Saturday, May 12, 2012
He had been drinking a twelve pack of beer and he went to the store to get a 6 pack of tallboys. He cracked on open as he left the store and placed it between his legs to drive home. When he got to his hollow he started towards home and turned his headlights out as was his usual habit. When he rounded the curve, lo and behold, right in the middle of the road, hovering between the trees was a fully lighted UFO.
He got out of his care, with his beer in his hand, walking toward the UFO, yelling "TAKE ME! TAKE ME!" That is the last thing he recalls.
He woke up in his driveway in front of his house. He said his engine was revving full speed and he was sitting there with the beer in his hands. He turned the car off and went in the house with the beer he had opened and the rest of the six pack.
He told his mom to feel the beer in his hand and then to feel the 6 pack. The beer that had been between his legs was COLDER than the 6 pack. Art says, "anybody knows that the beer that had been opened should have been warmer because it had been between his legs except for when he got out of the car to investigate the UFO.
He believes that the UFO must have deposited him in his driveway to allay suspicion that they were there. He says they learned that from that "dumb ass drunk in Alaska or somewhere that they left to wander naked in the woods until the police found him." He says they learned from that mistake.
He also says they always take drunks that are out in the boonies because nobody will believe them when they tell their story.
Then one day there was a dog fight. One of the dogs had her ear cut which wasn't severe but when a dog's ear gets cut it bleeds like crazy. He was there when it happened and I watched him doctor it. That afternoon when we came in for turnout she had gotten the bandage off and Wayne redid it. This time he wrapped the bandage around her whole head instead of just her ear so that she couldn't get it off.
That night when I went in to turnout the dog was wheezing. I looked for Wayne at the track but I couldn't find him. I did my work for the evening and went home thinking that he would stop by the kennel after the races like he sometimes did. The next morning I could see that he had not been there.
I did my morning work. I talked to his friends who assured me that Wayne intended to be there, so I went home again thinking Wayne would be there. He was not. That afternoon there was a note for me at the guard shack to take the racers down and somebody else would be weighing them in. I did this and I let his friends know that Wayne needed to come to the kennel because one of the dogs had a problem that I couldn't fix. I had redone the bandage and she didn't wheeze when it was off but as soon as I put it on she started having problems again.
Still Wayne was a no show. I wished Jeff were still around but he had taken a job at another track. I talked to a trainer I trusted that night and at first he wouldn't help me. He didn't want to interfere in Wayne's kennel. I finally got him to tell me to cut a slit in the bandage at the base of her neck and that would help her breathe. I did this and she seemed to get better.
The next morning still no Wayne and the dog was in as bad a shape as ever. I was becoming furious by this point. I went to one of his friends and I told him I needed help. At first he refused. He refused until I told him that if he didn't come help the dog I was going to the track vet and telling her about it and the fact that Wayne had not been to the kennel in 3 days. Reluctantly he accompanied me to the kennel.
As soon as we opened the kennel door, we could hear the dog wheezing. He looked at me with alarm in his eyes and he was a veteran trainer. I knew for him to express worry was a big deal. We took the dog out of her crate and he gently doctored her and the wheezing stopped. He wrapped the bandage around her head but it was much looser than what either Wayne or I had done. Apparently I had been slowly strangling the poor dog.
Wayne showed up that night, apologizing profusely for leaving me. He had also thanked Bill for taking care of the dog when I couldn't. He was mad that I threatened to go to the vet. He trusted the trainer I had forced to help me and believed him when he told him just how bad the situation was.
I even got a whole weekend off, partly for good work and partly for not going to track officials. He also quit not showing up for work although I didn't get anymore time off after that until he left the kennel.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wayne came in the next morning and helped to do beds, sprint dogs and of course we went to Shoney's for breakfast. As we were getting to know each other the other trainers kept stopping by our table. I was fascinated that they all seemed to know each other despite the fact that they all came from different areas of the country.
We went back to the compound after breakfast and Wayne said, "This is where your training begins. I don't care what anybody has told you before, you do things my way. You got a problem with that?"
"Good. First we are going to change second turnout to after we feed. It is crazy to turnout and then feed. If you turnout first then the dogs don't get to clean out. Feed first then they don't have to wait until afternoon turnout at two o'clock."
