Night at the dog races – Tucson Greyhound ParkLast night I went to Tucson Greyhound Park. I know it’s an odd place for someone like me who is anti racing but I wanted to check something out.
It’s not like I had never been to the dog track in South Tucson. I was there once when the adoption groups met with the then GM about rumor control. That was before the 140+ missing dogs’ tragedy. Then I was there a few years later for a kangaroo court of sorts. Neither time was remarkable in the least.
As we pull in to the parking lot, my friend marvels at the size of the parking lot and then cannot believe how big the parking lot is and how few cars are here.
We meander in and wander around. There’s the lackluster snack bar with signs everywhere saying they sell Bluebell ice cream. There’s a rectangular bar with a bespectacled middle-age female bartender and two guys sitting at the vast bar. There are assorted big rooms – even with a wild stretch of the imagination it’s not Casino del Sol by any means. About two to three dozen people mill about – old and young, fat and thin, a few women, and some guy with a grade school daughter; people who appear to me to be the bottom feeders of society.
The ambiance appears to be downtrodden. My friend says it all so eloquently — “pathetic.”
When we arrive, it’s eerily quiet. Rather than sound like a noisy buzzing casino, the patrons seem in a hypnotic trance or back to the word du jour – downtrodden. A lack of enthusiasm pervades the room like a big stink cloud. A few people are spread out over the mostly empty rooms sitting alone studying the program, sort of like being in a big empty library comprised of intent gamblers.
We walk outside and some meager pastel metal benches are there for sitting but hell – it’s hot – what fool is going to be out there? Yet, the dogs are forced to run rain or shine and in 100+ degree temperatures . While my friend takes a seat and starts playing with his phone, I walk to the far left so I can get closer to the starting box as I want to see exactly what will happen.
Young boys probably late teens or high school age walk the dogs out in a straight line. The boys are wearing blue Tucson Greyhound Park shirts and the dogs are wearing racing silks. An announcer who can barely extract an ounce of enthusiasm announces each greyhound’s racing name and number, the kennel operator, and the owner.
I am standing against the rail straining to look at the dogs. They stop in front of me and I hear the boys chat about going to a baseball game and what they will do on Sunday, their day off. They look like nice boys but don’t show any affection to the dogs. I hope they do right by the dogs and treat them kindly.
I came to see the starting box. I wanted to see how small it was. The boys walk the dogs to the back of the starting box, push the dogs inside, and close the boxes. The boys walk away. The dogs start crying in stereo. I am standing on the rail hearing these eight dogs cry. I try to block out their sounds but I cannot. Even as I write this – I cannot block out their sounds. The dogs are standing in these narrow, tight, dark (and probably hot) starting boxes for a good minute to 1½ minutes and I want to scream. My own heart feels like it’s exploding in my chest and I’m on the verge of tears.
Finally, the dogs burst out of the box. I am relieved.What do you think Tipsy? that about covers it, huh?
I pray that none of them collide or fall like they sometimes do.
The pro racing contingent have said over and over like a broken record that greyhounds love to race and you can see it when they run around the track. And I say — if you were stuck in a narrow, dark (and hot) box, you would love to run too… run far away from that box.
The race is over a few seconds after it’s begun. We decide not to wait until race number three. I cannot bear to watch more dogs pushed in to the dark, narrow starting boxes and listen to more cries.
We go back inside and see people hunched over their programs and vacantly staring at other races on suspended TVs.
Live greyhound racing exists in seven states. Tucson Greyhound Park is Arizona’s last live dog track. It’s a dying sport.
Greyhound racing is for losers.
(Photos courtesy of Perry Woods)
Tipsy is very playful and snuggly. He has a lot of energy for a senior dog. He is friendly and affectionate—he will look for people if they’ve left the room. He will approach to have his ears scratched. He smiles when it is supper time. Tipsy would do well in a working family home with older, well-mannered children, 10 and up. He is good with other dogs of all sizes and would probably be fine as an only dog. For more information about this dog, and other rescued racing greyhounds looking for homes, go here. If you don't know about the plight of racing greyhounds go here.