Saturday, March 6, 2010

How I Met My Family

Jeanne Heydecker had a small boy, William, who had been attacked, not once, but twice by a Rottweiler and had developed a sever phobia toward dogs. Will had grown up with Rottweilers and had lived with them all his life, but at the age of 3, Jeanne had to put her Rottie, Max, to sleep. Two years later, moving back to Foxborough, a new Rottweiler entered their lives, the next door neighbor's. Under-socialized and untrained, whenever the dog got loose, it bit people. William was lucky to survive his injuries. Jeanne loved dogs and wanted to find a way to help William find a way back from his fear. One day, while stopping by a pet store to pick up cat food, they met up with Greyhounds Only. Several greyhounds and their adoptive families were at the store to bring awareness to what happens to us dogs at the racetrack and find suitable families that would be willing to take us in. At first, William was very nervous and refused to come into the store. When the dogs did not approach him, taking his mum's hand, he tentatively walked into the store with her. After a few minutes of talking from about ten feet away, William took a step closer. After a few more minutes, a little closer... it took more than an hour until William finally stroked a dog's head. After many conversations, William agreed to visit the shelter and see if there was a dog that could change his life.

William was very scared and hesitant because the other greyhounds barked or growled in their cages. So he didn't want to go near them. Some other greyhounds that they tried to take out either pulled on the leash or didn't cooperate with him at all. For a three-and-half-feet-tall kid, a greyhound is a BIG dog. And then he saw me, and looked into my cage. I didn't really do anything. I think I was more scared than he was. I hated being in a cage. I was curious about this little white creature that humans call "a boy". Then they decided to take me out, got me on a leash and I just walked with him. William took me out into a paddock and took me off the leash.

That was the clue for me. I LOVED being out of the cage and off the leash so I could run. The one of the Greyhounds Only team members brought out a stuffed toy. Little did I know, that toy looked like Lance, my other family member. I'll tell you about him a little bit later. But when I saw this toy I really wanted to play, so I started barking, wagging my tail, and told them in dog-speak that I wanted the toy! That was the first time I saw William laughing. I really didn't care I just wanted the toy. Then they threw the toy so I ran as fast as I could to catch it, and I tore the toy apart as fast as I could, too.

They changed my name to Grace because Jeanne thought I was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen when I ran around the paddock. That's when they agreed to adopt me. They started the paperwork and a month later, I visited their home for the first time. I had never seen stairs, or a TV, or snow... I now had a family who were going to be there for the rest of my life, a mum, a brother and this thing called a cat. His name was Lance, and we lived together in a townhouse in Aurora, Illinois. Two years later, mummy decided that we needed to move very, very far away... to India, on the other side of the planet, a place very different from anything I had ever known. To read about our trip, click here.

And that, my friends is the beginning of my story.

I am Greyhound and Proud

How My Life Began...
I was born in a puppy mill and named Ringtown Ringer. I was born to run. I was born to race around a track and come in first, winning my owner the race and the purse. If I didn't make that money for him, I served no purpose. My life would be short if I wasn't the fastest on the racetrack. Time was short to prove my worth to stay alive.

I lived in a wire cage. The cages were stacked two high, males on the bottom, females on top. I jumped five feet to get up into my cage. I ate "4D meat", also known as dead, dying, diseased, decaying cows at the time of slaughter -- considered unfit for human food. That was my entire diet -- 4D meat and whatever water was available. They didn't feed or water us at all. We spent most of our time in these cages, in trucks traveling from racetrack to racetrack in trucks that weren't heated or air conditioned, sometimes living for days in them, only allowed out for walks.

The people who tended to us regarded us as agriculture. We weren't pets, but property to be maximized for profit. If we couldn't earn our keep, we would be killed. Some people killed us quickly, while others did terrible things. The biggest problem for these humans were our tattoos. You see, every racing greyhound had tattoos in our ears. A serial number and our birthday... to make sure that we were the dogs that were posted for the race. These identified every dog and their owners. If we weren't eliminated legally, they had to cut our ears off and make sure they were missing, just in case someone found us. Some dogs I knew in Florida went out to sea and never came back. Every one knows that greyhounds can't swim...

I wasn't a very fast runner. I ran my first race and came in last. In my second race, I didn't finish. In the my third race, I came in fifth. The odds were good that I wouldn't see my second birthday. Fortunately, there are humans who want to change this. Greyhounds Only, out of Chicago, is a group that adopts greyhounds that would otherwise be killed. They had agreed with the management of Dairyland Racetrack in Wisconsin to adopt any greyhounds they didn't want anymore and find them permanent homes. Luckily, when my owner decided I was no good, I happened to be at Dairlyland. After being put on the list, Greyhounds Only put me into a no-kill shelter to await the selection of a permanent family.