Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Brief Intermission ...

... I will be back soon.  In the meantime, enjoy a glimpse of some fantastic scenery that my husband and I saw while we were visiting Glacier National Park in Montana.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Very Greyhound Weekend in Wheeling, West Virginia

Settle in and get comfortable, because this  is a very long post ... one in which I will tell you all about the fun stuff that I did last weekend ... where the three core members of Greyhounds Rock Fredericksburg and our husbands attended the Greyt Escape Kennels to Kouches gathering in Wheeling, West Virginia.  These are friends who we consider to be family, and we all travel together almost perfectly.  We have the same habits, share meal preparation and clean up, and we genuinely enjoy the time that we spend together.  We were all very excited about this event and its activities, which were all about greyhound health and lifestyle.

Friday was all about traveling to get to the event.  It takes six hours to get from our home here in Hartwood to Wheeling.  It's a beautiful drive north and westward through the mountains of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and far northern West Virginia.  We left home in cool, foggy, rainy weather, and drove into sunshine as we crossed over the Cumberland Gap.

The six of us stayed in a dog-friendly cabin at the event resort

There was no mistaking whose cabin this was, with that big banner outside.

Our friends brought their dogs along.  All of the dogs are seasoned travelers, and they quickly settled into the routine ... lots of lounging and sleeping.  

Taylor Rose is the senior member of the group.  She will turn 14 in October.

Oscar, on the left, is 9, and Garrett is the newest pack member, adopted by Chris and Gale four months ago.

Winnie and Ruby spent their weekend like this ... lounging the time away, being spoiled rotten at my parents' house.

The resort has a very large population of deer, most of whom are tame as housecats.  There are no predators there for them to fear, and these deer have been conditioned to view humans and cars as a source of snacks.  (not from us, you understand.)

They gathered in fields and yards throughout the resort.

This photo was taken with my wide-angle lens ... yes, this buck was THAT close.

Saturday was the core of the conference, with presentations by greyhound and health professionals, and a wonderful vendor market.  Greyhounds Rock had a booth in the market, selling our collars, leashes, jewelry, and other things.  This event marked the debut of the children's book "TJ Has a Job!" written by GRF's own Kim Fraser, and illustrated by my talented husband. (available to order on Amazon, click HERE.)  Business was brisk, and sales were good ... adding over $600 to the GRF coffers, to be donated to support canine cancer research.

Collars, collars, and more collars!

Kim's wonderful book about TJ ... what a sweet boy he was.

Saturday night, GRF presented an outdoor movie night.  I have no photos of this, because we were all so busy assembling the screen (made from a PVC pipe frame and a white king-sized flat sheet), and setting up the projector and sound system.  Guests were treated to an evening of greyhound-themed features, beginning with a Bugs Bunny cartoon, "The Grey Hounded Hare".  The double-feature movies were "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" (from 1968, starring Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits) and "Greta the Misfit Greyhound"  (a 1963 episode of The Wonderful World of Disney).  

Sunday was all about greyhounds and their first career in the races.  We began the day with a real treat ... a visit to a greyhound farm, a small operation where greyhounds are born, raised, and begin their training to race.  The farm that we visited had an extra special surprise for us, a four-day-old litter of puppies!!

Nine puppies, in a spotless whelping box underneath a heat lamp.  Mama Greyhound was crated while we were visiting, because she's the protective type.

As we were oohing and aahing over the puppies, the farm owner said, "You can hold them if you want.  Just use two hands when you pick them up."  Didn't have to tell any of us twice, I assure you.  I worked with greyhound adoption for fifteen years, handling hundreds of adult dogs, and this was the first time I had ever seen a litter of puppies.  It was a special treat that I will probably always remember.

What struck me about this farm is how much the owner cared about the welfare of his dogs and how well kept the place was.  The building with the whelping area had six indoor/outdoor runs.  It wasn't fancy, but it did have air conditioning and a back-up generator, and it was obvious that it was always kept spotlessly clean.

Nine-month-olds, chilling in their kennels.

This greyhound was in a separate kennel on crate rest, because of his injured paw.

There were a few long, fenced outdoor runs, too.

After the farm, we spent the rest of Sunday at Wheeling Island Greyhound Track watching the greyhounds do what they were born to do.  This was the third time that I have been to a greyhound track (and the second time that I have been at Wheeling).  There were 17 races on the schedule that day.  Each race follows the same routine, eight greyhounds per race.

The greyhounds are led out of the preparation/paddock area on leash for the post parade.

Sometimes, one of the dogs has to answer the call of nature during the post parade.  If this happens, the handler will yell "hold on", and the whole line stops while until the dog in question is finished.

Each muzzle and racing jacket on the dogs is checked, and every dog gets a scratch on the head in the process.

While waiting in line for their turn to have their equipment check, you'll see things like this handler scratching her dog's back ...

... and this dog getting his tummy rubbed.

Most of the greyhounds walk nicely on a loose lead ... it's their routine and they're comfortable with it.

After the equipment check, the dogs are led to the starting box.

The front of the box is closed, and the dogs are loaded into each compartment from behind.  When the last dog is loaded, the mechanical lure starts on its track along the inside rail and the dogs in their boxes start barking like crazy ... they know that it's time to chase the 'bunny'.  As the lure passes the box, you hear the announcer say, "Here comes Spunky ...

