Sunday, January 13, 2008

Field Trip

I loved field trip day when I was in elementary school. The excitement of picking out your favorite outfit. Packing an extra special lunch and snack for the ride. Dreaming about what $5 gift you could purchase from the gift shop. Figuring out which best friend you would sit with on the bus on the way there. But then you had to have a back up because once you got there you were sure to have some sort of stupid fight about which one of you knows more Madonna songs during the boring cyclorama presentation and you didn't want to be sitting with the losers in the front of the bus with the chaperons.

Saturday, for all intents and purposes, was as close to a field trip as adults get in life. No kids running around (they weren't allowed), alcohol, gambling, and greyhounds! Really, what more could you ask for? It was the annual SEGA behind the scenes tour to the Birmingham Dog Track and this year's event boasted an attendance of 68 people!

The morning started out (after a 3.5 hour drive for our family) in the adoption kennel. Now, let's all take a moment and think this through. Even armature gamblers could see a sure thing in betting on the odds of 68 greyhound lovers going into an adoption kennel and at least one of them coming out with a dog. Yes, it happened. They are picking her up later this week after she's been fixed. I took a picture of my adoption kennel favorite: SpottyDottie. She is a little confused whether or not she is a greyhound or a Dalmatian. Maybe that's why she's retired.

After we had our fill of the adoption kennel, we moved on to Champions Racing Kennel to get a look at the how a functioning racing kennel works. Now with 68 die hard greyhound lovers, all of us with at least one four-legged couch potato on our sofa, we had plenty of questions. Here's what we learned, (for those of you who are greyhound experts, this will be a refresher):
  • The dogs are fed a raw meat/ground kibble/supplement meal once a day - girls around 2lbs a day, boys around 3lbs a day
  • In the kennel the females are kept on top crates and males on the bottom. Why? The girls jump better than the boys, and they want to preserve their family jewels.
  • Music is pumped into the kennels 24/7 - our dogs preferred classic rock
  • Dogs race every 3 days - winning dogs are tested for drugs after each race. Almost everything, even aspirin, is illegal for use in racing greyhounds
  • They are turned out 4 to 5 times a day for 45 minutes a time - males and females are separated.
  • They are loved and cared for in the kennel and all of the trainers we spoke with tirelessly look for homes for their dogs after their careers are over. We even talked to one trainer who has an owner that pays adoption groups $150 per dog that they will take in. Yes, we got his name.
After a few skritches and kisses and a lovely smile from Dream True (aka Smiley - can you tell why - that's not meanness, that's a grin), we were on our way to see the weigh in for the Saturday Matinee.

It was amazing to see the trainers and leads manage 8 dogs at once. Well, I guess that's why they call them professionals!

Before going upstairs, Kevin gave a wagering lesson to a few novices. It's the teacher in him, you know. And look what we brought as thank you gifts to the track. What better way to say thank you than with naked women?

No sack lunches here. Next it was up to the sky box for our lunch. Then it was time to place a few wagers and cheer on the pups. Every track has a funny name for their lure. In Birmingham, it's Smitty. Heeeeeeeeeeeeer Cooooooooooooooooooooomes Smitty.

Kevin and I weren't very successful until the seventh race. We decided to put our money on Flat Out Fallon, a distant sister of Flat Out Isha (they share a father). Fallon was our only winner for the day, and a big one at that. Maybe that's a sign?

It was hard to leave the pups behind. But we know our efforts are helping to place these babies into good homes when their careers are over. And spending money at the track helps to keep the track open - providing a place for the dogs to live and thrive. So many are put down when tracks are closed for even just the holidays because there is no where for them to go. I know it's a controversial topic and one that the greyhound community debates regularly. But the bottom line is, I wouldn't have my girl if it wasn't for the track. And who knows? One of these guys we saw on Saturday could end up on my sofa one day.

It was a fantastic field trip, despite the fact there wasn't a gift shop there for me to make a purchase. And the only squabble on this trip was over Miss Madonna, who did show in the second race and we didn't put a couple of dollars on her. All was forgiven and I didn't have to ride with the losers in the front of the bus on the way home.


pattysea said...

I often thought that greyhound racing was cruel. Hmmmm, with the recent articles in the Boston Globe and more input from you, I think I've changed my mind. A true woman who flip-flops like Mitt Romney. Any decisions on a companion for Seka??

IHateToast said...

okay, i can't get beyond you associating madonna with elementary school.

i'm sure you meant to say leif garrett or david and shawn cassidy. silly woman. madonna was in high school. got it?!