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Adopter’s track visit a delightful surprise

By: Gerard Guthrie

Lifelong dog lover and self-confessed greyhound convert Mark Richardson wasn’t leaving any stone unturned when it came to understanding the breed after adopting former racer Hunny.

So, in addition to speaking with her former trainer, Richardson decided to visit Sandown Park for a Thursday night race meeting and described what he witnessed as a real eye-opener.

“Something that I firmly believe in every facet of my life is I try not to make judgements on hearsay and to just take a first-hand experience,” Richardson explained to Simone Fisher on RSN’s Talking Greyhounds.

“Obviously there are a lot of people that are dead against any form of betting on animal racing and then there’s those that totally condone it. So I thought I’m not going to go in either camp; I’m going to have a look for myself.

“Purely for self-interest, I wanted to see how the dogs were treated and how they respond.”

Richardson, who laughingly admits to accusations of having a love affair with his adoptee Hunny, went to the track in order to see the greyhounds go through their paces on race night.

“I’ve had dogs my whole life and I know what a dog looks like that’s being forced to do what it doesn’t want to do,” Richardson said.

“I have to tell you that to watch the line-up of dogs going up the ramp to be inspected by the vets and then going to be weighed – and I must’ve watched 20 or 30 dogs go through the process – the vast majority of them were wagging their tails and nuzzling up to the vet to get a pat.

“They were having a ball and it was wonderful to see.

“I particularly enjoyed seeing the dogs getting excited as they watched the lure from the elevated section in front of the kennels, but what I loved more was the care and consideration shown to the quieter dogs who were kept inside during that pre-race process. It reminded me of professional athletes preparing to compete, where some will hype themselves up while others will sit quietly and meditate with headphones.

“The dogs behaved exactly the same, all prepping in their own way do something that they love and it was a real eye-opener for me. I just wish that more people that adopt greyhounds would go and witness racing for themselves to understand the inherent nature of their new pet. If I had any influence I’d make it a part of the GAP adoption process. I now correct anyone who asks me if Hunny is a rescue with ‘no, she’s a retired racer’.”

Hunny, which raced as Ballymac Chick, only raced three times in an undistinguished career, finishing unplaced on each occasion; however it’s very clear to her proud owner that she had another purpose in life.

“The experience of my visit validated so much of what I’d learned about Hunny’s nature and she has exceeded every single expectation I had of adopting a greyhound. Everybody she meets simply adores her,” Richardson said.

“I was lucky enough to speak to her trainer, Des McPhie, not long after we first got her because I wanted to understand more about her and what her nature was.

“Des told me that she and her sister were both a little bit quiet, shy and quite retiring. They were fairly active but liked to keep their distance and that appealed to me – it really did – it was something I actually sought out.

“I feel that dogs that are timid in nature at the adoption days and don’t go running around, wagging their tails at everyone and jumping up and down, are more likely to be overlooked. Breed-wise, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made and we’ll never have anything other than a retired greyhound.”