"Two? We've been turning out at four."
"Well, now it's two. Like I said things are different now. When we come back for weigh-in we will kick out the racers and pissers again. It's more work but it will pay off in the long run. By the way, I give bonuses."
That brought a big smile to my face. Then he said, "I want you to mix feed today so I know what they've been getting. Tomorrow we do it my way." I proceeded to mix feed while he weighed racers. He surprised me by weighing the next days racers too. When I asked him why he said, "if you don't weigh them the day before you don't know you have a problem. You don't have time to fix it if you wait until the day they are in. I don't want to do something drastic to get them across the scale."
After feeding he went over the racers. I learned more from watching him check the first dog than I had learned in my whole time in the dog business. He also told me the secret to his "deadly juice." The "deadly juice" was his personal recipe for liniment. I was to later learn that many trainers would try to trick that recipe out of me. I never gave it to another soul - not even my husband.
Wayne had been working about a week when Kay was in. He checked her over to make sure she wasn't hurt but then he took her off the bench and said, "little D piece of shit, tonight you grade off." She was on her last line in D which meant that if she didn't run 4th. or better the track wouldn't let her race anymore.
Basically it was a death sentence and I panicked when I heard him say it," No! You can't do that!" I yelled. "She can run. She hasn't been running because she's afraid of Sal."
He turned to look at me and he could see the distress in my eyes. "What do you mean?"
"I mean Sal was mean to her. If he would lose money on a dog he would come in the kennel and take it out on her. Terri and I have been running interference for her but she cringes every time he comes in the kennel. You can't let her just grade off. If she's treated right, I know she can run. You have to save her." I also let him know that I would have reported Sal but I didn't have proof and Terri was helping to keep Sal away.
Wayne got a determined look in his eye and put Kay back on the stand. "C'mon baby, you get the special treatment today." He rubbed her down until she actually fell over on the stand, then he put a blanket on her to help drive in the liniment and put her to bed.
That night Kay won. I went to pick her up with a huge smile on my face and Wayne was there waiting for me. I thanked him with tears in my eyes and he told me not to worry that she was going to be fine from here on out. And she was. She was never a great racer. She farted around in C and D but she made money for dog food and that was more than many dogs do. When she finally did grade off she was the first dog I ever found a home for. Trainers were laughing at me for doing it and they all told me I would regret it.
They were wrong. One by one I started to find homes for the greyhounds. I couldn't complain when one was marched off to the vet, but I was finding homes for more and more dogs and I saved the ones I could and refused to let it bother me when I couldn't. Then the old timers started coming to me. They would say, "I have a dog I want you to find a home for. If you tell anybody I will deny that I gave you the dog and they will be your responsibility. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," I would tell them and take the dog and go on my merry way. They added up pretty quick. "One at a time." That was my new motto.
I went into work and I was waiting to clock into work when I saw a coworker that I don't necessarily see every day. She asked me how my mom was. I told her fine as far as I knew but I hadn't spoken to her for awhile. She said, "Didn't you get her message?"
"What message," I asked?
She said, "Your mom called a couple of days ago and said it was an emergency that she needed to speak to you."
I couldn't comprehend what I had just heard. How in the world could my mom call and tell someone that there was an emergency and no one told me. Lynn told me that she thought someone else had told me.
My mom was a nurse and she didn't use the word "emergency" lightly. I knew something was desperately wrong if she had called me. She usually doesn't pass on news to me so the call was highly unusual. So I got on the phone and tried to call her. She wasn't answering the phone. I tried several times with no luck and I was worried sick so I wanted to call my Aunt Edna but I didn't have her number. So I called a friend in Logan. (I was 60 miles away in Charleston) I asked her to look in the phone book for Edna Mitchem. Mitsie told me there was no Edna Mitchem listed. So I had her read all the Mitchems in the phone book to me and after 4 or 5 of them she called off Ruth Mitchem.
"That's her," I yelled! "What's the number?"
