In the midst of preparing for Kevin’s surgery and waiting for him to come home, I have been trying to arrange for the arrival of 3-4 new dogs to MNGR. They have difficult stories, and trying to make room for them in our program makes me think about what our responsibility is as a “rescue.”
Many people don’t know it, but in some circles ‘rescue’ is a dirty word. MNGR has many people who will not work with us, both within the greyhound racing community and the greyhound adoption community, because we use the word ‘rescue’ in our name. It’s a political statement to some, the same as saying outright that greyhound racing is cruel and dogs that come from that situation are ‘rescued’ from a terrible fate.
When I founded MNGR, I chose the name deliberately, knowing what the ramifications might be. I knew that we might be blacklisted in certain places. I knew it might offend people. But I believe it most accurately describes what we do. Here’s why.
We have been lucky to develop personal relationships with many trainers and breeders in the racing industry who send us their dogs when they are finished with them. We appreciate these relationships. Some of these people have become our friends, even though we disagree fundamentally about certain things. But these relationships allow us to see firsthand where our adoptable dogs come from, to know things about their past including where they were born, how they were raised, their medical histories.
But others in the industry refuse to send us dogs, because they don’t like the idea that we think we are ‘rescuing’ the dogs from them. I’ve had notes written by angry kennel managers, saying ‘This is not a rescue. The dogs would have gone to another group.’ Meaning they do not kill their dogs. They make sure they go to adoption groups. Which is great, and which we genuinely appreciate.
Here’s the thing though, and here’s why I maintain that it is ‘rescue.’ The people that breed and race these dogs do not have a plan for what happens to the dogs when they are done racing… except for sending them to non-profit, volunteer-run adoption groups. If not for these groups, a majority of dogs would not be rehomed. This is what happened prior to the early 1990s before greyhound adoption started to become prevalent.
The non-adoption-group options for racing greyhounds are few. They can be put down (humanely or otherwise); they can be sent back to the breeding farm to take up valuable space; or they can be given away by their owners (to be used as coyote hunters on farms, among other possibilities). Rarely do they become pets of their owners – most trainers/owners have far too many to keep them all. The people who produce these dogs for profit have no system set up to make sure the dogs end up in good places. They are not running adoption groups. They don’t do home visits or screen potential new owners. They depend on volunteer adoption groups to do this. If there were no adoption groups, bad things would happen to the dogs. Adoption groups rescue.
Moreover, while we do know plenty of people in the industry who honestly care what happens to the dogs and take good care of them while they are racing (although generally not the same kind of care one would give a house pet), we also know this is not always the case. Some owners will repair a broken leg, and some won’t. Dogs come to us having sat with a completely untreated fractured leg until it heals in whatever way it can, often causing lifelong pain. Dogs come infested with fleas. Dogs almost invariably come with worms. Dogs come completely unsocialized and terrified, never having been out of their outdoor run on the farm.
Don’t get me wrong. We are grateful that they come. We are grateful to be able to help them. But this is rescue. Plain and simple.
But calling ourselves a rescue comes with a responsibility as well. There are some adoption groups who choose what dogs they take in. Who cherrypick for the dogs who will be easiest to place…. Small, female, fawn, cat-safe. When I started MNGR, I never wanted to do this. To the greatest extent possible, I have always wanted MNGR to take whoever needs to come. To the greatest extent possible, we go to get new dogs with a number in mind that we can reasonably house, and take whoever needs to go.
Will we take one with a broken leg? Yes! Unsocialized and scared of people? Yes. Food aggressive and turned down by other groups? Yes. Seizures? Yes. Not a purebred? Yes. Blind? Yes. 11 years old and never been in a home? Yes. Teeth rotting out and needing a $2000 dental? Yes. Incontinent? Yes. Dying? Yes yes and yes.
I can give specific examples of dogs we have taken that meet all these criteria. Could we adopt out MORE dogs if we selected for pretty and young ones? Sure, but that’s not what rescue is. We take whoever needs us the most.
I would honestly rather take a dog who is old, or sick, or injured, or has the misfortune to be large and black and male all in one package. I know the small fawn female will have another place to go. I won’t lose sleep at night worrying about her. But the big snarky boy and the old brood mom? We might be their only shot. That is why we do this.
Which brings me to the newest dogs arriving at MNGR. These three boys are lurchers. A lurcher is a greyhound mix. Some look like greyhounds, others a little different. They are also called “cold bloods” (racers would be “hot bloods”). A staghound is a type of lurcher (a greyhound/deerhound mix) that is common in the Dakotas and Montana. In many cases, it will be impossible to tell exactly what the mix is. They just look “more or less” like a greyhound. Those of you who follow MNGR will remember some of the lurchers we’ve taken in: George, Fear, Fiona (and her sister Mocha, who may have been purebred), Dug, and Frannie, among others.
In many places, lurchers are used to hunt coyotes on farms. Living outside or in barns, bare minimum medical care. And imagine the kinds of injuries that might be sustained when a greyhound hunts and catches a coyote. When they are not good hunters any longer, they are shot or abandoned. This is the closest thing America has to the galgo situation in Spain. In other places, such as Ohio and Indiana, lurchers are used for hunting or “underground greyhound racing.” These are field trials, generally using live bait, with no kind of oversight from any governing body. Again, unsuccessful dogs are mostly shot or abandoned.
One of the dogs we will be getting has been living outside (in Ohio, in winter) with minimal shelter. One photo shows a frozen-over water bucket. His owner has 20-25 dogs that he uses for field trials. The rescuers have developed a rapport with him and are able to take the dogs he no longer uses, but the others are stuck there.
Another of the dogs we are getting is a victim of abuse/neglect. When he was found, he was full of parasites and 20 pounds underweight. And blind. Blind because of parasites and untreated infection. He is young, only 4-6 years old. The people at OLP describe him as courageous, smart, sweet, loving, and amazing. Super trainable, housebroken, and affectionate. He’s also beautiful. But unfortunately with his “special need” he will wait longer for a home.
Dogs like these need and deserve our help just as much as the “easy-to-place” dogs. They deserve to see what life SHOULD be like. To rescue them, we need everyone’s help. We need people to open their hearts to a dog who might not be EXACTLY what they imagined, but who will prove to be so much more. We need foster homes. We need adopters. Please help us spread the word about these new boys. Maybe one of them is meant to be yours this Christmas. We cannot rescue them all, but we can make a difference.
Tom, chained in the cold.
Rain, blind, looking for love.
““While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. there were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
― Loren Eiseley