Saturday, March 20, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS - fixing weights

Sal never showed up. Jeff did. That was a shocker. He got out of the truck and told me to follow him, we had work to do. "Where's Sal," I asked.

"Uh, he and Terri are having a big fight at the house. He paid me to come fix this. He doesn't have a clue what to do."

"Oh man. I didn't want to tell Sal, Jeff, I swear I didn't. He wouldn't let me talk to Terri. I had to tell him."

"I know you did. Just don't tell anybody I was here, alright."

"You know I won't."

"I know. Now let's see what's going on with these racers. Are you sure their weights are screwed up?"

"I double checked 'em before I called."

"I figured you did. Had to ask though," he said as he weighed the first dog. He let out a long whistle, she was almost three pounds underweight. "Jeez, it's worse than I thought. Get the rest of them." He weighed the rest of them and all of them were three to four pounds underweight - except for Checkers. He was a pound under, but he was usually overweight. Out of seven dogs in, only one was not in danger of being scratched.

"Here's what we do," Jeff said. "I want you to weigh out seven pans with one pound of pure beef. Got it?"


"I'm going to call Sal. I'll be right back. Don't feed 'em, just wait on me to get back." I started to weigh the feeds. He was only gone a few minutes. "Ready," he asked as he came through the door.

"Yes." Jeff went to the cabinet and got a bottle of Karo syrup out. He poured a generous helping over each feed and then he mixed in alot of water.

"A pound is not the best thing to give them before they run, but it won't kill them either. The syrup will add a little weight and so will the water. I want you to load them straight in the truck. Don't let them clean out either. When you get to the track, Sal will be waiting. Unload 'em as fast as you can. Whatever you do, don't let them clean out! Walk them straight inside. We'll get 'em across the scales. They won't get scratched anyway. They won't run for shit, but at least they won't get scratched. Any questions?"

"No, I got it."

"Good girl. Now start loading. I have to go do my kennel now. Don't tell a soul I was here, I'll lose my license."

"Thanks Jeff." Sal was waiting at the track. I didn't see Terri for a few days after that. It was just me and Sal and he rode my ass hard. It was a miserable couple days in the kennel.

Friday, March 19, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS - I almost get fired

About a month after that Sal came in the kennel one morning. "Got big news, got big news," he said, "meet Larry. I just bought a puppy kennel and Larry is going to run it for us - aren't you Larry? Larry was a pleasant looking man. Tall with snow white hair and a a neatly trimmed beard to match. He didn't look like a dog person. He was much too clean, much like Sal.

"Glad to meet you Larry. Where is this puppy kennel?" I directed the question to Sal.

"C'mon Pam, time for breakfast. I'll tell youse everything there. Meet us there, just bring the truck." He was already out the door and Larry smiled at me as he followed Sal out the door. This was just great. Now I was going to have to spend and hour or two at Shoney's again. I was getting really sick of the place. But I was told to go to Shoney's so I had no choice. I went to Shoney's. Larry was a really nice guy and the puppy kennel wasn't too far away. There were only two puppies there so it really wasn't a big deal but Sal had big plans as usual.

The only time I ever saw Larry was for schooling. Other than that nothing changed in the kennel. Terri and I had a routine and everything was going smoothly. That is until it was time to blow out the dogs again. Terri had the bright idea of feeding the dogs BEFORE we blew them out. "It will save time," she said.

"I don't know, Terri. We've never done it that way." I pointed out. She said she wanted to do it that way though so that's what we did. We fed them. We gave them the milk of mag. We went to Shoney's and when we came back to the kennel the stench of diarrhea hit us in the face before we even opened the door.

We walked in to find that every dog in the kennel had blown out in their crates. It was in their beds. It was on the walls, in the floor and on just about every dog in there. It looked like somebody had painted the kennel in that awful iridescent, slimey, green shit. I wanted to cry. Neither one of us was going to make it home that day, this was an all day job.

We finished cleaning in time to run home, get a shower and for me come back for afternoon turnout. Terri wasn't going to come back until weigh-in. At afternoon turnout I made an awful discovery. Terri must have blown out the racers too because they were all a couple of pounds underweight. If I didn't get it straightened out the kennel would be fined a massive amount of money and all the dogs would be scratched. The problem was I was too new. I didn't know how to fix the problem. I couldn't feed the dogs. It would create all sorts of problems - some of which were potentially deadly to the dogs.

I had to call Terri. At least I wanted to call Terri, I sure didn't want to be the one to tell Sal what was wrong. I went to the guard shack and I called their house. Sure enough Sal answered the phone. When I asked to speak to Terri, he refused, he wanted to know why I was calling her. He knew I wouldn't be calling at that time of day unless something was wrong. He forced me to tell him about the screwed up weights.

