Karl

I have been living with a retired racing Greyhound now for almost a year and a half. He hails from Daytona, Florida where he raced for a little over two years under the name of JSK Grantz. His top speed was 39.5 mph…. He is number two.

His days now are spent on the sofa or his dog bed, punctuated by brief walks to his dog bowl or short backyard sprints. He is docile, affectionate and laid back but it’s only in the past few months that he has matured into a “proper” pet.

It was clear soon after adoption that he suffered from doggie PTSD. As is the case with people, some dogs develop PTSD while others under the same circumstances do not. The reason for these differences is unknown, but it may have to do with genetics. Therefore some animals may be wired by nature to be more sensitive to the effects of psychological trauma than others.

It’s unlikely he was abused but clearly he was treated more like livestock. For two years his life was mostly tedium alternating with adrenaline rushes and chaos at the race track. Kind of like a combat veteran.

My observations to support the PTSD diagnosis include startle reactions to loud noises. This comes as no great surprise given the high degree of tension his nervous system was conditioned to. This symptom has not, nor likely will ever dissipate. He does not like crowds or traffic noise preferring walks along the same route on quiet residential streets.

If you have PTSD whether you have two or four legs you need predictability, safety and security. He tends like anybody with PTSD towards phobic avoidance and attachment to safe spaces. Whether  he has flashbacks or nightmares to his early life traumas is unclear, but he is hypervigilant and scans the environment for potential threats. He has a low predation tendency and so rabbits, squirrels or cats are of little interest.

He is very furtive around strangers not unexpectedly, and responds better to women and children. He was trained by men and groomed by women so that is explainable. If I see new male patients he initially maintains glaring eye contact, growls if they talk loudly and hides. He will go to the front entrance and brings back my shoes one at a time. This as I quickly learned was his signal to me to get walking, in other words avoidance withdrawal. Dogs like their wolf forefathers offer visual cues, more so with a greyhound whose ancient breed has not been modified at least behaviourally much since the grey wolf days. Of interest is that he greyhound is wired to sight not smell in tracking and coursing prey and so he can acutely read facial and visual cues.

He was a big fan of resource guarding his food with deep blood curdling growls if I got to close to his stash but this has greatly improved.

Greyhounds respond to quiet environments with soft-spoken people around, so if you have a chaotic noisy family environment or are experiencing marital dysfunction I would get a Rottweiler.

As with adults you can treat animal PTSD with a drug like Prozac but he is improving with simple reconditioning (desensitization) of his central nervous system which will yield a certain degree of neuronal rewiring but residual symptoms will likely always remain. Once your limbic system has been primed towards flight or flight paranoid reactivity it becomes entrenched and overrides higher brain control kind of like the case with conservatives 😉

I have previously written about the correlation between political philosophy and pet ownership therefore people who plan to adopt racing Greyhounds with PTSD ought to be primarily liberal intellectuals who are in stable relationships without  children. Given an understanding of behavioural psychology and the empathy and tolerance associated with a liberal world view,the greyhound match can be mutually rewarding.

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4 Responses to “Karl”

  1. kristina nadreau says:

    I am a veterinarian and I concur with your assessments.

  2. Claude Francis says:

    I would like to add that Karl and I very quickly became friends and he seems to know when to expect me. Seems we are kindred spirits in a way. I can sympathize with any creature whether two legged or four that suffers from PTSD.

  3. Eila Becker says:

    As I have said before, Karl is a very lucky dog! I also agree with your article on Trump. To put it simply, he is a Nutcase! His election as president of the U.S. Makes me wonder about the American people, but then the Germans followed Hitler too. Amazing that his wife had to poke him and remind him to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Does he think he is above that too? Wouldn’t surprise me! He needs to get rid of that smirk! Eila

  4. Caitlin V.M. Cornelius PhD says:

    I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you how much we enjoyed your piece on your Karl. It was as if you knew our Karl and had written it about him. Our Karl displays the exact same symptoms; we’ve worked our way through severe food aggression, he takes our shoes to convey messages, and piles every pillow in the house on our bed multiple times per day trying to tell us it is time to snuggle. We’ve worked through space issues and general fear of everything issues and he has transformed into the most wonderful loving dog. We’ve always wondered what type of incident happened to him, but your statement about perhaps him just responding adversely to being treated like livestock on the track rang true and I believe is dead on accurate. I particularly enjoyed the very last paragraph about appropriate home life matches for a greyhound with PTSD.
    
Caitlin V. M. Cornelius, PhD
    Suffolk, VA ‬

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