Five years ago I hated racing, I had never seen a race, but I hated racing. I had read about it, I had heard stories, I hated racing and wanted it to end. But then, I had a really opinion changing experience that really opened my eyes.
My first Greyhound, Bracken came off the track in Lincoln and had the furriest butt possible. He spend a number of years in the various kennels was a healthy, well put together, lovable boy. It was only after his retirement that his teeth started getting bad, and I didn't know enough to catch it. He needed to have a yearly dental because all we fed was dry food and it caches on the greyhounds teeth and thus causes tarter and bad gums. They have very dry mouths and the dry food we feed as pets does not help this. We lost Bracken 1 year ago (almost) during a dental procedure due to anesthesia.
After we had Bracken for about two years we decided he needed a "friend" and along came Mindy (racing name: Puzzle Patch). Mindy was still an almost 14 month old pup when her world changed and she came to live with us. Along with her came all of her paperwork and a lovely note from her kennel trainer and assistant trainer telling me all about her, what she likes, what she doesn't, and how to handle her and get her used to retired life. Up until that time I always thought the worst. My vet told me the dogs where starved, they had miserable diets, and so on. But Mindy came with such great paperwork and introductions.
|Mindy aka "Puzzle Patch"|
That summer (2 years ago June) I decided to learn on my own. I took Mindy's paperwork and I drove out to the farm she was born at in Abilene, KS. I walked onto the farm, un-announced, showed them her paperwork. and was promptly given a full tour of the farm. I was impressed. Everyone was happy and well taken care of and full of life. I was shown the food and it is almost like stew meat we would find in the store. I stayed in Abilene, KS for 3 days and toured about another 5-6 farms and met the most caring and wonderful people I have ever met. Yes, there is 1 idiot in the mix but he will be gone eventually and he did not want to give me a tour. But there are idiots in every industry, look at our government. Anyways, I left Abilene and drove South.
Next stop, a farm in OK, same reception, same result, and same opinion of the people. At this point word had gotten around of what I was doing and I started getting cell phone calls from people at Southland Greyhound track. Mindy had been there a very short time and I wanted to visit. 7 kennel owners called me and told me that they had left a pass for me at the security guard shack and I was welcome to stop by un-announced any time. So, I did. I waited 2 days (even though I was 1 day away) and went at 6am in the morning. I stayed all day. Most of the kennels I visited you could actually eat off the floor and I could have built sand-castles in the turn-out pens. I was given access to the dogs, I was allowed to take them for a walk, and I was encouraged to interact. I think I was mauled two or three times by 60 dogs in a turn-out pen. Again, I left feeling very good. BTW - very few bald butts and very few bad teeth. I did see toys in many crates, I saw treats and milk-bones. I did not see ANY abuse - I would have reported it if I did.
I refused to tell them at Southland where I was heading next since I really wanted to surprise someone. Next stop was Jacksonville, FL. Mindy had spent a short time there and I wanted to see how she had lived. I snuck onto the compound by visiting the adoption kennel and taking a right instead of a left as I was leaving. I was dressed in an Orange Park T-Shirt and believe it or not was welcomed into several kennels until I was booted off the complex as I was not licensed by the state to be there ( I now understand the reasons and can accept that). I saw happy dogs, happy people, and the dogs are not trying to chew there way out of there crates. This whole thing was very confusing for me because I had read and been told so much of the opposite. As I was being escorted off the compound a trainer came running over and asked if I would be his guest at the evening races. He said he would make sure that I had some company while I was there and told security to leave me alone. He gave me a map to the track and told me that he would find me.
I then attended my first ever greyhound race. Sure enough he found me, he had called in one of his assistants to take care of his dogs and he spent the evening explaining all the procedures to me and the racing. It was great. As I was standing outside the paddock watching the dogs get inspected for any problems by the track vet one dog caught my eye. A little jumpy dog, by jumpy I mean she was excited to be there. She was on everyones shoulders, licking, hugging, etc. Everyone liked her and stopped to give her kisses and scratches. I saw 2 marshmallows slipped to her. OK, she went and ran her race. Didn't come in first, didn't come in last, but someplace in the middle. I'll get back to her a bit later. She walked right over to her trainer and jumped up on her shoulders and and licked her face, sort of like "mommy did you see that." Her trainer, who I now know as Carrie, rubbed her down, got her fresh water, and really took care of her before finding her a shady spot under a tree to lay down in and rest.
I headed home to digest my trip and what I had seen. The only thing that I can chalk it up to is there has been a drastic change in racing over the last 10-15 years. The tracks of the 80's are gone (thank God) and the welfare of the racers seems to be a primary concern now. I made a lot of acquaintances and some have turned into friends. Christopher Greib is probably one of the top, most caring trainers out there. I would entrust any one of my dogs to him. He now works on a farm in Abilene, KS. and is a wealth of knowledge.
I came away with a different attitude. Again, there are idiots and bad people in every walk of life and it's these bad people that always make the news. The same is with Greyhound racing. Most involved are good, and hard working people. THey have the dog's best interest at heart - they have to. Only happy dogs and well taken care of dogs excel and succeed.
|Peanut aka "BL Mary Go Round"|
Peanut, Mindy, Bracken (RIP) have all continued to race in amateur racing through LGRA events. After Bracken passed away the house was empty and 3 months later we took in a bounce from another group who was 15 pounds overweight and needed TLC. His name is Ranger (Racing name: Army Ranger). He is now back at his racing weight, now a happy, bouncy, 8 year old and is doing great. Again, the only problems I have seen with greyhounds are caused after the track.
|Ranger aka "Army Ranger"|
Check out http://allaboutgreyhounds.org/ for more information and pictures. You will also, starting Saturday night, be seeing a blog of my Spring Meet trip.
Sorry this was so long.