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Betsy brings Riley the greyhound home

May 19, 2008 |  6:26 pm

Riley_mug_shotLos Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound, Riley, at right, 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 bringing Riley home.

Riley: The real world. This is where the fantasy stops. Riley's coming home.

It was one of those precision military affairs. I would pick him up Friday afternoon at 1:30 so that by the time I got back to the house, the gardeners would be gone -- critical since the backyard was the first stop he would need to make to begin learning the rules of the house, and more specifically, what you couldn't do in the house. Besides, I didn't want him to enter his new life to the sound of leaf blowers.

I'm not sure what I expected, but it was a pretty quick transfer. His paperwork, racing stats, a flannel blanket Beverly had made for him, a new toy, a toothbrushing demo, an info packet that included Greyhound 101, all the basics you need to know about your retired racer, and a greyhound rescue decal for the car.

All were handed over while Riley nuzzled up against me and Max raced and tumbled around with Beverly's dogs. Within minutes, she was on her way to an emergency pickup of the next greyhound she would foster and I was on my way to life with Riley.

One thing Max absolutely excels at is getting into the car, so despite a dozen distractions, he hopped in like perfection. Riley loves car rides, but is not so keen on the getting in part -- a dog treat and some pleading finally convinced him. Soon we were home and suddenly I was faced with the prospect of getting two dogs from the car into the house.

That might sound easy enough, but then Max is still a crazy, unpredictable puppy who likes to race everywhere he goes, and Riley, well, he was really an unknown commodity, bigger than I'd remembered, incredibly strong and new to walking on a leash.

I'd heard and read all the horror stories of what can happen when a greyhound get loose and starts running. I was terrified and trying not to let either Max or Riley sense it.

The front door seemed miles away. I struggled for balance and forward motion as the dogs bumped into me and each other, leashes tangled and wound around my legs. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we made it into the house and through to the backyard, which Riley dutifully checked out and claimed as his own.

Rileys_first_day_home_4Back inside, we all began settling into sharing this space. Dinner came and went -- Riley's a living compost machine and is still learning boundaries between his bowl and everyone else's food whether in a bowl, on a plate or on the dining room table, which his head neatly fits right on top of.

Riley checked out every dog bed and most of the soft surfaces in the house, most of which he seemed to approve of immediately. There were a few skirmishes as position in the pack was being sorted out (frankly, most of them included me in there too.)

The best moment of Day 1 came around 11 p.m., when everyone finally collapsed -- me on the couch and Riley and Max nearly nose to nose. I closed my eyes and drifted off thinking this might actually work out after all.

Next up: In another life, did Riley study with Ghandi?

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