Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chipped Again

          I came upon the blog of Michele Truhlik during the 2014 A to Z Challenge.  Today she shares a bit about experiences with her beloved dogs.  You'll find the link to her blog at the bottom of this post.  Be sure to drop by to say hello.

CHIPPED AGAIN

     Unbeknownst to Kate, fate was sealed that sunny balmy day back in April 1999 when her thwarted efforts to pound the metal pole of the designer hummingbird feeder into the rocky Texas soils - soils so different from the rich deep grounds from where she hailed - netted her nothing but sweaty irritation and a tattered metal edge, leaving the rest of the pole assembly completely useless.

     As she recites those familiar chants: "Why does this s**t always happen to me?  Why can't anything ever go right?!" she blamed the universe for all her problems while categorically denying any ownership or responsibility for her own destructive impatience as the main root cause.

     Rushing through the Wal-Mart parking lot, of course pissed because she NEVER finds a close-in parking space (again proving her theory that the universe plots against her), with gnarled garden pole in hand, hoping they wouldn't question why she needed to exchange the damaged pole, she connived a plausible answer in case they did.  She was suddenly calmed and intrigued by a group of large dogs lingering at the automatic doors of her second favorite store.  She recognized the breed as greyhounds - a breed she knew little about though she did know that they were probably retired racers.

     Her steps slowing a bit, her thoughts shifted to "I think it just might be the right time for me to get a dog."  This thought rocked her.  Because, although she loved dogs, she had always felt her lifestyle not conducive to dog ownership…she was far too into freedom and flights of fancy for any kind of tie-down responsibility.  Still, deep down, she knew it was time.

     After the lengthy application and substantial (albeit impressive) adoption approval process, Maggie, a three-year old return, was delivered to her.  The sweet and striking reverse-brindle, with hints of golden browns peppering her shimmering black coat, immediately stole Kate's heart.
    
This strong female was clearly and indeed a natural survivor (possessing instincts, incidentally, not unlike those of her new owner) and she displayed remarkable resilience from the harsh reality she had escaped…that of the underground racing circuit where illegal gambling took place in makeshift backyard and field tracks run by those known in that seamy side of the industry as Rabbit-Runners (because they would throw a live rabbit onto the track and bet on which dog would get it first). These were disgusting criminal sorts akin to Pit Bull fighting ringleaders, driven by greed, narcotics and machismo, having no regard for life, be it animal or human.
    
     It wasn't until Bella came along though that Kate became painfully aware of the cruelty looming out there for these poor incredibly docile creatures.  Bella came in a condition that can only be described as heartbreaking: an obvious escapee from rabbit-running hell, she lived in the wild for God knows how long.  By the time she was found on a lonely farm in rural Central Texas, she had sustained almost complete hair loss caused from either extensive mange or shot nerves.  She had whittled down to a shameful 38 pounds, just over half the weight she should have been as a healthy grey of three years.
   
     Kate first encountered this pitiful female while she was in foster care.  She was completely devoid of hair on her undernourished body...so devoid that it was literally impossible to guess just what color dog she really was.  As the dog lay in a corner, apprehensive and frightened, she noted the exceptional beauty of her face.  In her mind, she named her "Bella" because of its French meaning.

     Disturbed by the persistent flashes of "Bella", she pursued adoption of her.  The relationship between her and her new greyhound was challenging, to say the least.  Bella was terrified of people, cowering at even the gentlest of approaches.  It became obvious that this forsaken little fawn female had suffered at the hands of cruel savagery, and it was suspected with good reason that violent head blows were doled out when the dog attempted to fulfill its natural hunger by eating.


      With time and kind patience, she waited eight long months before Bella even allowed her face to be stroked.  Up until then, the canine's heart would race with sheer panic at any human touch.  Kate was keenly aware of all the milestones, big and little, along the way as she awed at Bella's brilliant transformation from scared skittish spook to loving and trusting companion. 
   


     Adding some testosterone to the dominantly female household, she and her then fiancĂ© adopted Dodge, a big goofy brindle boy with the cutest flop-forward ears you ever saw. He was a well-adjusted dog as his years in the racing industry were spent with decent breeders who cared about their charges.  In no time at all, he adjusted to retirement life on the couch. 
   




A little over a year later, Kate broke up with her fiancĂ© and replaced him with Harry, an unruly 70-pound lap dog, aptly nicknamed T-Rex because of his ferocious-looking wide-mouth bite, playfully applied of course.  He was the crazy one of the bunch and constantly kept Kate laughing.



