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.


  1. What a great post! I enjoyed every moment of it. I've seen greyhounds race once a long time ago but this was so interesting. And the puppies...Squeal! I would have been in heaven as I love babies. Such a good trip!


    1. Puppies!! No one could have predicted that they would be there for us to see and snuggle, since arrangements for this visit were made months ago. Just thinking about these babies makes me smile.

  2. Great post Connie! I really enjoyed seeing all the beautiful dogs and going on a trip to the race track with you. When we lived in Florida there was a Greyhound track nearby. Glad you did well raising funds and that your friends added a new doggie!

    1. Thanks, Pam. It is my hope that greyhound lovers and adopters will take a chance to objectively experience what their dogs did during their racing career. It's very enlightening, and it gives us a peek into what they are bred for and why they do some of the things they do as retirees. That squeeky thing at the end of the race ... that was my revelation and window into greyhound behavior.

  3. You did great with the race photos! Congrats to Myth. Bet she has a forever home!

    1. We knew, as soon as Kim was introduced to Myth, that it was a match. She's been at their house since Monday evening, and other than Myth's habit of putting just about everything into her mouth, things are going surprisingly smoothly. She is a really, really nice dog.

  4. We are actually up bright and early today....on our way to meet a new Grey. We have one right now, and lost one in May to cancer. So hard. But, we think it MIGHT be time...... this one is a little (nearly) 2 year old named Bomber....we think if she comes home w/ us we may have a name change. :-) Exciting day here!!

    1. Chris, this is so exciting!! Losing a dog is heartbreaking, no matter how it happens or how many times we have experienced it. For me, it helps to bring another one into the family when the time feels right. It sounds like the time has come for you. I am very happy for you.

      Garrett was just shy of 2 when Chris and Gale brought him home earlier this year. It was a huge adjustment for them, having had seniors for the past few years. They are figuring out how to deal with the demands of a young dog, and Garrett has learned how to be a member of their family. It was the same for us when we adopted Ruby, who was about a year and a half old at the time.

      Happy Gotcha Day, Bomber!

  5. Yep! It was her Gotcha Day!! She is now Isabella (Izzy). Adjustments are going well. Even our cat ~ who absolutely believes she is a Grey as we have had at least one in the house for her entire 16 years on earth ~ has adopted her with snuggles and a few ear rubs. Izzy is a very very timid girl, so after a home visit, the agency was sure we would be best for her. We, of course, are the real winners in the story. Such a fun day. Thanks for the wishes.

  6. I loved this post, what a fun, fun event from start to finish! There is nothing like holding a new puppy to remind you about the circle of life, and give you puppy fever! :-) --Glad to read agove that Myth is settling into her new life!


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