He went through the roof and started screaming at me through the phone. Even the guys in the guard shack could hear his ranting on the other end of the line. He told me I knew better than to blow out dogs that way and for the first time ever he threatened to fire me. I had to tell him that Terri wanted it done that way. "Well, youse should have stopped her," he ranted!

For the first time ever I got truely angry at Sal. I had had enough and I yelled back through the phone. This got everybody's attention in the guard shack. They started to exchange looks and snickering with each other. Until this point they had no idea why Sal was yelling, they just knew he was furious with me. They finally heard me yell into the phone, "Is Terri my boss?"

"Of course she is," he answered.

"Am I supposed to do what she tells me to?" I yelled back at him.

"Yes, youse are."

"Well then, don't ever holler at me again for doing what my boss tells me to do. If you want to make a change, then fine, I'll take over. But until that day you do, don't ever holler at me again for doing what she says to do." I slammed the phone down on the receiver.

The guys in the guard shack started cheering. This was great. Somebody finally had the nerve to tell off Sal. They rode my ass hard as they laughed about my impending fireing with glee. They were lining up to get my job as the best paid help in the compound right in front of me. They resented the fact that I was a girl and I made more than they did. Not to mention the fact that with my level of experience I was really paid too much too boot. It was the first time I ever knew of a sign being on my back in the dog business. I left to go back to the kennel to wait for Sal.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS - the big blowout

One day we were blowing out the dogs. Blow outs are a strange practice of dosing the dogs with milk of magnesia which gives them a highly explosive, iridescent case of the shits. We gave them the milk of mag and left for Shoney's because you have to give the dogs a couple of hours for the medicine to take effect. We were gone for about three hours.

We came back to the kennel and were thankful that none of the dogs had diarrhea in their beds. We started the process of kicking out the dogs and as Terri walked in front of the crates on her way to the back of the kennel one of the dogs blew out all over the side of her head! I watched as she was blasted with a burst of iridescent, green, slimey shit with all the force of a super soaker squirt gun! Terri froze in place and started to wail. She looked just like Lucille Ball screaming as she was covered in diarrhea from head to toe. It streamed down the whole left side of her body.

She absolutely did not appreciate my response of unadulterated glee at the sight either. It didn't matter, I was helpless with laughter. All we could do was grab the hose and hose her down. Of course she went home and I had to finish morning work alone - but it was worth it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS - we make a pact

When I went to work the next morning I knew what I had to do. Nobody showed up as usual until Terri got there even later than usual. I was doing beds and she joined in to help me. I was right about thinking Sal would be too depressed to come in. We were getting ready to leave when she said, Pam, I need to ask you something."

I knew what was coming. "Good," I said, "I need to talk to you too. You first."

"Why did you tell Sal that I told you we needed testosterone? He knows I picked it up last week and he reemed my ass for it. I told him I forgot and you know I never told you that in the first place."

"Well, that's why I needed to talk to you. I told him that because when I walked out of the kennel last night I heard him start to beat on Kay. I had to have an excuse to come back in the kennel unexpectedly and it was the first thing to pop in my head. I was already kinda thinking that he had hit her before but I wasn't sure about it. Now I'm sure. I have to tell you if it happens again I will be going to the track about it. I don't care if you do fire me." I looked her directly in the eye when I said that last part.

"So that's what it was," she said to herself.

"Listen I know he gets rough sometimes but he means well. I will do everything in my power to keep him away from her from now on and you have to too. It shouldn't be that hard for the two of us to do. I like youse. We're friends. I don't want to see you go and the track will need proof, good solid proof, and youse don't have it.

"I know. That's why I haven't gone already. If you promise me you'll protect her then I will too. That should take care of the problem."

"It's a deal. I'll see youse at weigh-in tonight. Let's go home."

"Sure, weigh-in, see ya tonight."

As the days went by Terri kept her promise. Sal hardly came in the kennel at all anymore. They tried to hire Jeff back but he would have no part of it. He said, "It's better for the family if I don't work for them anymore."

He was right but I missed him. Terri was fun to work with and we got along great. She missed alot of work though and I was going weeks without a day off - just a turnout here and there. Luckily Bobby found a place for us and he moved us while I was working. It was a good thing because I had almost fallen asleep driving more than once and I was going to get killed if I kept it up.

GONE TO THE DOGS - greyhound abuse.

"Okay Sal," I said. Sal was too quiet and that was not like him. I knew that the less I said the better off I would be. Sal went into the kennel as I was unloading the dogs from the truck. I heard a crate door open in the kennel but I couldn't tell what Sal was saying. I could tell from his tone that he was upset. I heard a crate door slam shut just as I opened the kennel door. Sal was standing by Kay's crate and she was cowering in the back of it. All the other dogs in the kennel were quiet. They should have been clawing at their doors, clamoring to get outside for turnout. Something was wrong and I hoped it was not what I thought it was.