      A few months after Harry's adoption, an adorable little skinny senior girl named Takala came to visit and never left. Kate had failed at fostering and succumbed to the fact that she had fallen victim to the “Potato Chip Syndrome,” the condition affectionately known as "Chipping" by greyhound owners, taken directly from that old Lays Potato Chips ad campaign claiming "You can't (have) just one."


     Her life changed immensely and her five dogs became her world, her life, her reason for being.  Astounded by the absolute unconditional love and the many inspiring insights she gleaned from her "children", a core desire grew inside that drove her to take an activist role in helping to affect positive changes in the greyhound racing industry by attempting to rid it of the unsavory characters that so darkened its reputation.

     A monumental task at the very least, she threw her heart into this new quest, so much so that she underwent a complete career change.  A newly licensed private investigator, Kate sat many a nights and many a weekend in the seedier parts of towns, discovering the players and watching the comings and goings of suspected rabbit-runners.

     Crafty though they were, these hardened criminals felt fairly secure in their illegality.  It was well known among the groups that their clandestine operations went virtually unnoticed by overworked and overburdened local law enforcement agencies.  And so their dirty gambling and its associated animal cruelty and neglect continued.

    In a bold undercover move, Kate had partnered up with friend and police detective Norman Feingold to break up the underground racing circuit she had discovered over the previous weeks during the hot humid and excruciatingly boring surveillance.

     Knowing in no uncertain terms that all the men involved were dangerous men, or at least had the capacity to be, Feingold called on his old buddies from SWAT and secured an approved raid. With all the force of a commissioned Special Weapons and Tactics team, troopers armed with bulging muscles and intimidating fire power stormed the ranch and subsequently busted up the ring that held nine greyhounds trapped in wire pens way too small for their long once-graceful bodies. 

     Nightmares of the horrific scene haunted Kate and she was unable to shake the images of putrid soured food in dishes swarming with fire-ants, bone-dry water bowls surrounded by ankle-deep feces, the stench of infected wounds and the cries of injured hounds.

     Felony charges were filed against all arrestees that day, most of whom already had lengthy rap sheets and some had active warrants.  The nine severely emaciated greyhounds were at once rescued and rushed to the emergency animal hospital.  Two didn't make it.  Upon discharge, the remaining seven recovered in foster care, and patiently awaited placements in their forever homes.

     Kate visited the recuperating greys often.  Looking into the soulful eyes and feeling the stirrings of grateful greyhound hearts, she knew that she would chip yet again and at least one...no, two...ah, what the hell, three of the skinny greyhounds would become a permanent part of her pack.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
  Michele Truhlik is a writer, blogger and small business entrepreneur. Previously an owner of an advertising agency and a bar, she currently has a dog-sitting business and a jewelry business and is much happier being out of the corporate world. She is also following her calling and is an Animal Chaplain/Pet Shaman and will be officially credentialed and ordained in 2015. She has been rescuing and adopting greyhounds since 1999 and has been owned by 8 greyhounds. Pictured here is #7, Picasso. You can find her blogging at angelsbark.wordpress.com.  For more about Michele, see her AboutMe page.




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22 comments:

JoJo said...

I don't know how anyone can be cruel to animals, esp. dogs. They are such sweet things.

suesconsideredtrifles said...

Hi Michelle, do the greyhounds sing? Pop over to Anne-Marie's blog to hear a musical retired greyhound. annemariesanderson.com/cinematic
Sue

angelsbark said...

JoJo - I'm right there with you! It is just beyond my comprehension how anyone can be cruel to an animal. They are sentient beings and as humans it is our moral obligation to protect them and speak up for those who can't, in my opinion. Thanks for being an animal lover!

Sue - my greys do occasionally roo and I LOVE when they do that! Thanks for the referral to Anne Marie's blog. I'll go check it out. Thanks for reading my story.

Susan Scott said...

How wonderful that lives were changed for the better, for Kate and her dogs. Well done Kate ! unsure if this is pseudonym or not... But thank you for this heartwarming story.

angelsbark said...

Thanks Susan Scott! In the story, Kate is really me (Michele) and it's all true until Kate becomes the private investigator. That was always a dream of mine, to be a PI. And I have actually talked to the police who did bust up a greyhound racing ring and they told me, along with other rescue folks there, about the deplorable conditions so that part is true. I was just experimenting with genres and blended memoir with a wee bit of fiction for the sake of the story. Oh, and dogs in the pictures are mine too. Sadly all five of them, plus another one (Finnegan) are all at the great Rainbow Bridge in the sky. I'm currently living with greyhounds #7 and #8 (Picasso & Luca). You can read more about them and their antics at my blog, angelsbark. Thanks for liking my story Susan!

irenedesign2011 said...

