Nemo's ancestors lounged on the hearths of castles, and during his life he stood guard over my little bungalow home by maintaining a vigilant eye from the oak woodland above it. Now he lies there in eternal slumber, and this page serves as a memorial for he and his sweetheart Orla, both now sadly gone from this Earth. And for Angus, my third hound. Admittedly their lives are short, but to me a day spent with them is worth a year with any other breed.
I explained to St. Peter
I'd rather stay here.
Right by the pearly gate.
I won't be a nuisance,
I won't even bark,
I'll be very patient and wait.
I'll be here, chewing a celestial bone,
No matter how long you may be.
I'd miss you so much, if I went in alone,
It wouldn't be heaven for me.
Because there are not many of the breed in the United States it was not particularly easy to locate my first one. It was in the early days of the internet, and I joined the Irish Wolfhound List online, a daily posting of comments by owners, breeders and enthusiasts for this breed.
I read and asked questions and was very fortunate in having the list moderator live close by, so I could visit him and his Braveheart hounds. When Alan Cowen died the world of Irish Wolfhounds lost a great man. He was my dear mentor and always had time to educate and counsel me, and introduced me to Darlene Brown of McCool Kennel, a breeder of quality dogs, so that when Nemo was born my dream was fulfilled.
I went to her kennel and met the parent dogs, stupendous enormous alert adults commanding respect and giving me a LOOK, as if to discern if I was worthy for their son. He looked like a cross between a dog and a goat, an oak-bark dark grey brindle in constant motion, all gangly legs and uncoordinated enthusiasm.
As he grew his charm and affectionate nature won over everyone who met him. He was capable of defense, but never offensive. He was happiest curled at my feet as I drew or worked on the computer, glad to be near me, an utterly trustworthy and steadfast companion animal.
What could be better? More than one!
OK, so we know the word for when there are a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a pride of lions. But what is it when you have two or more Irish Wolfhounds in one place?
I couldn't resist coining it:
an EXTRAVAGANCE of Irish Wolfhounds.
They say that Irish Wolfhounds grow UP for a year and a half (getting their height VERY quickly), then OUT for a year and a half (getting their bulk and adult weight), and then on their third birthday they get their BRAIN.
Nemo was very lucky indeed, when he turned 3 I got him a wife for his birthday, the lovely Miss Orla. She came from Lynne and Dr Dick Rosebrock’s kennel the Hounds of Carroy, and was a wheaten so pale she looked pink. She and Nemo became inseparable and it is very true that this breed wants to be in a pack, not alone with their human. They LIKE people, be they revel in spending time with their own kind.
They went to many events with me, and always enjoyed posing for photos and being fussed over. They have an innate nobility, and are utterly trustworthy with children and not aggressive toward other dogs. They will defend themselves, but usually a smaller dog who feels the need to act out is met with a baffled stare. As if they are asking “Surely, you jest? Get over yourself!”
Sadly, as many Irish Wolfhounds do, Nemo developed osteosarcoma when he was 7 years old.
We removed his afflicted front leg and he went on happily living as a tripod dog for another year, eventually passing from an unrelated issue. He was happy to hop along at the Scottish Highland Games, squiring Miss Orla in her mythological aspect as The Orlacorn!
Children would ask if she was real, and I’d say “Of course, she’s the Orlacorn!” And little girls so love the idea of a unicorn, they would be enraptured. She did remind people of Falcor the Luck Dragon in the film The Neverending Story, she just never quite seemed like a real dog. At several of the West Coast Irish Wolfhound AKC Specialties she was measured and was the tallest female.
After Nemo died Orla was extremely lonely, so I determined to go to the Source for more dogs, the Olde Sod. While attending dogs shows in Eire I had met the Kellys, of Nutstown Kennels in Holywood, Dublin, Ireland, and their dogs are world famous.
I called and they told me that they had a litter with a black male pup. I'd long dreamed of having a black one, they are quite rare. Their champion stud Millennium had now sired a worthy pup..... so I went to fetch him. And being of a mind that too many is better than not enough, I brought back one of his littermates also.
So here they are, 12 weeks old and ready for a fresh start in America, after traveling across the world in a sky kennel to their new home in Santa Barbara. On the left is Black Angus, and on the right Brindle Fergus.
I called them The Gus Brothers of the Clan McHuge.
Orla found a new enthusiasm for life and lived several more years, teaching the pups manners and the ways of the world. Many breed enthusiasts will say that a pack of three is the best number, and I agree.
Because they love to lope, the best place to have them really exercise themselves is the dog beach. People often asked if they were brother and sister. That was Fergus's curse. He'd be the biggest dog you ever met if it weren't for his big brother Angus.
When Angus passed away that left Ferg alone, and so it was time to once again go to Ireland for the next pair of pups. This time there was a full litter of black pups available, and because dog generations go so quickly they were Millennium’s great-grandchildren, and thus close relatives to Fergus. This time I opted for a male and a female, litter mates who are almost identical in markings. They are named after a fabulous Irishwoman: Dervla Murphy, who was born on my birthday (but 23 years before) and once walked across the country of Ethiopia with a mule.
So the cycle continues, with Fergus teaching Dervla and Murphy how things work. They exhibit all the characteristics of their breed that I love so well, and together are worthy ambassadors for their breed.