A half-hour drive away, we and a few other intrepid volunteers, along with the president of the local greyhound rescue from which we adopted Dudley, gathered in the parking lot of a huge outdoor sports store long before it would open, and met a trailer full of greyhounds who'd been saved after retirement from a track in Florida.
The trailer in which the dogs arrived.
There were 8 of them who were coming into our rescue. Their foster families were already lined up and awaiting their arrival. It was our job to unload them after their 15-hour journey, walk them, and help load them into our rescue's trailer so they could be taken to be bathed.
Note the "bald thigh syndrome" common to many recently retired racers.
They were so stinky and so skinny. Life at the track is not a good one, and some of the dogs have arrived near starvation and/or covered in as many as 70 ticks, because they are given no preventatives at the track to ward off parasites. Most of them have deep scars from injuries sustained while racing.
Still, even after all they'd been through, they came out of the trailer and sought out affection, leaning against our legs and snuggling in looking for reassurance.
First out was a big brindle male. He surged at the end of his leash for Iain. "I guess he picked me," Iain said, and took him for a walk while the rest of the dogs made their way onto leashes and into the hands of volunteers.
Who's such a handsome boy?
I took a small female, who had an unusually striped tail. She was highly alert, anxious, and, after her overnight journey, took the longest piss I have ever seen any living thing ever take. Gallons of pee.
Who's such a gorgeous girl?
Welcoming these dogs into rescue is a deeply moving experience. I got choked up (shocking, I know) at the sight of one of the dogs, who was Dudley's doppelgänger.
"Except my legs are shorter!"
Seeing this lookalike coming out of the trailer evoked the first picture I ever saw of Dudley, which was taken in a moment exactly like this one. The rescue's president, and Dudley's foster dad once upon a time, recalled Dudley being the most fearful dog he's ever rescued. "Dudley would have peed on himself six times by now," he said, laughing in celebration of Dudley's transformation.
Which underscored the importance of what we were doing. The rescue was accepting property—so much garbage that would have been otherwise tossed away—and there was paperwork to be signed to transfer ownership, like remanding a car to the junkyard. And the rescue and its volunteers were walking dogs who needed desperately to stretch their legs and relieve themselves, before loading them up for another (much shorter) journey. But we were also, and most importantly, welcoming these greyhounds with love and affection into their new lives.
I know it's scary, but it's about to get so much better!
I thought about Dudley, the scaredest greyhound ever rescued, and how amazing it is that the dogs we met yesterday will be grinny, galloping, galumphing goofballs soon, too. I felt very privileged and very joyful to be a part of that.
After the dogs had all been walked and loaded into the trailer, which the president had lined with hay to keep them warm and comfortable, they drove off to get bathed at a local vet, who had volunteered to bathe the dogs and do parasite removal. Usually it's just done in the president's backyard. He and his wife's dedication to rescuing these dogs is truly indescribable.
And we drove home, where Dudley couldn't wait to flop on my lap.
I hope all the greys we met this morning, who were fortunate enough to find their way into rescue, soon find their forever laps, too.
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If you would like to adopt a greyhound or volunteer your time, find a rescue near you with this interactive map.