Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Simple Way to Dispell Anti-Racing Mythology

By Dennis McKeon

You’ll need only a kennel full of Racing Greyhounds, one anti-racing zealot and a camera phone.

Courtesy of Rachel Hogue
I used to dread it when friends of mine (or anyone who was a comparative stranger to the dogs) would come to the kennel for a visit. Not that I didn’t want to see them. I did. But they would invariably insist on coming out into the turnout pens with the dogs, and then I’d have to worry about them being smothered to death with dog-love and unbridled enthusiasm. I think most kennel operators and trainers shared my conflict there. You love to show off your dogs, but people who simply aren’t used to the sheer power of the “surge” of a small colony of hounds, can unknowingly present a danger to themselves. Back in the days of heavy wire muzzles, there was always the chance of a fat lip, a broken nose, or in the worst case scenarios, a knocked-out tooth or two, courtesy of those hounds who would suddenly stand on hind legs to get eye-to-eye with their new visitor. Until one has been the “new human” (and thus the sole object of desire in the entire world) for 25-30 greyhounds, simultaneously, you really have no idea of just how friendly they can be, or how competitive they truly are, even when it comes to seeking your acquaintance and friendship.

 Only the real troopers could put up with more than a few minutes of this mass-marketed bonhomie, and even they could become quickly exhausted with being the most important thing in the universe, however temporarily, to a kennel full of muscled-up, smotheringly affectionate, finely conditioned athletes.

I’ve always figured this is why so many anti-racing activists say they’d never want to go near a racing kennel or a breeding establishment. Have you ever noticed that? None of them could possibly have any idea of what they’re talking about, or what they’re missing, because they’ve never been to a racing kennel or a breeding facility. Huh? That’s right, they haven’t a clue. Most of them know only what they’ve read on the internet, courtesy of extremist and donation-seeking propagandists.
Courtesy of Rachel Hogue

It would shatter many of them to actually have to come to grips with their own prejudices, looking into the faces of these happy, gregarious and ebullient greyhounds, while trying desperately to keep from being overwhelmed or knocked to the ground with unabashed greyhound affection. They would realize at once, in their hearts of hearts, that they have been grievously unfair to these remarkable dogs. They’d have to admit to themselves that they were wrong and/or that they had been lied to.

Because abused, brutalized and poorly socialized dogs don’t unquestioningly shower their affections and friendliest attentions on complete strangers. Dogs just don’t work that way. Even the most demure, reserved, timid, tightly-wound Omega greyhound personalities can become beguiling, impish coquettes on their home turf, at the prospect of making a new friend.

I challenge anyone who is a true believer in the popular, false anti-racing narrative, to arrange a visit to kennel full of actively racing greyhounds, and to partake of the turnout festivities just once. And let the kennel operator or the trainers film your introduction to them. You won’t soon forget it. And you’ll know the truth, and then so will everyone else.

It couldn’t be any simpler, or more logical.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Couch Potato, Meet Crate Potato

By Dennis McKeon

There is so much hateful, ignorant and deliberate disinformation out there it simply boggles the mind.

Canines are all pack animals. All canines are "denners". This means that left to their own devices, they will seek out places to sleep and rest that provide close cover and protection, not only from the elements, but from their enemies.

Greyhounds, unlike most domestic canines, are raised in a pack. As puppies and then as saplings, that pack is comprised of their littermates and/or other greyhounds their age who are being raised on the facility where they reside.

When they arrive at the racing kennel as young adults, they become members of a larger pack, with sub-packs. Each pack member in the racing kennel has his/her own "den", which we (and those companies who sell them commercially) refer to as crates, and anti-racing propagandists prefer to call "cages", for maximum, negative connotation.

Canines have been observed, ad infintum, to sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours per day, both in domesticity and in the wild. That is perfectly normal behavior for canines of almost any stripe. Greyhounds, whether in a racing kennel or kept as pets in the home, are so fond of sleeping for protracted periods of time, and for such huge portions of the day, that they are known by all and sundry, affectionately indeed, as the infamous "45 mile per hour couch potato".

After a brief period of adjustment and evaluation, once they begin their racing careers, greyhounds are kept on a program of vigorous exercise, training, handling and grooming. They gallop in long runs, or on the racetrack itself. They are schooled behind the lure. They are walked on walking machines or by hand, and sometimes they even swim at facilities that have hydrotherapy units, nearby lakes or other bodies of water that the trainer can make use of.

They take whirlpool baths and/or receive relaxing massages, and they are brushed, combed, pedicured and slicked up before and after racing or training sessions. They are kept busy, and at all times, share their lives with their pack members. In all cases, conditioning them to race successfully takes time, repetition, commitment, and more than anything, it takes a lot out of the greyhound. Greyhounds cherish and require their downtime, their rest and their relaxation, to recover from the exertions of playing, training and then, racing.

Those of us who have never seen a greyhound immediately after a race or a training session behind the lure, have no idea just how much effort and energy they expend getting after it. Until you see the pumped up muscles, almost appearing to bulge through the greyhound's skin, the heaving sides, and the expression of pleasant fatigue and satisfaction on the face of the dog, it is impossible to imagine the degree of their desire, contentment and commitment. Once you witness it, it all becomes perfectly clear. The amount of sleeping and lolling about they do is roughly a reflection of the depth of their natural and healthy expressions of their genetic and athletic heritage.

So that couch potato you have at home, blissfully snoozing the day away as you occasionally check in to see if he or she is still alive, was, before he met you, a 45 mile per hour "crate potato" in the racing kennel. He learned to rest and snooze in his own private den space, feeling perfectly secure, while the kennel was a virtual beehive of activity all day long. He was deprived of nothing, was anything but bored, and was perfectly exhilarated when his name was called for either galloping, schooling, walking or racing---or just about anything other than the dreaded nail-trimming.