Tuesday, September 26, 2006

To the Dogs

Mills of the gods

The Mobile, Alabama Greyhound racetrack is embroiled in a doping scandal. Dog Racing (the "Sport of Kings", after bowling) has a long and proud tradition of being the most honest of all sports. Try as they might, underworld thugs have never been able to bribe a dog to "take a fall". Now comes the news that dogs in Mobile are being doped to keep them from running fast. So far, the only evidence is tapes of the races "You can just tell" said the Track Director. If this means that dogs were stumbling around like they were drunk, I would like to see the tape. If it means that they stopped racing and started sniffing each other's behinds, that sounds interesting also. So far, no physical evidence has been released.

I first attended a dog race with my friend Gaston Broyles in the spring of 1986 in Florida. It was there that I first discovered that dog tracks are frequented by a little rougher crowd that most other sports. There was a guy in front of me in the betting line with an open head injury. I'm not kidding. The guy's head was wrapped up like a mummy. he could barely walk, he could barely talk, but they took his $10 bet. And this was not the worst looking guy we saw out there. In fact, in the bell shaped curve of dog betters, he was about a c-. How dog racing survives, I'll never know. Well actually, I can guess. The fact that this particular track was in Alabama probably gives you a hint. Note that the track is not in Huntsville among all of the NASA scientists out there.

Dog racing, as far as animal cruelty goes, is actually a notch up from cock fights and bearbaiting, but it is still not going to win any PETA awards. Traditionally the greyhounds were "blooded" when trained, that is, known to run down and eat rabbits. The dogs are also too skittish to be perfectly reliable pets after their racing days are done and so thousands have been destroyed over the years. There are now programs to adopt the greyhounds, but most of them are adopted by dog race fans and so either starve to death or get run over while taking a nap under a pick up truck.So for the dog, adoption is no great deliverance.

I believe that the country will not respond to this doping scandal in quite the same way it has to say, the baseball steroids scandal. That is because no dog was trying to use drugs to enhance it's performance (and no greyhound owner would be smart enough to think of that). No, this is right out of a 1930s W.C. Fields movie where a couple of guys sneak into the kennels and slip the dogs a "mickey". There is not much art to this type of doping and apparently it is quite easy to detect, even by dog racing afficiandos. Perhaps even ones with open head injuries..


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