Sal shouldered past me into the kitchen, "get 'em out," he barked at me. I started turnout and he stayed in the kitchen. He was dressed to nicely to help with turnout - not that he would have normally helped in the first place. It was a running joke in the compound that he was the only one who could wear white and not get dirty. While I was in the pens he was in the kennel pacing back and forth muttering to himself. It was a quick turnout because I had to get back to pick up the next race. After I put all the dogs up I asked Sal if he wanted to go back to the track.

"No, I told youse, I'm going home." Which made me wonder why he was still there. He could have left just as easy before I started turnout. He didn't need to stay until I was finished. "Get down to the track. I'll see youse tomorrow."

"Alright Sal, have a good night." I went out to get in the truck and before I even got to the truck I heard a dog yelp and I heard Sal cussing. I went back to the door and I listened. I knew from the sounds that he was beating on poor Kay. He took everything out on her - but I didn't know that he would hit her. I wanted to report him but I knew I needed proof. I made some noise and I burst into the kennel.

"Hey Sal, I forgot to tell you..." he jumped back from Kay's crate, surprised that I was still there, "...Terri told me to tell you to pick up some testosterone at the vet's tomorrow. We don't have enough to shoot the bitches." I knew he knew I was in a hurry so I couldn't stay. I was hoping I had created enough of a diversion that he would stop his vendetta against Kay. It worked. He stalked out of the kennel muttering about having to do everything himself. He pulled out of the compound as I went down to the track. I finished my night and went home.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS - the stakes race

As the weeks wore on Sal drove me crazy. He became more and more frenzied as the stakes race drew closer. The Goose ran first in the semi-finals and Sal crowed about it more and more each day. I saw Jeff at the track one day. He had started to train at another kennel. He tried to hire me away from Sal but he understood when I couldn't leave my dogs. He didn't know about my big raise until I told him. "You know Sal only did that to keep anybody else from hiring you," he said.

"Yeah, I know. I don't care as long as I get the money." I laughed as I told him. He thought it was funny too.

Finally the night of the big stakes race came. The Goose had drawn an inside hole but he liked the outside. Sal had bets with everybody that would take one and he had plans to bet thousands at the window. "Support our dog, you know, you have to support our dog. Confidence that's what wins races," he told me time and time again.

Personally I had already learned, "if you take care of the kennel, the track will take care of itself." That was a quote from Jeff, a dogman, as opposed to Sal, a gambler.

When I saw Sal and Terri at the track they were more dressed up than usual. So was every other owner and trainer - even the leadouts were in tuxedos. I hadn't realized the race was such a big deal. Of course $10,000 to the winner was a big deal. You were guaranteed $500 even if you ran last. The other helpers and I were in for a tough night. We all had to do turnout and catch all the dogs by ourselves while the rest of the track was one big party. I was excited though. My first stakes race looked to be a doozy.

Finally it was time for the race. They loaded the dogs in the box after an elaborate introduction. Sal and Terri magically appeared by my side. "This is it," he said. "Time to separate the men from the boys."

"Heeere comes Sparky," The announcer called as the rabbit shot around the track! When it glided past the box the greyhounds shot out of it. The Goose broke second. That was good, maybe the dog on the inside wouldn't knock him out in the first turn. As he ran around the first turn he swung wide and two dogs scooted in underneath him. He came out of the turn in fourth place. That was good. He was a closer. He could still win from there. Coming out of the far turn he was still fourth. He didn't gain any ground. He finished the race in fourth place. I was happy. I looked over at Sal. I could see storm clouds gathering. He was not pleased.

"C'mon Sal, he ran a good race. You still get $1500 for fourth you know." I said to him.

"Yeah, fifteen hundred lousy dollars. I got more than that laid out in side bets. Geeze" he replied disgustedly. I knew a tantrum was boiling just below the surface. "Friggin' Bearcat ran second."

I knew that but I wasn't going to bring it up. Bearcat was Jeff's dog. Things were worse than I thought. About that time Jeff walked up with Bearcat. "So Sal, time to pay up?" He asked as he smiled at me and reached down to pet The Goose.

"Of course I'll pay up! Youse insinuating I don't pay my debts! Youse would be here the second the race is over to rub it in." Sal's voice was raising.

"Ah Sal, c'mon. You would be doing the same thing if you had beat me and you know it. Don't be like that."

Sal fiddled with his waistband. "Don't I know it. Congratulations, alright. Congratulations, I really mean it." I thought he was going to upchuck on the spot as the words strangled out of him. "Pam put Goose in the truck. We have work to do."

"Yes, Sal." I said. I took Goose to the truck and loaded him up. Sal was starting the truck before I was finished. "Sal, are you sure you don't want to go back up with Terri? I know you didn't plan on being in the kennel tonight."

"Nah, I don't want to fool with those losers. I think I'm going home. Tell Terri to take the dogtruck home tonight."