On June 11th, some BRGA members got up at the crack of dawn to meet in a shopping center in Leesburg and then convoy up to Wheeling, West Virginia. We all checked into our hotel and gathered in the lobby to await our host for the day: Lou Batdorf. Lou led us on a short trip through town and up a hill to Cardinal Kennel. There we were greeted by a fantastic surprise. We’d been told in advance that we’d get to see some 4-week old pups and some 6-week old pups, but instead they had a 2-week old litter!
The broodie and her pups were in a large open-topped pen filled with clean shredded newspaper. They were tiny bundles, eyes just opened and still milky blue, and still nursing. The kennel manager, Kenny, allowed us to hold the pups as long as we sanitized our hands first. It was such a joy to snuggle the soft little babies!
In the same kennel house, they had adult dogs in crates. Some of the dogs were newly retired and adoptable, a few were there to recover from minor injuries or to be bred, and some were still active racers. Kenny let the adoptable dogs out of their crates so we could pet them. One brindle boy was a social butterfly and ran eagerly to meet each and every one of us! We spent some time petting the dogs there and asking Kenny questions.
After seeing the kennel house, we wandered around the farm a little to look at the dogs in runs. There was an indoor-outdoor combo kennel/run with three 11-week old pups in it. They were at the age when puppies are frisky, so they were very popular.
We also visited some yearling dogs kept in outdoor runs with dog houses. Kenny explained that they loved it there, and would even run up and down their runs in the heat of summer or in the snow. The runs were approximately 250 feet by 10 feet, so each dog had a huge amount of space. We were also told that they often drove the four-wheeler up and down beside the runs to give the dogs something to chase. It sounded like the entirety of a greyhound’s life before he starts race training is to grow strong and happy. The dogs were indeed very happy and well-cared for. We were reluctant to leave and thanked Kenny profusely for the opportunity to visit his farm.
After we left Cardinal Kennel, we proceeded to Wheeling Island Casino and Racetrack. Our first stop was to visit the GPA adoption kennel, which is housed on the racetrack property. We visited the retired racers there and chatted with Marylou from GPA. A couple of our members fell in love and arranged adoptions through a joint partnership between BRGA and GPA! Congratulations to Marci and Mike, and to Lisa on your new family additions!
Wheeling Island Racetrack is very cool because the outdoor viewing area is only feet away from the finish line, which makes for an intimate and exciting experience. It was very interesting to see the dogs paraded along the track to the starting boxes, and to see their muzzles and blankets being checked. The dogs were astonishingly fit and healthy, and when they raced down the first stretch they took your breath away. It was also fun to hear the announcer call out “Here comes Spunky!” as the lure came past the starting boxes. Each race was about 30 seconds long and the dogs ran one and a quarter times around the track. There is a slightly longer race which goes about one and a half to one and three fourths times around, but they usually only run one of those in an evening or afternoon program. There was about 15 minutes between races so that the track could be groomed, the previous dogs cooled down and put away, and fresh dogs prepped and weighed in. There are also indoor dining/gambling areas with broad windows looking over the track and televisions on each table for viewing replays and photo-finishes.
Also very cool is that Wheeling Island dedicated a race in our honor. Race #9 on the evening program was the Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption Feature Race. The winner, #1 Kiowa Lazy Jay and his owner were presented with a beautiful trophy by our President Lorena. It was a triumphant day for all of us, the opportunity to see first-hand how our favorite dogs are raised and how they work before they retire to our couches was wonderful. Huge thanks go out to to Niels, Lorena, and Lou for organizing the day. If you’re interested in participating in a trip like this, let us know!
Photographs courtesy of David Conger and Sheila Lueking, all rights reserved.