Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Social Discomfort, 10 miles.

dog racing

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to awkwardness is paved with well-meaning conversation.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my wife and I adopted a retired racing greyhound. Oracle spent the majority of her life–under the moniker “Emerald Oracle”–either preparing for races or running them. The fact that she came to us as a four year-old is a testament to how well she did on the track; if she’d washed out of too many races she would have been put up for adoption long before. She’ll occasionally get a quick sprint in when we let her outside in the backyard (although we’ve curtailed this recently, as we’ve noticed her spirited bounding has torn up a section of the lawn), so we do have a sense of how quick and graceful she must have been in her prime. We were given her records and her genealogy, so we also know that she comes from a line of fairly successful racing dogs.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like talking about her racing career much, and I certainly don’t enjoy listening to people speak wistfully about how much they enjoyed going to the track to watch the dogs race. I understand that in most cases these strangers we meet on the street while going for walks are just trying to make polite conversation, but I find that such a tack just rubs me the wrong way. I don’t consider the so-called sport of greyhound racing to be enjoyable or at all indicative of our positive qualities as human beings. While Oracle does not seem to show any signs of outright abuse–and we’ve heard some truly disgusting stories of other unfortunate greyhounds–the life she’s been bred for up to the point she came to us strikes me as superficial and cruel. Injuries are just as frequent and potentially worse than what you find in professional football, but at least the men who choose to play pro football made that choice on their own and are more than compensated for their risk. The dogs have no such luxury. Even the manner in which we adopted her leaves a slightly sour taste in my mouth, knowing that she was essentially being discarded because she no longer had the potential to make her previous owner any money, save for selling her to sympathetic people such as my wife and I. We are painfully aware that for as much as we love having our dog, the act of adopting her simply propagated the system that regularly chews up her breed. Oracle has had to learn things at the age of four that most other dogs get to learn as six-month old puppies, because Oracle has never had any sort of conventional “puppyhood.” There’s a reason that such animals are consistently referred to as “rescue” greyhounds.

Usually when somebody decides to inject their fond memories of the time they watched a six-dog pileup in Florida, I’ll make some kind of noncommittal noise and nod, tight-lipped. I wonder, if she were a child we’d adopted from an orphanage, if people would start conversations talking about how much they liked Oliver Twist.

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2006 by in Dogs, Society.
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