You are a beautiful soul with a big heart for our four-legged friends. I'm happy to read that you care so much.
Irene

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Very well written and inspiring. As a dog-lover (and previous dog-owner several times over), I applaud... loudly!

~ Stephen

angelsbark said...

Irene - Thanks so much for coming over to read my story! If I could rescue them all, I would!

Stephen - Thank you very much! I so appreciate your comment...and compliment. It made my day! :)

Debbie said...

It's just heartbreaking what happens to these poor dogs and I admire those who are able to do something about it. Kudos to you Michele; such wonderful work you're doing!
Loved the line about replacing the fiance' with a 70 lb. dog! ☺

lilypadheart said...

Heartbreaking stories but beautifully written. You are an angel with a large and deeply loving heart and soul <3

angelsbark said...

Thanks Debbie and Renata! With more and more people becoming aware of the plights of the greyhounds, voices and protests are being heard. as a result of tons of volunteers and rescue organizations working tirelessly, greyhound racing is finally starting to be outlawed in several states. There is still a ways to go but spreading the word helps the cause. Thanks for your support and love!

debora masters said...

Youre doing a wonderful thing Michelle

Maria Falce said...

Beautifully written Michele. I could feel the beginnings of a "detective" novel in there...with Kate as the heroine...Well done!

Dawn Erin said...

Love it! Such a beautiful way to honor your babies. I'm so glad i got to know them all. I love your description of Dodge! And such great pics :)

lynnpuff said...

Beautiful and touching - so glad you and the sweet doggies have found each other. You are an angel here on earth for these dogs. I wish we could save them all! Great post! :) <3

Sora Garrett said...

Ahhh Michele ... this made me cry, which is among the best complements you can receive from me ... the other is that it made me laugh. The image of half a dozen greyhounds in one family does bring a smile, but what lingers from this story is gratitude that there are people willing to care for (and about) these graceful animals and to save them from those who do not. Thank you for sharing this story. Sora

angelsbark said...

Debora - Thanks so much. I appreciate you stopping by and reading my story!

Maria - Thanks so much. Hey, I've always wanted to write a crime novel and honestly never thought of doing it around the illegal racing! That's a great idea! I've had it in my mind to do a detective/serial killer novel but there are so many criminal elements in the illegal racing that I can see where something could really develop there! Thanks for that!!

Dawn - Thanks my friend! I'm so glad you got to meet them all too. I was going through pictures the other day and came across one of you when you were over giving Harry a massage! My dogs loved you. Remember walking them in the Poppy Festival Parade? That was fun! And Girl, so long ago!!! :)

Lynn - Thank you so much for all your continued support! You rock. And I wish we could save them all too! We do what we can, right? <3

Sora - Thanks so much for coming by to read my story! What a compliment: I'm glad my story made you cry: you have heart. But I already knew that about you. :)

Dee said...

Lee--thanks for inviting Michele to guest post.

Michele, your fictionalized story of how you began to live with greyhounds is both endearing and inspiring. I never realized just how horrible and terrorizing their lives are when they are part of racing. How blessed you are to have met Bella and the other members of your canine family and how blessed they are that you are in their lives. Peace.

angelsbark said...

Thanks Dee! And thank you for realizing the plight of the greys. It is one of my goals to help spread the word not only about the horrors of the racing life (to be fair, SOME greyhounds get lucky and end up with good breeders and trainers but a great majority endure tremendous hardship and cruelty) but about what amazing pets greyhounds make. Most people don't realize that when the dogs either aren't performing well or quit bringing in the money, a lot of them are simply put down. Put down in the prime of their life! And some face inhumane methods. It's bad. But better days are ahead as more and more people are becoming aware and legislation is being passed for the benefit and welfare of the greyhounds. Horse racing needs to be put under a magnifying glass too. What some of those horses endure is horrific. Thank you again for reading and commenting on my story. Much appreciated.

Arlee Bird said...

Thanks to all who took the time to stop in to visit this past week and especially to those who left a comment.

Thank you, Michele for telling your story at Wrote By Rote. Hope you will visit again!

Lee

angelsbark said...

Thank YOU Lee! It has been an honor being featured on Wrote by Rote. And thanks to all those who read my story. I enjoyed engaging with those who left comments. I would love to have you visit my blog, Angels Bark, anytime! Peace and joy to all...

Elizabeth H. Cottrell said...

What a poignant, compassionate, and well-written piece! Great job.