Finding the Right Homes for Retired Hounds in the Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia Area ...and Beyond!
Dog Diaries

Dog Run

by Merle Doughten

The radio alarm sounded bringing me out of a dead sleep. Andrea on the other hand had not had that great of a night sleeping and was still somewhat awake. She turned off the alarm and made sure I was moving toward the upright position to get out of bed. The digital display on the clock read 2:47, no, that’s’ not 2:47 in the afternoon either. Outside in the pitch-blackness of the middle of the night the sunrise was still almost 3 hours from making its daily appearance.

Turning on the small light in the room, I got dressed and blurry thoughts of a discussion the evening before reminded me that Anthony and Amanda had wanted to also go. Go where you ask? Why where any sane person in their right mind wants to do at 3 in the morning, we wanted to go walk some dogs!

I headed into the bathroom to splash some water on my face to at least be alert enough to drive to the pick up area. Andrea had gone in to get our son Anthony up, but we think he stayed up a little too late watching a Star Wars movie and didn’t budge. Shuffling was coming from Amanda’s room and as I came out of the bathroom, she pushed passed me going in. Andrea headed back to bed before the sheets got too cold.

Downstairs the Herd is moving about, probably trying to figure out what those crazy humans are doing in the middle of the night. Once down I let everyone out back for a quick potty break and while glancing out the front window, I saw that Ed Harpster had pulled up in his truck and was walking up the driveway. Ed and his wife, April, are also volunteers that, like us wackos, like to get up in the middle of night just to walk dogs! Ed and April are going to be taking over the Delaware Meet and Greets from me in May because I just can’t dedicate 100 percent to it at this moment with work and the kids.

Opening the door to let Ed inside, I can hear Mack jumping up on the fence along the side yard to see who is visiting at this strange hour of the night. Once inside, the Herd instantly mobs Ed after the quick potty break. Ed laughs as 4 needle noses, and one small one (Emmy), go over every inch of his person to sniff out any animals he may have been in contact with in the last 30 days! After the introductions and sniffing, the Herd heads back to bed, especially since it doesn’t appear as if food or snacks are coming out. With Amanda in tow, we head out the door by 3:10.

A quick stop at Dunkin Donuts, we get our motivation from a cup of Joe and some eats. I like the bow ties, although I really need to start passing on them! While we are there, we exchange morning pleasantries with Ram, the late night donut guy. He is an Indian fellow who seems to always be working when we stop by. To this day, I really honestly don’t think we have ever understood a word he says, but he smiles, waves, and gives us our order, but not without Ed giving him a hard time about something!

Once we have our brew and donuts, we jump on I-95 for a quick run down to Aberdeen, Maryland along with the other early morning travelers. As we exit, we can see the parking lot of where we will be meeting the dog hauler. A few years back, we used to meet the truck at the Maryland House, which is one of the service areas along I-95. The driver at the time, Kenny, however was uncomfortable unloading the greyhounds in an area that was not partially fenced in, just in case one bolted and got away from us. He found an excellent area for us to meet the truck, Cal Ripkin Stadium. It was in the parking lot, so it was wide open, but also the area was fenced in from I-95 and there was no other traffic in the lot. At the Maryland House, we had to contend with incoming and outgoing traffic continually, most of it being the big semi trucks.

As we rounded the corner off I-95, we could see the dog hauler truck was already there and a couple of vehicles were parked waiting for the greyhounds to be offloaded. The truck, I believe it is a Chevy Suburban, has a white trailer attached to it that can contain up to 24 dogs. They began their journey down from Seabrook, New Hampshire the evening before driving through the over night hours. The reason they do this at nighttime has nothing to do with moving illegal dogs. The former owners, Chris Makepeace, and a rep from GEGR sign for all of the dogs taken by the group when they arrive to keep everything legal. Instead they are moved overnight to keep the stress levels of the dogs to a minimum, it is cooler, less traffic to get stuck in, and if there is a break down the dogs will not be out in the middle of the day.

On this morning, we are there helping out with walking the dogs. There are going to be 6 dogs on this run. If you think we got up early, Ray and Trish Lackwitz’s have driven 3 hours already from Southern Maryland to pick up 4 greys to take with them back down to Greyhound Central in Lusby, Maryland. That is 6 hours round trip driving in the middle of the night. While the Arnold’s and Heather Couvillon are picking up the other 2 as fosters.

Back a few years ago, Andrea and I used to help haul the dogs from the Maryland House down to Southern Maryland, help with grooming them, then help with any adoptions if needed. Then one time while driving home at 1 in the afternoon, I dozed off behind the wheel and crossed 3 lanes of traffic before Andrea woke me up. Needless to say that since then we have not made any of the trips to Southern Maryland with a dog run. Instead, we have been content with helping out by walking the dogs to get them ready for the trip to Greyhound Central.

For those of you that want to see the entire greyhound experience, seeing the dogs come off the truck is almost as good as seeing your greyhound race. Deb Johnson, past President and founder of GEGR, said it is like seeing them “reborn”. It is the beginning of their new life as “retired” racers. The dogs have no idea what is going on when we open the doors to the hauler. Some are terrified, while others are ecstatic, while others just want to stretch out a little. Either way it is always enjoyable being there to see them as they are lifted down and placed on the ground.

We pull up to the truck and we can already hear a few of the dogs barking excitedly. Another group is there waiting for the unloading to begin. Ray and Trish pull up next to us and after early morning greetings, we head over to see our pups. I have done this a number of times and I still feel my pulse pick up a notch as we get ready to unload. This is something that never gets old.

We all stand back and watch as the other group gets their pups, the cold air hasn’t chilled the atmosphere of the moment. Then it is our turn. Trish goes over the paperwork as we get the leashes ready. Ed gets a big white boy that is just as happy as can be, Machinist I believe is his name. The next one off is a fawn colored boy with a touch of black on his muzzle, Decided. I slip the collar on him and his muzzle back into place. He instantly begins rubbing his face against my leg before pausing to pee for a steady 2 minutes straight on the back of the truck he just spent the last 8 hours in.

From the other side of the truck, I hear Amanda giggling and I walk around to see what is so funny. The little brindle girl she has is showing as many teeth as possible through the muzzle. The more Amanda laughs the more this sweet little girl grins. Amanda drops to her knee and is instantly smacked in the face as this cutie pie tries to lick her through the muzzle, still grinning. You can’t help but laugh just looking at her. This is Betty Boop. Soon to be a new star on the GEGR forum, with many pictures of her overbite and smile. Right now she is just happy to have Amanda rubbing her

After a few minutes of walking the dogs in the grass that surrounds the parking lot to handle their business, no one gets loaded until they all take care of business. No one wants to be driving back to where ever with the smell of fresh dog poop in the their vehicles. Once everyone has taken care of business, we all meet again with the hounds near Trish and Ray’s van. Almost as if on cue, a plastic bag goes drifting by making just enough noise to draw interest. Ears go up, a few tight leashes, and a “leave it” end this dog run. Heather Couvillon and the Arnold’s pull up and we get everyone loaded up ready for their next trip, much shorter then the one they just embarked on.

Once everyone is loaded and set, we head on back to Delaware while the greyhound’s head to their new lives as retired racers. Amanda is in the back seat still laughing about Betty and her crazy smile, while Ed and I ride up front talking about the next run. This isn’t something we have to do, but it is something we love doing.

Greyhounds aren't just dogs, they are a way of life!