Greyhounds make life of fleetness
Multnomah park's dog adoption service is a model for the country
Imagine if you could adopt Michael Jordan now that his career is over. Well, maybe not Jordan, but how about Steve Kerr? A consummate competitor with the heart of a champion. This is what the adoption program at Multnomah Greyhound Park offers on an annual basis.
Its marquee dog this spring is Kansas Gangster, a 4-year-old who might be the Steve Kerr of greyhound racing.
As a racer, Kansas Gangster won nearly half of his starts, 49 wins in 105 races Ñ a phenomenal winning percentage in a sport so unpredictable that trainers can bet on their dogs because there's almost no way to fix the outcome.
'He had an incredible career until he hurt his hip,' says Jeff Wilcox of Wayne Ward Kennels, based in Wichita, Kan., who trained Kansas Gangster. 'He raced in stakes races and regular races and was very competitive in all of them.
'He's a great dog.'
An account of a greyhound's racing career is provided as part of the adoption process. Kansas Gangster's stakes wins include the 2001 Hollywood Inaugural at Hollywood Greyhound Track in Florida.
Wilcox, a 1973 graduate of Benson High, is back in town after spending the last six months at the Hollywood track, which basically splits the calendar year with Multnomah Greyhound Park. Wilcox brought 31 dogs that raced in Florida, and he'll have another two dozen there before long.
The season begins tonight and runs through Oct. 11.
Greyhounds begin racing when they're about 16 months old. They usually compete until they're 5, and frequently live to be 10 to 12 years old. Most greyhounds at Multnomah will run about 30 races during the season.
'They're on a rotation,' Wilcox says. 'It's a rotation sort of like pitchers are on.'
The biggest stakes races include the $40,000 Murray Kemp Classic on July 5 and the $60,000 MGP Derby on Aug. 23.
The adoption program is one of the oldest and most successful in the country, according to Patti Lehnert., the track's animal welfare coordinator. The program, which placed 313 dogs in homes last year, can be reached at 503-669-2129.
'Every dog that ends his or her career at the track and doesn't go back to the kennel for breeding enters the program,' Lehnert says. 'It's really a model program for the country.'
Wilcox says it's fun to return and see some of the dogs he's trained. Greyhounds and their owners are invited back to the track each summer for a 'retired racers' event, although the dogs don't compete because of possible injury.
Racing kennels also find homes for their retired dogs.
Wilcox says stories of greyhound abuse in which owners destroy retired racers involve rogue owners who probably treat people badly, too.
'Anyone who spends as much time with dogs as we do isn't going to abuse them,' Wilcox says. 'You have to love animals to work in this profession.'