... and they're off!"

The greyhounds burst from the box and are up to top speed within three or four strides.  It is an awesome sight to see them running full-out like this.

I stood at the edge of the front stretch of the track, and did what I could to get some decent shots of dogs with my telephoto lens.  It took some practice, focusing on a spot and anticipating when the dogs would streak by.  Most of my photos were of empty track, as I missed the shot time after time.

At the finish of the race, the lure disappears into a box and the greyhounds are distracted by a squeeky noise, so they can be gathered up by the handlers and taken to the paddock to cool off.  I wonder if this is why Emma and Daniel loved their squeekies so much.

In between races, the track is sprinkled by a water truck and groomed by this little tractor ...

... and the area in front of the starting box is raked smooth by hand.

Then the process starts all over again for the next race.  In this photo, we see the dogs all lined up at beginning of the equipment check.  The building in the background has the indoor kennels and preparation area on the left ... and the right side of the building is the on-track adoption kennel.

After the last race, we made a quick stop at the adoption kennel.  The workers there didn't have time to talk to us or let us visit with the dogs, because they had their hands full with a new group of retirees who had just been dropped off.

These greyhounds were fresh off the transport, and they were getting a quick flea treatment and a chance to potty before they were evaluated.

Monday was a travel day, time to say goodbye to Wheeling and head for home.  Our group left with more than we brought with us ... in the form of a seven-month-old puppy named Myth.

Myth went home with Kim and Andy, on a trial foster basis.  She has some sort of injury to one of her back legs, which makes it unlikely that she would ever race.  Because of this, she was given to an adoption group to be rehomed.  That home will probably be at Kim and Andy's, unless she shows some sort of totally awful personality trait that we haven't seen so far ... between you and me, I think that she's home already.  

At the cabin on her first day with us, we found Oscar and Myth sharing the same bed.  So sweet!

Sunday breakfast ticked an item off of my Bucket List ... donuts and coffee at Tim Horton's.

Been there, done that, ate the donuts, and bought a coffee cup.

Then it was time to get back into our cars and start the long trek toward home.  The route between Wheeling and Hartwood is almost a straight shot from northwest to southeast, along interstate highways and well-traveled secondary roads.  Because of the way the state lines are in this area, we passed through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia again, Maryland, West Virginia for a third time, and then entered Virginia.  It was sunny until we reached the Cumberland Gap ...

Then we drove into the fog ... 

... and it rained and drizzled on us from Maryland all the way to my parents' house.

Virginia, at last ... under clouds and in the drizzle.

We had such a great weekend, but it sure is nice to be home with my critters.  I'm a home-body at heart, though I do love a great trip every now and again.  That's a good thing, because the next adventure is coming up very soon.  I will tell you about it later, I promise.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Lot of Fuss Over Sugar Skulls

The whole thing started with an innocent photo on Facebook, the one you see below, and it turned into a full-blown feeding frenzy.

Let me explain.

Greyhounds Rock Fredericksburg will have a booth in the vendor market at the 'Greyt Escape Kennels to Kouches' event in Wheeling, West Virginia, this weekend.  For the past few weeks, in preparation for this, I have been sewing collars to beef up our inventory.  I post photos of some of the collars on the GRF Facebook page to publicize the event and build some interest.  I was shocked at the excitement that was sparked when I posted that simple image of a strip of Sugar Skulls on my sewing machine.

My sister shared the photo, and she tagged a friend, who tagged another friend.  Soon, I was fielding questions about custom sizes and different styles.  By the end of the day, 17 collars had been ordered ... all from that one photo on Facebook.  

I posted this photo a little later in the day ...

... and this one, too, of five finished martingale collars.

It took a couple of afternoons for me to make the collars to fill all of the orders.  There were all different sizes of martingale and snap buckle collars, for many different breeds of dogs ... from a miniature Dachshund to a pack of Bull Mastiffs.

I mailed all of the collars to their new homes last Friday, and I began receiving thank you notes from the recipients via email and FB on Monday ... some of which came with photos!

Pink loves her new snap buckle collar ...

... and Jack looks very smart in his martingale collar.

I was thrilled beyond words to get the photo of the five Bull Mastiffs, each of them sporting their fun new collar!

One photo, a single image, shared around one bit of cyberspace, had a huge impact.  The 17 collar orders that came from that photo added over $300 to the GRF treasury, to be donated to support canine cancer research.  I am humbled by the response, and proud to be a part of it.

I have to stop now, because I have more collars to make.  If you need me, I will be in the sewing room.

If you are interested in ordering a custom collar for your pup, I will be glad to make it for you.  Fabric selections change depending on my mood and what has been donated for me to use.  As of now, I have materials to make collars in one-inch and one-and-a-half-inch widths, either in martingale style or with a snap buckle.  All collars are $20 each, plus postage, payable by PayPal or by check, all of which is donated to Greyhounds Rock Fredericksburg.  Contact me with your choice of collar width and style, and your dog's neck measurement, and I will let you know which fabrics I have available.  If you are with a non-profit organization and would like a collar donation for an upcoming event, I will be happy to see what I can do for you.

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