"I have moved over 2,700 greyhounds to adoption by working with 15+ farmers in Abilene and countless adoption groups."
In 1993, I was a young college student looking for a summer job. My sister's boyfriend (now husband) worked at the Woodlands as a security guard, and he knew I loved animals and said why don't I put my info up in the guard shack? So I did. Ironically, that did not lead to a job at the track, but an assistant job with Robert Gillette who owned greys and had his own veterinary practice. I took over care of his 12 greyhound farm and worked at his clinic also. Since I still didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life, this was a very formative time for me. But the greyhounds spoke to me. When he didn't feel like he had enough work for me, he hooked me up with Harvey Brown a trainer at the Woodlands, where I started as a helper and worked my way up to trainer.
I spent 15 years of my life training greyhounds and it was my favorite time of my whole life, and it solidified in me really quickly that I wanted to follow my dream and become a veterinarian. I was accepted into the KSU College of Veterinary Medicine class of 1999. And yes, I still worked at the track on breaks back home. When I graduated, I worked full time veterinary for a few years, then dropped to part time veterinary and part time greyhound assistant trainer. When the Woodlands closed in 2008, I cried, that big huge ugly cry, I felt like my life was over. I had Flying Robin in the last race ever run at the Woodlands, it was a Grade A (which she had no business being in, as she was only competitive as a C dog), but she came off smiling, helicopter tail wagging, so happy for her last place effort. The track had made a video of memories they played after that last race, celebrating the memories, and tears just streamed down my face unabashedly while I sat there hugging Robin.
After the Woodlands closed, I wanted to stay in the greyhound industry somehow, so I started a greyhound cancer study (which I am still doing, and will do for the remainder of my life). When Greyhound Support of Kansas City stopped placing the adoptables out of Abilene, I took over. I have owned a couple of racers of my own (though I was a much better trainer than I am an owner), and my husband and I chose not to have children, so we have 13 greyhound kids of our own at this time.
I knew nothing about greyhounds or greyhound racing when I started working with them. I learned very quickly that this breed is who they are because of everything they go through to be a racer. They stay with their littermates until they are a year of age, so they are way better socialized with other dogs than any other breed. They tend to go into the kennels at around a year of age, where they are taught to be lead broke and to be handled in all the ways they will need to be handled as a racer. And then they go through the various stages of training: from the jackalure to whirlygigging, to walking, to sprinting, to handslipping and boxing, each is a step toward becoming a racer, and even the ones that fail, are very well trained to become a pet.
I have now personally owned 46 greyhound pets that I have welcomed into my home. I couldn't tell you how many I have fostered personally. I have moved over 2,700 greyhounds to adoption by working with 15+ farmers in Abilene and countless adoption groups. I have taken in any sick greyhound off of my adoption list because I believe that every dog should know a home, whether it be for one day, one week or one month. Greyhounds are my everything and everything I do is for the greyhounds, and it always will be. And without greyhound racing, we have no greyhounds, at least, not the dogs we love.
Shelley Lake, DVM