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More background on Riley the greyhound

July 7, 2008 |  1:42 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 track in Tijuana. She periodically posts updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed.

Reily_and_nelson_the_day_they_were_Adopting a greyhound is a little like getting married. You don't just get a dog -- in my case Riley, my beautiful 4-year-old retired racer -- you get an extended family as well.

And soon after I started writing about my journey to adopt Riley (at left in the photo), the family started checking in. There was Theresa Padilla, who is Greyhound Pets of America-CA's foster coordinator for L.A. and Orange County. She filled in some of the blanks about the day Riley arrived from Mexico: "I was processing the dogs the day Monty (a.k.a. Riley) came off the track," she wrote. "When we saw Monty both Beverly (my adoption coordinator) and I were quite taken with him. When I was assigning dogs to the fosters I asked Beverly if she had someone in mind for Monty and she said yes. So I swapped him out for the dog I had originally assigned to Beverly for fostering. I truly believe everything happens for a reason."

So my first gift from the family was courtesy of Theresa, who just had a feeling about Riley's future.

Then there was the note from Carey Theil, who's the executive director of a national greyhound protection group, Grey2K-USA , based in Massachusetts. Because of Grey2K's efforts there is a remarkable amount of documentation available on greys who race in the state.

Carey was able to locate paperwork that traced Riley's transfer from Wonderland Race Track to Valley Race Track in Harlingen, Texas. That one slip of paper brought me final confirmation that Collegiate was indeed Riley's racing name because it included not just the litter tattoo number from his left ear, but also the all important 34F, the blue tattoo inside his right that distinguishes him from his littermates.

Carey also passed along a link to a slide show of some of the racers from Wonderland taken in the kennels the year Riley raced there. I've gone through it countless times looking for a shot of Riley. There are a couple of dogs with similar markings, but none with the swath of white that graces his chest.

Later came the photo of Carey's grey, Zoe, who, as it happens, is related to Riley. Carey writes: "Riley and Zoe are distant cousins! Zoe's great-great-grandfather (Downing, a well-known champion racer) was Riley's great-great-great-grandfather."

Karyn Zoldan from Tucson, who's active in greyhound rescue and adopted her first from GPA in Southern California, too, checked in. She sent along this link filled with info helpful to anyone new to greyhounds or considering adoption. (She also gently mentioned that Tucson, where Riley raced for a time, is one of the top misspelled city names in the country and I was helping keep those stats up.)

And then there was the e-mail from Dru Kaplan, whose involvement in grey rescue and fostering has been taken up by her 11-year-old daughter Maggie Kaplan-Paliwoda. From Dru: "My daughter (Maggie, who earned her Girl Scout Bronze award working with the greys) and I fell in love with your dog, he was definitely a leaner (I always think of it as a hug), and by the time we asked about fostering him he was already snatched up ... for you."

Dru's gift was a series of photos from the day Riley was rescued from the track, still in a muzzle, his fate finally in safe hands.

With each e-mail, each photo, the puzzle of Riley's past is becoming clearer. Among the bits I've gotten are the name of the trainer, Carl Petricone, who worked with Riley in Massachusetts, and Riley's one-time owner, Donald Burk Jr. of Chico, Texas.

I wonder if Riley is remembered by Petricone, and if he's the reason Riley continued to race rather then end up euthanized (one of the sobering options on the transfer papers). I wonder if Donald Burk Jr. ever even saw Riley, or knew what an incredible dog he had. Whatever the path, I'm just glad that Riley's journey eventually brought him to me.

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