It was 1987. My East Coast corporate life was all consuming. To get away from it all, my afghan hound, Jezebel, and I took a four hour road trip to Vermont in my cherry red, Karmann Ghia convertible.
I thought attending a refresher obedience course, under the blue Vermont skies, would be fun. Jezebel, ten, thought NOT. She took one look at the puppies in the class, and sashayed her little butt over to a tree and laid down. Shaking my head, I started over to sit with her. Then this van pulled up. Two of the skinniest, stylish, stunning creatures peered out from the van doors. Running over, I touched my first greyhound. My AH-HA moment, and I've been touched ever since.
Jezebel and I lived in a three room apartment, with an unfenced yard. My landlord, who lived above me, had stated no pets, but after meeting me and then Jezebel, had agreed to us both. A week after returning from Vermont, I adopted Eliminator. I initially told my landlord he was just visiting, but then he fell in love with him too.
This classic, petite, spooky, brindle boy chose to live in my tiny bathroom of my tiny apartment for the first week. Then he chose my side, and didn't leave it until bone cancer claimed him in his ninth year.
Jezebel and Eliminator left me for Doggie Heaven in 1992. In 1993, I left corporate America and the East Coast with my next greyhound, Slim. We left looking for land and freedom. Land to house rescued greyhounds and freedom to do some good and make a difference. You can read about our journey here.
In 1995, in Kanab, Utah, with Slim and Beauty (Jeze and Eli are there in spirit), the Greyhound Gang was founded. Dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of ex-racing greyhounds, a variety of greyhounds welcome rescued greyhounds to their home every month. They show them how great a life lived can be. I get to clean, feed, fix, train, and, of course, love them. Slim and others watch all these antics from Doggie Heaven.
It all began with a chance encounter. It changed us, and we've changed others. That's all it takes to make a difference.
Since 1995, Greyhound Gang has evolved from a front-line rescue organization, to a fundraising one. We do special needs adoptions, and with our web site raise funds to rescue even more hounds.
This picture is from 1998, I think. That's Jenny, Beauty, Waldo, Al and Slim with me and my mullet. They have all now left for rainbow pastures. You can get a closer view of the mullet on our video - Sleeping with Hounds.
Kanab in the Summer
Kanab in the Winter
Surrounded by vermillion cliffs and southern Utah's constant blue skies, the Greyhound Gang cavorts on almost three (fenced) acres of red sand. You can visit the Gang and meet the hounds. We recently moved to this home so the dogs had more couch space. They demanded it.
PO Box 274
Kanab, UT 84741
I cannot NOT do something to save these lives.
When you meet a greyhound, you'll know why. These dogs have souls that are beautiful, old and neglected. They deserve to be loved, and until the day I die I will own greyhounds and try and find good, loving homes for others.
Chief Seattle spoke of nature, our treatment of her and the sharing of this earth with all the creatures around us. We are as we treat others -- two-legged, four-legged or no-legged. Every greyhound loved and adopted helps foster this balance.
The Greyhound Gang believes in pro-responsibility, in open lines of honest communication, and in the belief that every greyhound born deserves a home.
I'm also lobbying for a spot in Doggie Heaven...
I had a perfectly nice job in the New York corporate world. I had a house in Connecticut, a Volkswagen convertible, an antique brass bed, three closets of designer clothes, forty-seven pairs of high heels, and a life-size carousel horse. And I chucked it all to buy a sixteen-foot camper trailer, a half-ton Chevy pickup truck, and to hit the road, heading west with my faithful greyhound, Slim.
I was looking for a better way of life. For me that meant someplace where I could have land, freedom, and a chance to make a difference somewhere. Land to rescue race dogs, and freedom to be me. Not be what everyone else expected from me. Not to settle for a life less than ordinary. But to strive to be extraordinary and to do some good, someplace, for something or someone.
Everyone thought I was crazy. "You've got a great job, you make a lot of money. How can you just leave it?" Simple. Just leave it. Have tag sales, decide you can live without a lot of things. Things like facials, therapists, designer shoes, jewelry, spa vacations, convertible cars, clutter and stuff.
Written down, it sounds easy to do. It's not easy to start to do. But it is easy, once you start to do it.
First you move your stuff around, or keep it hidden in cabinets and drawers. But it all has to come out, like the baggage we all carry around stuffed in the recesses of our minds. Closed behind doors that won't open, or burst open with dust and joy just for the ability to fly and be free. And free you feel when you've chosen a new path, a path that holds changes -- what you don't know. But what you do know is that you can take care of yourself and nothing can really go wrong. Because there is no such thing as a wrong path. You can always change paths when one gets bumpy or doesn't go in the direction you want it to.
I wasn't even sure what I wanted. I knew what I didn't want. No more 8-7 workdays. No more listening to people who I didn't think much of. No more defining myself by what I wore, what I drove, and where I lived. No more winters. I'd stop at every small town I went through out West and check out the Chamber of Commerce, where I'd read about the demographics. Then I'd go to a real estate office, and check out the price of land. I wasn't sure where I was headed, but I knew where I didn't want to end up. I also knew that what's really important is the journey. Not the destination.
My current destination is in a small town in southern Utah. At my home, for the past years I've been the slave of the Greyhound Gang. This is a non-profit, tax-exempt, labor of love, that will get me into Doggie Heaven and brings me immeasurable joy on a daily basis. For more about Claudia and her journey - The Life You Save - visit here,
I'd found out about the plight of the ex-racing greyhounds in 1987. These elegant wonderful dogs that were being killed at the rate of over one hundred a day, just because they were not winning races. Horror stories were in the news about these dogs being left to starve and die in crates, or being taken out to remote areas and shot in the head, with their ears cut off so tattoos were unidentifiable. When I adopted my first one in 1987, I'd found my passion. These dogs, their personalities and their plight spoke to me and I could not sit on the sidelines. I had to do something.
I started working in 1987 with adoption groups in Connecticut. When I moved to Utah in 1993, no one was adopting these dogs. So I got all the paperwork from the government and got my tax-exempt, non-profit status. This meant I could write to my friends back East, who still had good paying jobs, and ask them for money and they could deduct it on their taxes. I contacted people at the Tucson track who were willing to give me dogs. I bought a small home on 2 1/2 acres, fenced it, bought a utility vehicle to haul dogs, and started going to pet stores and talking about greyhounds. I created a guide, a brochure, an application, booklets of pictures, a Web site. I brought my own greyhounds, Slim and Beauty, everywhere with me. I entered a contest for most disorganized office in Entrepreneur Magazine and I won a computer. Some of that journey is written about here.
It really wasn't that hard, because it was the right thing for me to do. When you find what you have to do, then it all follows. "Build it and they will come". "Feel your passion and make it happen." It's all true. And it all works.
What do you need to do? You need to commit. You need to believe in yourself. You just need to do it.
"I cannot not do this. It is as much apart of my life as waking up every morning and greeting my dogs. It is who I am. And I'm really bucking for a spot in Doggie Heaven." To read about the dogs waiting for me there, visit A Piece of My Heart.