Mitsie gave me the number and I thanked her and hung up the phone and called my aunt. Thankfully she was home. I told her mommy called and left me an emergency message and I couldn't reach her. I asked her what was wrong. My Aunt Edna said...."Bill Brennan Died....." My head started to reel and I could feel myself being sucked into a tunnel. I had never experienced anything like it. For those of you who don't know, Bill Brennan was my dad.
As soon as the words left her lips she started to retract the statement while she laughed at her mistake. "Oh Shoot," She exclaimed! "I meant to say Bill Thompson, not Bill Brennan." My sigh of relief was immediate. Thankfully my dad was ok. Bill Thompson was an old man that my mom looked after in a nursing home. While she cared deeply for him he wasn't someone who was close to anybody in the family. So other than my mom being upset at his dying it didn't really affect me too much.
I laughed with my aunt at her mistake and I was relieved that nothing was wrong with my mom. So I hung up and went on to work. I did speak to my mom later in the day after my aunt got hold of her for me.
All's well that ends well.
Wayne Simpkins was the first super trainer that I ever worked for. Word got around the compound fast that he was coming and I was intrigued by the fact that all the "old timers" were in awe of him. Their reaction to the mention of his name was one of fear and glee all rolled into one. Fear because they fully expected the kennel to take off the second he hit the compound and glee because the man could party with the best of them. Apparently I had a true rock star coming to be my boss.
A good trainer is treated like a rock star at the track. People swarm to buy them drinks and dinner and they hang on to every word hoping for a good tip. Women throw themselves at them. They are treated like celebrities. Some of them even have fan clubs. I learned early on to not get involved with a trainer on a personal basis. They have a habit of hiring young girls and passing them from kennel to kennel when they tire of them and most of the girls are too dumb to see what's happening to them.
I was doing afternoon turnout when up struts Wayne Simpkins. He was a ruggedly handsome man with blonde hair curling around his ears, dreamy brown eyes and a deep, gruff sounding voice. He really did have a nice smile. He looked me up and down as he introduced himself, "I hear I got the best help in the compound."
I smiled back, " You do. I hear my dogs are goin' to fly now that you're here."
He smiled again and said, "that's the goal. You know, you're really very pretty" Then he looked from me to the dogs in the turnout pen taking everything in with just a glance, "You seem to have everything under control. What time's weigh in?"
"six o'clock," and I added, "I'm married."
"Ah, I see," he said as he straightened just a hair. "Well I've got to go make myself legal. I'll see you at weigh-in," he started to walk away. Then he turned and said, "I hear you been a little overworked. As soon as I get settled in we will see about getting you some time off."
I smiled back as I said, "that WOULD be nice. I haven't had a day off in 3 months."
"I know," he said, "that's what I hear and we are going to put a stop to that."
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
My mom had a lemon yellow living room that we adored. The picture doesn't do it justice but it is nice to see because it is the living room of my childhood. On the wall is the picture of the matador fighting the bull. On the other wall is a giant gilded mirror.
The couch came from the furniture store across the street from my parent's insurance agency. My mom fell in love with it the day they put it in the window and my dad surprised her and bought it for her. The coffee table is octagon shaped and has a giant slate inlay.
The chandelier had a dimmer switch which was new gadget in those days.
Pictured from left to right are my sister, Rhonda, me, Aunt Mary and Aunt Robin. I think that is my Aunt Rhonda Kay smoking but I am not sure.
Weeks dragged into months. Three months to be exact. No days off, not even a turnout. I was working seven days a week, twelve to eighteen hours a day. I was becoming a burned out mess. About this time Jeff hired a new helper named Bobby. He told him to come to me with any questions. Bobby and I became good friends. He would come get me when I was done with the first part of my morning work. Instead of breakfast at Shoney's we would smoke a joint for breakfast and go have fun sprinting the dogs or playing with them in the turnout pen.
We knew we wouldn't get caught because our bosses were too lazy to get up in the morning. It was nice not to be the newbie for once and Bobby was fascinated that I could get through the morning routine so easily. We had the same background too. Our parents had money. Enough money for us to be pariahs around the good ole country boys who generally worked around the kennels. He lasted longer than I did with his preppy grooming. I quit after three days, he kept it up for a couple of months. I made a lot of fun of him for it. He didn't mind.
