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Betsy meets Monty the greyhound -- soon to be renamed Riley

May 16, 2008 |  9:42 am

Los 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 meeting Riley.

Riley_on_adoption_day "I think I've found the perfect dog for you." It was Beverly from Greyhound Pets of America calling about another greyhound for me to consider adopting.

It had been about a week since the wrenching meeting with Bobby, the wily white and red greyhound that I had walked away from. Just too much energy to combine with my English Setter puppy, Max. Perfect was good. But still I hesitated.

After Bobby, I'd decided to hold off any adoption until Max finished another 5 weeks of puppy obedience school. At 8, this grey, Beverly assured me, was much much calmer than Bobby. We could meet at her house then drive over to La Habra Heights, where this dog was in foster care.

And so, late on a Sunday afternoon, I started the journey to find my perfect greyhound again. I hadn't even asked the dog's name -- not a good sign.

As Max and I pulled up to the house, Beverly walked into the front yard with a handsome red and black brindle greyhound who'd just come from the track the day before. Greyhound rescue groups call it "Retirement Day," and they turn it into a celebration of dog washes and naming and placing the new greyhounds into foster homes. Beverly had taken this one.

All the GPA greyhounds who retired on April 19 from Caliente were named in some way after "The Simpsons." This beautiful boy was dubbed Monty, I'm guessing he was named after the classic "Monty Can't Buy Me Love" episode. At least that's the "Simpsons" memory it conjured up for me...

...I don't really believe in love at first sight, but it was. There was just something about this dog that absolutely stole my heart. Deep, soulful brown eyes. Patient beyond measure with the wild one, who was desperately trying to play "climb the greyhound."

And then Monty walked over and just leaned against me -- think of it as a full-body nuzzle. (I know, I know, if you have a greyhound, you know it well, but I didn't, and I was sure it was a unique experience.)

When I sat down, he would put his head in my lap. Everything about this dog was soft -- except for the muscles in his legs. It was also heartbreaking. I could feel every rib, and the ridge of his backbone was so delineated, you could count the discs -- they keep greyhounds extremely lean for racing.

He was blessed with a beautiful coat; many greyhounds come from the track with no hair on their back legs, either from a thyroid problem or from rubbing against the crates they spend most of their days and nights in (it usually grows back in). And his nose wasn't scarred by the muzzles they wear when racing or training.

We never made it to La Habra Heights. I never met the 8-year-old. Before the sun set, I had totally committed to Monty, leaving a check for $270 to cover the GPA adoption fee.

It would be a couple of weeks before the adoption would be finalized. He'd go through a battery of medical tests, be fixed, have his teeth cleaned by a vet and start to learn the ropes of living in a home (which at that fee is a bargain.)

I also had 24 hours to call Beverly if I wanted to change his name, so they could start using it while he was in foster care.

Two hours on the computer that night searching through baby-name directories for boys, and finally I landed on Riley. Somehow it just fit. Riley, 4-year-old brindle, the Buddha of dogs -- as wise as he was gentle. Gorgeous and elegant without arrogance ... he was the perfect dog.

Next up: Bringing Riley home

Also a special shout-out to Craig Brewer, who sent along a great link for anyone interested in greyhounds.

Confession time: Years as a journalist have only fed my cynical tendencies. Dig deep enough into a story, and at some point you'll find the terrain can get dirty and depressing. And so it is with greyhounds.

I'm not going to go into the pros (not many, if any) and cons (they are legion) of greyhound racing right now. But I do want to let all of you who've been kind enough to write in about Riley that, yes, I know there's a darker side to the story of any retired racing greyhound.

I also know that much of the success of greyhound rescue groups is due to their decision not to attack the racetracks, and instead establish deep ties that have helped save countless racers, whether injured, old, or merely too slow.

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