I miss most about living in the US not including people) about twenty seven times. I traveled from Greensboro, NC to Jekyll Island, GA, to Jacksonville, FL to Greensboro again to Athens, GA to Cleveland, GA and finally to Atlanta, GA. I saw my parents for two and a half days. I saw my sister and the most perfect niece on the planet for two and a half hours.

I flew back to the UK and threw myself back into work at the Bookshop as well as into looking online for work in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Western North Carolina. I stayed up to watch Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. I ate at Nando’s (the thing I will miss most about living in the UK other than home delivery of groceries and people). I started the countdown for the next in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. I started a new blog to showcase the photos I’ve been taking in various and sundry retail establishments around the UK since I’ve been here.

And I’m looking forward to April…to hopefully finding a job in the US, to hopefully selling our house here so we can move as soon as Simon gets his visa sorted, and to starting Script Frenzy, the screenplay version of NaNoWriMo from last November.

Fingers are crossed and big things are coming. I just need some patience…and a Chik Fil A sandwich wouldn’t hurt.

Time Flies…am I having fun?


Lighthouse Ladies
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne

Two weeks ago today I was right there in that photo. I was visiting the St. Augustine Lighthouse with my best friend, Leah (in the pink) and our Canadian “sistahs,” Janet (next to me) and Vicky. I had sore ribs from laughing until I cried repeatedly. I had wobbly knees because Janet and I walked to the tippy top of the lighthouse (200+ steps!) on a quest to see a ghost. I was happy and relaxed.

Now? Not so much. Happy to be back with Simon, definitely. Happy to have my OWN greyhound to cuddle rather than borrowing one of the ones in the picture, absolutely. Happy to have my Little Man Mills burrowing in my hair and purring like a freight train, well, yeah, mostly. But happy to be back here in the UK? Notsomuch. Happy to be back in limbo, with no job prospects, no house-sale prospects, and a job that I’m definitely not suited for at all? Nope.

Funny how things can change SO much in the course of two short weeks. Funny how I can go from being so sure of what I’m doing and when to being completely on my ear with one mention of an unrelentingly tight state government budget. Funny how I am back to not knowing where I really belong, as well as not knowing where I really WANT to belong. Parts of the UK look really good when the job I’d counted on in the US fizzles. Parts of the US look really good when I have to pretend that I’m good at retail sales. It’s a mess, really.

To my Sistahs, love you to bits. Wish we were still there. I could do with a good FB LAN party and some bad sangria…because that’s how you treat a princess. For now, though, back to house tidy avoidance…before even more time has flown.

First Week Done and Dusted

So I’m sitting in a hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been this tired. Sandy Paws 2011 is over, and we have moved on to the Follow That Hound After Party portion of the holiday. Tomorrow morning some of our folks are headed to the track to tour the kennel, and I will be here, playing dog-nanny to six greyhounds.

Six greyhounds that aren’t my own, mind you. Six greyhounds that aren’t my Daisy, more importantly. I think if we were to end up in the UK for another year, I would skip this annual event because it’s just too hard to be here without her.

Anyway, moving on…Leah and I were discussing Sandy Paws 2011, and I think that part of why I’m so tired is that every year Sandy Paws barrels along at a frantic pace for me. It’s the same basic formula as other greyhound events, really. You have a schedule of seminars and other activities focused on living with retired racing/AKC greyhounds. You have social events. You have vendors. You have auctions and raffles. But somehow, Sandy Paws always seems to zip past with me hanging on for dear life. When you’ve come 4,000 miles for an event, zipping is not a good thing.

The photo above is pretty representative of my vacation so far. There’s a wind whipping all around me in that picture, and I feel like there’s a metaphorical wind whipping up as well. People are tired. Tempers are short. I love seeing my friends and getting to spend a week with my best friend is just awesome. But the stress? The drama? Yeah, y’all can just keep that part.