This is the story of how Ruth Bader Ginsburg (AKA Ruthie, Retired Racer) came to live with me.
I’ve owned six greyhounds since 1990. My last greyhound, George Karl (named after the great basketball player and coach) died from a brain tumor. I was distraught, lost and grieving. He was fine one day, and the next day they were talking about euthanasia. It hit me especially hard because it was so sudden. He really had no symptoms. I was told that’s how it happens with brain tumors in dogs.
There I was without a greyhound. I called Greyhound Pet Adoptions Maryland. All the greyhounds I had up to that point came from them. Then there were only a few tracks still open in the US. Racing was only in three states. Now there are just two tracks in West Virginia, and I’m sure they will follow suit and close down at some point.
“Sorry, we don’t have dogs,” I was astonished.
All these years I wanted the tracks to close down, but I didn’t consider the side effect. There would be no dogs available for adoption. I had been involved with GPA, a former editor of their newsletter and volunteer at outreach events. The goal was to see an end to dog racing. None of us thought it would work.
Back in the 1990s, tens of thousands of greyhounds were dying because there were not enough homes for them. Most people had never seen a greyhound (including me until I investigated adopting one). While walking through the neighborhood, people would ask me, “What is that?”
Now they say, “Is that a rescued racing dog?” We did a lot of outreach, and we were successful. It makes me feel good that people know and now recognize the breed.
And because of that effort, currently, very few dogs are available.
I contacted several organizations. Not much happening with them. In fact, many have closed their doors due to the lack of greyhounds to place. I went so far as to contact Galgos del Sol in Spain, an organization that saves galgos and podencos. Galgo means greyhound in Spanish. They were not shipping any dogs because of Covid. Adopters need to have at least a five-and-a-half-foot fence. Mine is too short. I should mention this was in 2020. Covid was in full swing.
I looked in shelters and searched on Petfinder. I called people, emailed organizations and combed the internet. Not having a dog in the house, while also not going anywhere because of Covid, was lonely. My other pets were tortoises, lizards, snakes and tarantulas, but none of them watched TV with me or slept in my bed. It’s just not the same.
Just when I was ready to give up and get a pit mix at the shelter, I found an organization called Greyhound Welfare that had several dogs. They are mostly in the DC area. That’s not too far from where I live in Baltimore. I sent in an application for a gorgeous-looking brindle girl that went by the name of Streak. Her racing name was Stubborn Streak.
Don’t bother looking up her record. She only ran in three races and did poorly in all three. I was told I wouldn’t get the greyhound in the picture. She would most likely be adopted by the time my application was approved.
My first greyhound, Betsy Ross, was a brindle. I’ve always had a soft spot for them, but I never had another one. My second greyhound was blue (which is actually gray) and I had two fawns and a white one.
Filling out the adoption application with GPA was easy. I got all my dogs from them and was there when their current adoption coordinator got her first dog. But this time I was dealing with people who didn’t know me at all. I had a home inspection via FaceTime (because of Covid) and several phone interviews. They had some rules that I wasn’t used to following, but I wanted a greyhound, so I vowed to do what was asked of me.
Finally, what seemed like months later (it was actually only a few weeks), I was approved. They had their own system.
- They give you a choice of a few different dogs.
- You have the option to visit the ones you are interested in adopting.
- Adoptions are on Sundays. First come, first served.
- I could begin calling at 10 a.m.
I set an alarm and called about Stubborn Streak! She was still available. No one was home. I left a message.
My second option was a greyhound who didn’t get along with other dogs. I sometimes watch my nephew’s pit bull (whose only doggie friend was George Karl) and I wanted a greyhound that would be good with him. I passed on that one.
There was only one more number. If this dog didn’t work out, I’d have to wait until next weekend. Nooooooo! I desperately wanted to get a new greyhound as soon as possible. I called the number and made an appointment in Northern Virginia to see a black male dog. Nice, I never had a black greyhound. I was the second appointment though and they would have to call and let me know if the dog was still available after the first appointment. Turned out he was adopted.
I was crestfallen at this point. Then the phone rang. It was a sweet woman named Nanci who was the foster mother of Streak. I had been the first call, so I had dibs on her. My friend Susan (who was with me with I picked out George Karl) was available to go with me. And off we went to Bethesda, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.
About an hour later we put on our masks, and I rang the doorbell. Nanci’s own dog greeted us and she looked exactly like my Betsy Ross. An omen? Maybe… Turns out she is the half-sister of Streak.
Then she brought Streak out of her crate. What a beauty! She was tiny for a greyhound, weighing only 45-50 lbs. The West Virginia tracks (the only ones left in the US) have a terrible new strain of hookworms that my vet called persistent hookworms. Not only was she tiny, but she was also extremely thin. For comparison, Betsy Ross weighed about 68 lbs. at her healthiest.
It was love at first sight for both of us. Streak came over and was trying to get up on the couch. That is a no-no for foster greyhounds in their program. I don’t care about that and she now spends most of the day on my couch or sitting behind my desk in a big, fluffy bed while I work.
My nephew Jake came up with the names Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Frida Kahlo. I loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Most of my friends were not sure. I said, “I’ll call her Ruthie!” Poor George Karl had been known as “Doggie” for a month while I decided on the perfect name. I liked the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg right away and it fit her.
The hookworms were a challenge. The Greyhound Welfare people had a protocol for my vet to follow. But I read that hookworms can live in the ground and reinfect the dog if they step on the eggs, carrying them inside and later lick their foot. The cycle begins all over again.
I decided to treat my yard as well as Ruthie. Every time she defecated in the yard, I put a cup or two of diatomaceous earth (which is a desiccant) on top of the spot after I cleaned it. Hookworms cannot survive in a dry environment. I don’t know if that’s what did it or not, but I’ve read about people dealing with persistent hookworms for up to two years. Ruthie’s were gone in two months. She had fecals done every month for several months. The treatment is super expensive. Diatomaceous earth is cheap. Whether she had regular hooks or the persistent ones, I’ll never know. But I’d like to think I helped get rid of them by treating the yard.
Ruthie quickly put on about 10 pounds and stopped looking like a scrawny track dog and started looking like a beloved member of the family. That was less than two years ago. I’m so happy that Ruthie gets along great with my nephew’s dog.
My sweet Ruthie is very attached to me because we spend so much time together. She is loved by everyone who meets her. Two different artists have drawn images of her.
I got a new oven about a year ago and started making homemade dog treats. Guess who no longer will eat store-bought biscuits? I bake them about once a week, but she’s not spoiled.
She loves stuffed animals and has a stuffed football she tosses to herself regularly. This lucky dog has a big box overflowing with stuffies and a 5 ft. stuffed pink alligator. Ruthie loves to roach (lay on her back with her feet up in the air). She enjoys walks and doing zoomies in our yard. Who am I kidding? She does zoomies in the house too! She’s a bed hog, blanket stealer and snuggler. I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
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Read more by Holli Friedland.