The National Greyhound Association’s annual Fall Bash, held Tuesday night as part of the NGA National Wek, brought greyhound breeders and racers together with prospective adoptive parents and other members of the public.
Shannon Henry and TC Howard hosted the party.
It was an opportunity to share stories with other people who like greyhounds.
It was open to the public.
“It’s kind of a night for everyone to relax,” said Henry.
She said the turnout was lower than in previous years.
“It’s gotten smaller every time,” said Henry. â€œIt still amazes me how many people come to Abilene. And a lot of it (is) – they come to watch the dogs, but I believe they also come to see old friends who never see (see) them. “
A low turnout could mean the end of the annual NGA meeting. There were rumors that this could be the final year of NGA National Week.
However, Henry hopes this is not the case.
“We hope not,” she said.
But she said it all depends on the number.
“We’re always ready to race,” said Henry. â€œI think they’ll try to hold social gatherings while there’s interest. But we hope it’s not the last year. So, I know they said it was a ‘wait and see’. That was a “wait and see,” so what – about 140 dogs running this week? “
Henry has been in the business since about 1994 and she said two decades ago that thousands of dogs hit the tracks in Abilene this week.
But people have aged and many of them have retired from business.
“When the tracks are closed, there aren’t many left,” said Henry. â€œThat’s sad because this industry has done a lot for Abilene and Dickinson Counties and many companies. The companies look forward to all these people coming in – the hotels, the restaurants. “
In addition to breeders and people who enjoy the breeds, adoptive parents and representatives from adoption agencies were also present at the party.
Veterinarian and dog trainer Shelley Lake of Paola has helped in her lifetime adopt approximately 6,200 retired greyhounds. When a territory adoption program that helped adopt retired racing drivers closed in 2008, Lake stepped in to fill the void.
â€œThere was no one to help the farmers adopt their dogs,â€ she said.
Through her work as a veterinarian and dog trainer, she already had the connections in the greyhound community she needed to place retired dogs with adoptive parents.
Lake started coming to Abilene about once a month, profiling retired dogs, testing them with cats, taking pictures of them, and putting them up for adoption on Facebook.
“That’s why I call myself a soil coordinator – I’m not specifically affiliated with any farm and I’m just one person,” she said. “I’m just helping them get the dogs where they need to go.”
Lake is a longtime greyhound breeder who has worked with the dogs on and off the track.
“They are addicting,” she said. “There’s something about the breed – and frankly what I think my personal opinion is – is how they’re raised here in Abilene.”
According to Lake, the dogs stay with their litter until they are one year old and are treated daily by farm workers during that time.
“You will just be treated from day one,” she said. â€œThey are socialized by their littermates, they are socialized by their mother. There is nothing like it – full stop, end of sentence. “
Lake said she intended to work with greyhounds for as long as possible.
In addition to placing the dogs, Lake also adopts them.
She has had many greyhounds in her life.
Lake currently has around 16 greyhounds of his own – it will soon be 17 after the party on Tuesday evening – and 55 â€œangelsâ€ – dogs that have died. She often takes in older dogs.
â€œAs a vet, I’m not afraid to take in the sick or the old,â€ she said. â€œThe shortest time I had was an incredible day. Letting one live in my house for 10 years just doesn’t really happen because I usually take the older ones on. But who is better equipped to take care of them than a vet? So I take it and I love it – be it a day, an hour, a week. It does not matter. I will give them what they need for the rest of their lives. “
Meg Davis of South Carolina has adopted four retired racing greyhounds in her lifetime. Two of them are still with her. She came to the fall party after attending a similar gathering in Abilene that spring.
â€œI’m learning about my two retired racing drivers here,â€ she said. â€œI just have two who grew up here and (I) just connect with their trainers, their owners, see where they were born and raised and meet the people who have loved my dogs as much as I have now throughout their careers my retired racing drivers. “
The former owners of Davis’ dogs also attended the fall party, as did the former owner of Lake’s newest dog.
Loribeth Wilson, who has been in the racing business since she was a teenager, has adopted several dogs and even taken in retired dogs as pets. She now has one named Skippy that she received from her fiancÃ© Lance. She sang the dog’s praises on Tuesday night.
“He opened the door to my apartment and she went straight up the stairs, straight to the toy bag,” Wilson said. â€œShe just got off the track. Clever. She sleeps in my bed and she is my best friend. “