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Riley the greyhound experiences sibling rivalry

May 27, 2008 |  2:39 pm

Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound named Riley that used to race at the Caliente racing track in Tijuana. She will periodically post updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about sibling rivalry.

Riley_the_greyhound_and_max_take_2Score one for the greyhound. Max, my English setter puppy, who for the first five months of his life with me was an only dog, has gone from thrilled -- "It's a dog! I love dogs! Pant, pant, pant," to uncertain -- "You mean he's going to stay?" -- as we head into Week Two of life with Riley, the 4-year-old retired racing greyhound I adopted from Greyhound Pets of America.

Here's how the day unfolds. Alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. Max, unfortunately goes off about 5:45, and that means he's walked over and occasionally on top of a snoozing Riley and bounced onto the bed, all smiles, kisses and dog breath. I'm desperately fending off the attention. Meanwhile Riley, who I'm convinced studied with Gandhi, is largely unfazed.

Max bounds, bounces, boings, basically spending as much time as he can airborne. Riley unfolds -- slowly and with great grace. He could be a yoga instructor, his downward-facing dog is a masterpiece in perfect lines.

To keep the peace (I'm following Riley's lead here) and order in the pack, Max gets the first round of ear scratches, fur ruffles and toy-tugging time. Riley hangs back for a few minutes before walking over to say good morning. And that's when it begins.

Max hasn't just discovered Riley, he's discovered jealousy.

I'm sure it could be worse -- there are no serious growls, it's just that Max is determined to wiggle his way in between me and Riley for reassurance that I do love him more.

Me, I think he has a future in gymnastics. He'll usually try a leap over to start, follow that with an under-the-belly run (Riley's, thankfully, not mine), then finish it off by shouldering his muzzle between me and Riley, all the while trying to look as innocent as the new day. And so it goes.

Most of the time he follows Riley around like the puppy he is, but then his darker commando side appears with leaps, belly runs and muzzle incursions. Riley's tactic is to just keep moving forward, shedding the setter like a sweater. He's such an adult.

Usually Riley and I just shake our heads, united in the knowledge that the puppy phase will pass. I've only seen Riley growl once or twice in Max's direction, but even in that he didn't sound serious or threatening.

As the days go by, there is less of Max's acrobatics and more, well it's like synchronized swimming -- the two of them moving in harmony together, making complicated turns around tables and chairs, negotiating the doggie door... maybe Beijing is in our future this summer.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all harmony and dog treats around here. Friction happens. But at the end of the day (and I mean that both literally and figuratively) Riley and Max seem to know that they're in this together.

Next up: Riley's racing stats

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