Are you lucky enough to have a retired racing Greyhound (or two or three!) lounging on your couch? We are! Nearly a decade ago we were inducted into the cult of the Greyhound by Johnny Jazz, formerly of Seabrook Park in New Hampshire.
This year John will turn 12 and he's slowed down quite a bit--of course he was always pretty slow. John only ran three races before being retired. But what John may have lacked as an athlete he more than made up for as a companion, confidant, foot warmer, and couch potato. I could rest assured that the couch would never float away with John on the job.
But there are days when I have to face the fact that one day John won't be here to hold down my couch. His sister Heidi was adopted a year later but is actually older (and a much better racer in her day). There will come a day when they will leave me. I have been lucky over the years to foster many Greyhounds and what I have seen as a foster parent makes me fear for that day. Because what I have seen . . . is fewer Greyhounds.
When you look at the numbers, the reason why is clear. Ten years ago there were 49 tracks in 15 states. Today there are 21 tracks in 7 states. There will never be another Johnny Jazz from Seabrook Park because -- not only was John an absolute original--there is no more Seabrook Park.
In 2004, there were 26,262 racing Greyhounds born in the US; in 2012 there were 10,157. This month, a bill to remove the racing requirement from gambling establishments in Florida came within hours of being submitted for a vote. Why does this matter? Well, the income from racing has dropped just as much as the number of tracks--but casinos in Florida are required to run live races to stay open. And 12 of the remaining 21 tracks in the U.S. are in Florida.
So here's the scary question . . . what will your couch look like in 10 years? 15?
Hmmm . . . I hear poodles are nice. Not your cup of tea? Yeah, not mine either.
Here's an even scarier question . . . what will your weekends look like in 10 years? No Greyhounds needing transport, baths, and pedicures before they meet adopters. No applicants to screen, no new foster dogs to help learn about stairs and sliding glass doors.
Don't worry. SHUG has a plan.
The network that Greyhound rescues have built across this country is truly awesome. It may not be perfect but it is robust and active. It is full of crazy people who will drive 14 hours each way to pick up dogs. And it needs a new mission.
Here's my prediction . . . In the not too distant future, there will come a time of great upheaval in Greyhound racing. Many tracks will close in a short period of time and we will all be scrambling. We will rally and make phone calls and drive through the night and have way too many dogs in our houses at times, but in the end we will make it work. And then, for the most part, there will be no more racing Greyhounds.
That is my prediction . . . and here is my plea: Don't let the network die. We have all put too much of our blood, sweat, and tears--not to mention mileage and countless weekends--into building this network to rescue fast, skinny dogs. It doesn’t have to go away when there are still fast, skinny dogs who need our help. Dogs who look and act a whole lot like retired racing Greyhounds. And this year there will be 50,000 of them killed. And they won't be humanely euthanized by licensed veterinarians.
Many groups are already widening their umbrellas to protect the Spanish Greyhounds. But many more have decided to turn their backs. There are various arguments. Some say that helping dogs from Spain isn't in their charter. SHUG says, change your charter. Some say, we didn't create the problem so why should we fix it? SHUG says, we didn't create the racing Greyhound problem, that never stopped us. Some say, the Spanish Greyhound is a Spanish problem and we're not Spanish. SHUG says, the Spanish Greyhound is a GREYHOUND problem and we are GREYHOUND PEOPLE.
Some say, there are so many dogs that need help in this country, why would we help dogs overseas? SHUG says, if we were helping the neediest and closest dogs we'd all be rescuing pit bulls. We help the dogs that call to our hearts. We'd like to invite all the Greyhound groups out there to find out more. And to everyone attending Greyhounds in Gettysburg this week -- stop by our booth and meet some Spanish Greyhounds in person. We think these dogs will call to your hearts, too.
Of course, there's always Fifi . . .