Fast Times at N.G.A.

I can hear them as soon I open my car door; the barking and rooing (a combination of howling and singing that is the trademark of the breed) can be heard through the walls and carries across the parking lot. I have arrived for my turnout shift at Northern Greyhound Adoptions in St. Albans, Vermont. Walking to the entrance, I pass an iron and wood bench engraved with the name Donald Westover.

Donald and his wife Dorothy founded the kennel in October of 2001. For years, he could be found spending his weekends introducing potential adopters to dogs and answering questions about life with sighthounds. His passion for the breed was evident: his enthusiasm was infectious, and many hounds found homes because Donald went the extra mile to make adopters feel comfortable – about the dogs and the adoption process.

Those who met him remember Donald fondly. He was a big man with a big heart, and he continued to carry the torch for NGA even after being diagnosed with emphysema, often attending adoption events with an oxygen mask in tow. His first priority was always the dogs, that was never in question.

He remained active with the non-profit as much as he could, even as his health deteriorated. He made it a priority to bring a greyhound and a donation bin to a local pet supply store every week. Now that he has passed, his devilish charm, his ‘hound companion, and most importantly his donation jar are absent. NGA is feeling his loss in many ways. They need your help and mine.

I am here to let the ‘hounds out of their kennels, in groups, and by themselves for bathroom breaks. This is one of four daily chances for the retired racers to stretch their long legs and for their mini-apartments to be cleaned. While they frolic in the yard and take care of their doggy business, I check their impromptu dens and change their bedding when necessary.

It’s a busy shift letting the forty-two dogs out and keeping the process steadily moving along. I know how cranky I would be if I was dependent on another being to allow me to go to the bathroom. The number of dogs in need of permanent homes swells at times, to as much as seventy. As tracks close all over the country adoption centers like this one must meet the demand of the increased number adoptable dogs.

This humble kennel in northern Vermont has never turned away a greyhound in need.

I have just added another function to my volunteer service; that of a member of the board of directors. A wise woman I know said everyone should sit on a non-profit board of directors. I am now privy to the financial aspect of the non-profit and often I wish I weren’t. The charity runs on the generosity of others, through donations and the other fundraising endeavors of the operation. The coffers are always low and the kennel seems to run on a month to month basis. Rent, utilities, and vet bills take their toll on the threadbare finances and I wonder if some catastrophe would push the charity to the breaking point. The weekend yard sale that lasts throughout the summer has ended, and the long cold winter approaches. The board has frequent meetings to discuss fund raising strategies in order to survive the cold months. The financial survival of the non-profit is a constant struggle.

I gain strength from the dogs. The mental burden of my role as a board member fades and my excitement rises as I take care of these beautiful animals. My worries and fears diminish as I look into the face of the first greyhound I let out of his apartment. I take a minute to scratch Mallow’s enthusiastic white face. I lean close and say to him, “I missed you, buddy.” He leaps out and runs around the kennel with wild abandon and I have no doubt he missed me too.mallow

Donations can be sent to Northern Greyhound Adoptions, 999 Fairfax Road/Route 104, St. Albans, VT 05478 or online at http://www.Northerngreyhoundadoptions.org

The Greyhound and the Cheetah

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The greyhound with her smooth coat and long legs gazed down upon the humans from up on high. They constructed many statues to honor her and her brood. They even buried their dead in their stone pyramids, an honor not given to any other animal.

“See how the humans worship me and my kind, Cheetah?” she said, her long nose pointing down at the wild cat.

Cheetah lay on the ground beside Greyhound and stopped licking her coat for a moment to also look down upon the people. ‘Yes, they do seem enamored,” she said as she resumed cleaning her stripped coat.

“They love my speed and my grace. My beauty is without compare,” said Greyhound with her nose in the air. “Do humans worship you, Cheetah?”

Cheetah stopped preening and stood up to her full height, a few inches shorter than Greyhound. With a false frown she said, “No, Greyhound. I am not worshipped by the two-legged men.”

“Why not?” asked Greyhound.

Cheetah seemed to consider Greyhound’s question for long moments. Then she replied, “For I am not as beautiful as you. My neck is not as long, nor are my legs. My fur is a mismatch of colors, not as pleasing to the eye as your magnificent coat. I lack your grace of movement,” said Cheetah with a humble look.

“What else?” said Greyhound.

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“Hmmm?’ asked Cheetah, coyly.

“What about my speed?” asked the vain Greyhound.

“You are very fast,” said Cheetah.

“Perhaps,” murmured Cheetah walking away.

Greyhound pranced alongside Cheetah and asked, “Who on four legs is faster than I? The clumsy elephant? The large-jawed alligator? The brutish lion? The foolish tiger?”

Cheetah turned back and looked Greyhound in the eyes, “The cheetah is as fast as any greyhound.” Cheetah then turned and walked away from Greyhound.

The proud dog sputtered with rage as she ran past the cat and blocked her path. “You think that you are faster than I?!”

“It would be a grand contest, but I believe I could keep up.”

“Let us race and let the world and Gods know which animal is the fastest alive!” declared the proud Greyhound.

“Who would decide such a contest? What would the winner receive?” asked Cheetah.

Greyhound thought on this. “I will ask the beautiful and wise Athena to judge the race and I will ask her for a boon for me,…I mean the winner.”

“You are confident, my lady. May the fastest animal win.”

Later, Cheetah approached Rabbit. Rabbit was hopping happily in the grass. “Rabbit, I need your help,” said Cheetah.

“I am very busy, Cheetah. What do you want?” asked Rabbit hopping this way and that.

“I need help winning a race. I need you to distract Greyhound,” said Cheetah.

“Why should I help you?” questioned Rabbit still hopping.

Cheetah answered Rabbit “The winner receives a boon of Athena. I will give you the boon. I simply want to put Greyhound in her place.”

“Will Greyhound hurt me?”

“Oh no, Greyhound is a peaceful and benevolent creature. She will chase you, but not hurt you,” said Cheetah.

Rabbit agreed, wondering what boon he would ask of Athena. What would a rabbit need of a god?

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The day of the race, all the gods were present and Athena stood at the starting line. With a wave of her hand, Cheetah and Greyhound started running. They raced side by side in a slow circle for many miles until Greyhound spotted Rabbit running ahead. Her eyes fell upon the Rabbit and she followed his movement even as it diverted from the race track. Greyhound overtook Rabbit and snatched him up in her mouth and snapped his neck in her jaws. However, Cheetah crossed the finish line and strode proudly up to Athena. Greyhound hung her head as she later crossed the finish line, her mouth still covered in blood.

Athena looked at the two racers and said. “I proclaim Cheetah the fastest animal on four legs.” Cheetah simply smiled for she was proud of her cunning. “However, I know that she cheated. Her boon will come with a curse. I ask, what boon shall you ask of the Gods?”

Cheetah looked up at the beautiful Athena and said, “I wish to be forever the fastest animal alive. I ask from Athena that all cheetahs forever more will be the fastest creature on land by a factor of two.” She shot the humiliated greyhound a sneer. Greyhound hung her head.

Athena looked upon the two and said, “I will grant this boon to you, Cheetah. However, your boon comes with this judgment to you and your kind. Though the fastest you may be, forever will you use your speed only to catch food. You will never know glory and admiration of human kind. You will not be worshipped and buried along with man. You will only know the meat of a fresh kill and never the kind hand of a loving person.”

Though Greyhound had lost the race and would never be as fast as Cheetah, she was content with Athena’s judgment. Cheetah returned to the plains, forever a huntress and never a treasured companion.