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Riley the greyhound digs 'American Idol'

May 23, 2008 |  2:53 pm

Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound named Riley that used to race at the Caliente Racing Track in Tijuana. She will periodically post updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about how Riley's personality is starting to emerge.

Rileys_favorite_positionI think in another life Riley must have been a cat burglar, or a spy, or maybe he's more spirit than flesh and bone. All I know is that at 73 pounds and climbing, he can slip into a room without making a sound. You just suddenly feel him there.

In the week since I brought home Riley, the 4-year-old greyhound I adopted through Greyhound Pets of America, he's eased into our days and nights as soundlessly, as softly as a cloud. No thunder or lightning with this one.

It's an amazing thing to see his personality emerging as he adjusts to life beyond the regimen of the track with its endless hours in a crate, broken up by little more than feeding, exercise, training, and a race on occasion.

At a nearby dog park the other day, Riley tried out his legs -- probably the first time he's run just for the fun of it since he was a puppy. Seeing a greyhound running, for the sheer joy of it, is truly poetry in motion.

As Riley builds speed, which takes about 2 seconds, he looks as if his body is suspended above ground, both front and back legs folded underneath him ... aerodynamic perfection.

When he slowed to a lope and surveyed the landscape, an acre of open land and no finish line, I swear I saw him smile.

In a sense, everything in the world is new to Riley. He's just getting the hang of wagging his thin-as-a-whip tale. He has seven ways to sleep upside down. When it comes to toys, he's still mystified that my English setter puppy Max is so entranced by anything stuffed -- animals, pillows, shirts.... He'll occasionally pick up the stuffed squirrel that was a gift from his foster family, but he's unsure of what should happen next.

The television intrigues him and he's shaping up to be a fan. If you're wondering about his tastes, all I can really say on that front is that Riley was behind the five votes that were called in from here for David Cook, the latest "American Idol" winner. (The puppy, of course, argued for David Archuleta, but what can I say, he's only 7 months old...)

What I think Riley has figured out is that he is already indispensable. He just reduces the psychic temperature in the room when he's around -- heart rates and breathing slow, relaxation sets in. And I got just what I wanted -- my very own Zen dog.

Photo credit: Betsy Sharkey

Next up: sibling rivalry sets in

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