When I worked in the customer services department at the Marin Humane Society many years ago, I would sometimes take my break in the back. In the back kennels where the animal care techs worked tirelessly and always seemed to have something exciting going on. If it was slow, I would hang out with them in the kennel rooms soaking up their stories. I always looked up to them, admired them, and secretly wanted to be just like them.
Almost all of them were women. I think I only remember one man who was an employee and he didn't last very long. The women were strong and independent yet dependent on their co workers in a unique way. Animals came in through the front doors and back doors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The animal care techs worked in the trenches. They belonged to their own kind of tribe back there. Those of us who worked in the front would visit, but we never really could belong. For these women had experienced sadness whose depths I could never fathom.
And sometimes celebrations of quiet sweet victory.
One day, the phones stopped ringing long enough for me to break out to the back hall. I pushed past the double doors marked Employees Only into the restricted passage. And there to the left placed in the kennel kitchen were holding cages. An orange tabby cat, a scared little rabbit tucked into the corner, and a shy dog being gently led to receive her incoming vaccinations and overall body check. This time, my visit to the back felt different. These animals did not respond in the same way. There was something not right about them. I asked my animal care friends what was up. "They are from the Animal Laboratory. They always come to us like this. It takes a long time to bring them back around."
I was taken aback. I had never seen animals who had actually been in an Animal Laboratory. I didn't know we had a program that took in animals who somehow made it out. My heart filled with joy and pride for my shelter, always there for animals, never turning anyone away for lack of space or lack of funds. And my heart filled with sadness, shot back into reality that these three were truly the "lucky ones".
I never did get the chance to pet or hold one of the "lucky ones". Until today...........
Today, here I sit with one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met. Luke. Luke is an ex racing greyhound. He was sold to an animal laboratory. Somehow, Luke made it to safe passage and found his way here. Here to a most perfect home.
As I care for Luke while his people are away, I can't believe it! I am the 'lucky one" . Luke enjoys every single moment, no he relishes every moment. He is self indulgent in a humble unselfish way.
We take leisurely walks every morning. He pauses and takes time sniffing his way around his neighborhood. He stops and looks at me for a bit of a snack. He keeps me guessing, never letting me know what direction he wants to go until the very last moment which sometimes finds us right in the middle of the road as he looks each way.
Back at home, he stretches his long body, and rolls into the perfect position. He gently places his head in my lap as I rub his ears and hold his face in my hands. He is pure love and forgiveness.
The name "Luke" means Light Giving. In Christian Tradition, he is the Patron Saint of Doctors. I like to think Luke brought light into a dark place and maybe someone in a white lab coat was awakened and set him free. And in doing so they freed themselves.
Due to persistent and aggressive lobbying and activism exposing the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry, since 2001 greyhound breeding has been reduced by nearly 2/3 (to 10,000 dogs per year). However, Ex Racing Greyhounds are still being sold to Animal Laboratories here in the USA and in Europe.
Please check out High Stakes: Greyhound Racing in the United States for a comprehensive report on the current status of racing greyhounds documenting more than a decade of in-depth research exposing the systematic cruelty inflicted upon these gentle, helpless animals.
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