One day Sal came in the kennel. He was his usual exuberant self. "I hired a trainer! The best in the business," he happily told me. "He's a super trainer. He will be here in two weeks and he is going to teach you everything he knows. You should thank me for hiring such a high quality teacher for you."
I was taken aback. I had spent the last couple months thinking he would replace me as soon as he found somebody willing to work for him. The only thing that kept me safe was the fact that nobody was willing to take his shit. I loved my dogs too much to go anywhere else and he took full advantage of it. The news gave me energy. Bobby (my husband - not the helper) and I celebrated all night long that night.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
1. Organic Idiopathic Sleep-related Nonobstructive Alveolar Hypoventilation - apparently this caused my heart failure
2. Health Maintenance - I am too fat
3. Restrictive Lung Disease - I think this is from breathing too much paper dust and sand and animal dander in the dog business
4. Obstructive Sleep Apnea - My blood oxygen levels drop into the 40% levels without my bipap machine. They drop into the 80's with it. Levels below 90% cause brain damage.
(postscript: I didn't need to say in in our newsletter because everybody in the building already knows. Ricky is mentally retarded.)
"Pam, I have to tell you something," Danford came to me with a serious look on his face. Something he hardly ever was.
"What?" He had my attention immediately.
"I saw Terri at the track last night."
"I haven't seen her in days." She hadn't been around the kennel since the day of the blow out but I hadn't mentioned this to Danford or anyone else.
"She had a black eye."
"A black eye! What happened?" Alarm bells started ringing in my head. I knew what had happened before he even said anything and I thought I was going to be sick.
"I don't know. She didn't mean for me to see her. She was getting out of the car and into the dog truck while I happened to be walking by. Do you know what happened?"
"No, Sal hasn't said anything about her being hurt." I didn't know what else to say. I knew he had beaten her up because of the whole weight thing and it was my fault for telling him about it in the first place. Sal had been a complete prick for days. I felt terrible. I just looked at Danford. I could see in his eyes that he knew that Sal had done it. He just didn't know if I knew about it.
"I gotta go, Danford." I turned away and went to my kennel. I crawled into a crate with Zorba and we lay there together with my head on his chest. I loved that dog and he loved me. He always made me feel better when Sal was too much to handle. I stayed there until it was time to load the racers. I met Sal at the track as usual. He wasn't in the mood to talk and I wasn't either. I managed to avoid him for the rest of the night.
From that night on I basically worked alone. I never saw Terri. Sal would tell me what he wanted done and if I needed help, Barry would come in. I did not see a turnout off for weeks and a whole day off was a distant memory. Then one day Sal came in and told me Barry had a heart attack and was in the hospital.
On top if everything else I had to take care of Nameless and Shameless. Those were the two puppies at the farm. I had named them because nobody else seemed like they even cared if they even had names. The names stuck because they seemed to fit their personalities. Especially Shameless, she was a mischievous little sucker.
I asked about Barry everyday for three days. Not with any great concern, just the general way you ask about a coworker who is ill. On the third day Sal told me that he had died. I didn't think anything else about it and I never asked about Barry again. The puppy farm on top of the kennel was too much for me to take care of. I was ready to quit. Luckily Sal came in one day and told me he was sending Nameless and Shameless to a farm in Kansas. I was glad. I needed a break.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
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 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, 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 a lot 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 'em 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've got to do my kennel now. Don't tell a soul I was here, I'll lose my license."
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 of days in the kennel.
About a month after that Sal came in the kennel one morning. "Got big news, got big news," he said, "meet Barry. I just bought a puppy kennel and Barry is going to run it for us - aren't you Barry? Barry 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 Barry. Where is this puppy kennel?" I directed the question to Sal.
"C'mon Pam, time for breakfast. I'll tell you everything there. Just meet us and bring the truck." He was already out the door and Barry smiled at me as he followed Sal out the door. This was 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. Barry 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 Barry 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 whole damn kennel in that awful iridescent, slimy, 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, you should have stopped her," he ranted!
THEN I got truely angry at Sal. I had had enough and I yelled back through the phone and 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, you 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 the 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 firing 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 for 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.