Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 20 Mar 2001 08:39:13 -0500

Fast Friend

RUNNING COMMENTARY 348

My last public mention of a running dog came almost a year ago. In a brief piece titled "Boy George" I introduced our new six-month-old lab mix. He'd come into our home less than two weeks after longtime resident Mingo had died.

"We couldn't replace Mingo and didn't try," I wrote then. "We simply adopted a different dog who'll develop charms all his own."

He never did. I hoped to make him a running partner, but it never happened.

Oh, he ran. He was good at that -- running AWAY. He never learned the word "come."

He never felt any need to please Barbara or me. He never learned good manners in three months with us.

We decided to find another home for him. I balked at placing the ad until George jumped onto a counter and wolfed down a whole pumpkin pie.

No one steals my favorite pie! The next day he jumped into his new family's pickup and never looked back.

We thought little more about a future dog until paying a recent visit to daughter Sarah in Portland. Seeing a greyhound being walked on the street led Sarah to say, "A friend of mine from work adopted one from the racetrack. He has owned dogs all his life but says this one is the greatest thing on four legs."

That endorsement set off a search. We learned that thousands of racing greyhounds are retired each year, at an average age of four, and many are put down for lack of adoptive homes.

This practice is illegal in Oregon, so the adoption services here are particularly active. A check of the Web (searching "greyhound rescue" or "adoption") turned up a local group called Homes for Hounds, which first explained the myths of this breed.

They're not hyper but are known as "40-mile-per-hour couch potatoes." They're sprinters, not distance runners, and don't demand vast amounts of exercise (after a few all-out dashes, a sight to behold, they're ready to nap again). They're not abused because the breeders' and trainers' livelihood depends on raising healthy, happy dogs.

What they are is unschooled. They've learned one trick well, to run fast, but have never seen houses or cars or parklands or any animals besides other greyhounds.

Adoptees need to learn what windows and stairs are, along with just about everything else in normal dog life. But they adapt quickly and gratefully, even as adults.

This sounded like a win-win-win deal: Do a good deed, get a good dog, and take in a homeless runner.

Ours came from a foster home, a two-year-old male freshly renamed Buzz. He arrived with a rap sheet from the track.

Running under his given name of Veggie Boy, he broke into racing last July and finished last that day. In six more races he again ran last in three of them. Comments included "no threat," "never in it" and "outrun."

He was retired early as showing no promise. Slow by greyhound standards, though, is still speedy on the human scale.

All of his races were 500 meters. If it had been 400 meters, he would have run about 26 seconds -- leaving Michael Johnson still on the backstretch.

The dog's new name of Buzz still fits. As we get to know each other, I'll keep a tight grip on the leash. A moment's lapse and he might buzz off -- or at least dive into the pie.

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