Thursday, Mar 23rd

Go Dog, Go: The Life of a Retired Racing Dog

Baz3As I was petting a muscular, smooth-coated dog in the clearing of Red Maple Swamp, I noted that he was shivering in the drizzling rain despite wearing a tony down-filled black turtleneck and army green parka. In his even-tempered way, the dog seemed to side-eye his owner; his droll expression communicated, I did my business – now let’s get a move on, Sunday Morning may still be on. Clearly this dog was unusual in our neck of the woods -- where we see so many doodles – not to mention his sartorial appearance.

The dog stayed close to his engaging (and quite frankly, hilariously funny) owner who introduced himself as Daniel Rosenblum. The dog, he said, was a Greyhound, named Baz Blackwell. In his former life, he was a champion racer. Before Daniel adopted Baz a few years ago, Baz competed in at least 20 races in Florida and bested in several. In fact, Daniel’s father found videos of Baz going for gold. He seemed to fly down the track. Hard to believe, Daniel continued, this 80-pounder, competed with other dogs, chasing down an artificial lure. All the while, hundreds of elderly fans who had made five-dollar bets cheered him on as he crossed the finish line ahead of the pack. Now he excels at sleeping. He is a very loving and sweet dog, but I can’t deny that in his retirement, he is very lazy.

I took a closer look at the all-or-nothing Baz -- once a champion racer and now a couch potato. I could see that this graceful hound was built for speed. With his lean inverted S-shaped body, narrow, aerodynamic skull, and shock-absorbing footpads, it’s no surprise that Greyhounds are the fastest dog breed.

I had recently traveled to Egypt where I learned that over 5000 years ago, the pharaohs bred greyhounds to detect, chase, capture, and dispatch desert wildlife. The pharaohs and their subjects believed that the Greyhounds were gods. As if he were able to read my thoughts, Daniel confided, Baz is now the king of our shared castle. He is a perfect dog for me. Very chill unless he sees a squirrel – then his very strong prey drive kicks in. I looked around the swamp, relieved that the rain had deterred small animals from venturing out of their habitats.Baz2

I asked Daniel about Greyhound racing in this country and found out that it was once legal and had been viewed much like horse racing. However, dog racing has gradually declined since the 1990s in response to the concerns of animal welfare activists, declining public interest and changes in the entertainment business and gambling. Most, if not all tracks have closed, marking the end of this sport altogether.

Volunteers at organizations such as Adopt-a-Greyhound and Greyhound Pets of America work tirelessly to find good homes for retired dogs. Greyhound Pets of America founded in 1987 has assisted in the placement of over 100,000 greyhounds to homes throughout the country. Daniel shared that the agency with which he worked was so committed to the dog’s welfare that they came out to his home to ensure it was appropriate for a dog and to vet him. Daniel was grateful that he got the green light because Baz is exactly the dog he wanted.

As my conversation with Daniel was wrapping up, my anything-but-a-chill dog, Maggie, emerged from a pile of decaying mulch where she was rooting around for mushrooms, old tennis balls, and the occasional lost sneaker. She wanted to play tug of war with Baz and offered him the end of a soggy branch that she was proudly clenching in her mouth. Baz would have none of it. He was content huddling at Daniel’s feet.

With a gentle tug on Baz’s leash, Daniel said his goodbyes and headed home with his graceful and obedient Baz who will continue to recline rather than race in this new chapter of his life.


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