This Is What We Do& Why: TEHYA, The Three-Legged Greyhound
While this site is principally about filmmaking, photography and TV news, the two things that I am most deeply involved in, it is also a site about who I am. And one thing that I very much am is an animal person. Over the years I have made mention of our greyhounds — first Lola, then Ava, and currently Alex and Bea. But we are also very much involved in the racing greyhound movement and organization.
When my wife Bonnie retired from her full-time job three years ago she vowed that she was going to replace her work time with some volunteerism. The one thing that she very much wanted to help out with was fostering greyhounds.
We have been very happy with the dogs that we have adopted. We also know a bit about the lives that we are giving safe haven to.
Greyhounds are bred and raised for one purpose: To run in and win races so that gamblers can bet on them. They are essentially four-legged dice. Greyhounds are only kept on the track if they can win a certain percentage of their races. If they aren’t winning and nobody’s betting on them, they are let go.
They also get injured, maimed, and even die in races.
The greyhound rescue organizations across the country, such as Greyhound Friends For Life, from whom Bonnie and I have now adopted three greyhounds, is one. I did my first reporter-photographer story for KCRA about how GFFL was helping to rescue the abandoned racing greyhounds from Guam in 2009:
We’ve been told that most people who foster will take in one or two dogs a year. In the three years that Bonnie and I have been fostering we have taken in twelve dogs.
Most of them came to us as “problem dogs”: greyhounds who had been returned for one reason or another. However, once these dogs came into our household we haven’t found them to be problems at all. We’ve come to believe that the problems were with the owners, who weren’t prepared for the commitment that is required of taking in an animal. Perhaps they wanted a greyhound because they were struck by their beauty, but were not willing to put in the time — the walking and exercise that a working dog requires.
We’ve found that each time we brought a “problem dog” into our house, along with our other forever greyhounds, who are happy, healthy, socially well-adjusted, that the visiting dogs quickly assimilate and just want to fit in and be a part of the family.
We’ve also taken in a couple of injured dogs with special needs. Dogs who broke legs on the track and were getting treatment. These dogs would normally be put to sleep rather than put in the medical investment of nursing them back to health. Fortunately, some of the race tracks have partnered up with universities with veterinary studies and the wounded dogs are handed over to the hospitals to be treated by the vet students. It’s a win for the future-veterinarians. And it’s a win for the dogs — they will never have to race for their meals again. They get to go into retirement.
Racing greyhounds are bred and sold immediately to the race tracks, where they go through two years of training. They live in cages and wear muzzles. They are even tattooed: in one ear is their birthday; in the other ear is their serial number. You can track each dog online to see their history, and sometimes even videos of their races. They are a commodity.
Only one-in-seven greyhounds every make it into a race on the track. When a dog doesn’t measure up they are let go. Hopefully to a rescue organization. Dogs start racing when they are between two and three and are mandatorily retired at the age of five.
When a racing greyhound is “retired” it enters an entirely new world that they were never bred, raised, or trained for.
— Until a racing greyhound leaves the track world they have never laid eyes on another breed of dog.
— They have never been in a house.
— They have never seen or had to walk up a step. All racing dogs are led up and down on ramps.
And yet, they are amazingly well trained. House training is almost instant and natural for them.
When a racing greyhound sees another breed of dog they will look at them either curiously or they will start to bark at them. The barking is not an aggressive action however. The greyhound will bark as it is backing away. They are afraid of other types of dogs.
Greyhounds also have extremely thin skin, almost like humans. They are afraid of getting into scrapes and getting a tear in their skin, which I very easy to do.
Greyhounds have no idea what it is like to live under the same roof with humans. And once they get a taste of that life, and discover what human touch and affection and love is, they never want to leave it. They are starving to be loved.
This is why Bonnie and I are so helplessly committed to wanting to help these creatures.
And this is what brings this article to the current dog that we have taken in for a period of time until she can be adopted into her forever home.
Tehya came to us this past week on Monday. This is a name that was only just given to her. Her previous name was so concocted that it makes no sense.
“Tehya” is a Zuni Indian word for females that means valued, protected, precious.
She is a seven-year-old female breeder dog.
The story we have about Teyha is that she was being transported in a truck by the owner-breeder with several other dogs when the truck had an accident. The owner was injured, several of the dogs got away, and this little female was seriously injured. She suffered a wound to her front left leg – but it wasn’t broken. If the owner had simply taken her to a vet she would have been perfectly fine within a few weeks. But he did nothing. Instead, she lie in a cage with a damaged leg that continued to get worse – without any form of medication or pain relief. Finally, after — three months! — he turned her over to the greyhound rescue group to do something with her because he was too injured from his accident to do anything.
Tehya was picked up by a woman in the rescue group and the dog was in immense pain. She was taken directly to VCA Animal Clinic here in Sacramento. The very next day the leg had to be amputated. The months of inaction to have her minor injuries attended to allowed the wounds and then the bones in her front left leg to get infected. Her leg was only being held on by a single tendon.
That surgery took place on Saturday, March 15, 2014. We picked her up and brought her to our home two days later on Monday, March 17. She was scared and suspicious, but she has instantly responded to human kindness.
When Bonnie and I were picking her up at the hospital we ran into a couple we’d met a few years who have two greyhounds. Since greyhounds are raised with their own breed they respond strongly to being around another of their own kind. Taking Tehya out of the clinic in the company of these two greyhounds was a comfort to her. Then when we brought her home she was greeted at the back gate by our two greyhounds Alex and Bea. Tails were wagging everywhere.
Tehya has only been with us for 36-hours now, but she is already showing very good signs. She is more relaxed around people now. Her ears perk up when you walk into the room. She loves to be touched and held. She’s able to get up on her feet on her own to go outside and do her business. She loves being in a house and on a soft pad that has become her sanctuary. She is on the road back to finding out what it is like to be a dog and to be loved.
She will be with us through this recovery period of a few months, then she will be adopted. This part can be hard. We find ourselves loving each of the dogs that come through our lives. But we have the satisfaction that all of the dogs that we have fostered have gone on to great homes. Sometimes Bon and I wish that we could go with them!
There are so many dogs in need, but we are able to help out the ones that we can. It’s something.
This is what we do and why