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Pet Stories: The Tail of Leslie Ann

Leslie Ann, retired racing greyhound and much-loved therapy dog Leslie Ann is a twice adopted, brindle coloured, former racing Greyhound. In her first career, racing, she wasn't a big winner so she was retired early. In her second career as a housepet and therapy dog, however, she never fails to place "in the money!"

I first met Leslie Ann while visiting my best friend, David, in Austin, TX. He had researched (actually I did all the research, via the internet, and sent it to him) and decided to adopt a former racing Greyhound as a companion for himself and his Black Labrador Retriever. He asked me to accompany him to adoption day at the PetsMart store in south Austin where he had been told two Greyhounds were going to be available for adoption. One was an energetic, friendly, neutered, fawn male (that I really liked) and the other was a timid, shy, frightened, and only-spayed-the-day-before brindle bitch. Guess which 'hound Dave wanted to adopt?

As Dave filled out the adoption papers I collected the provided supplies: a leash, a harness, and a collar, and coaxed her out of the crate. We loaded her trembling body into the back cab area of his extended cab pickup truck and started out on the drive to his house. As soon as we got out of the parking lot she started whining (loudly). I crawled into the back cab and held her and talked to her all the way to her new home - it was the only way to get her to stop her ear-splitting howls.

When we got to Dave's house we showed her the backyard, she just stood there, looked at us and shook. We took her inside the house and methodically introduced her to each room, showed her to her bed and crate, and took her to where the food dish and water bowl were located. Upon seeing each location she just trembled. During all this I kept wondering, "David, what the he## have you gotten yourself into." Leslie Ann celebrated being unleashed in her new home by promptly defecating on the faux Persian rug in the hallway! I laughed out-loud, Dave got mad, Leslie Ann retreated to her crate and I ended up cleaning the rug!

During her first week of adoption she would not allow herself to be crated with the door to the crate closed without violently trying to escape, she would not play with Dave's Black Labrador Retriever, Travis, she would not eat if anyone was in the kitchen, and the only person she would come to was me (I think David got a little jealous). For my entire visit we let her sleep with me on the bed in the guestroom.

Dave worked with her a great deal after I left and the next time I visited, four months later, she had really changed. She was social, gregarious, played constantly with Travis, and was an all around sweetheart. For some reason she remembered me, though, and immediately came rushing up to me when she saw me again. For the duration of this visit she again slept with me each night. I was starting to fall more in love with her each day. After I went home that time Dave told me Leslie Ann moped around the house looking for me and slept on the guestbed for three days.

Leslie Ann convinced me that I ought to adopt a Greyhound myself! I, too, had a Labrador Retriever and thought: "Heck, if I can feed and walk one dog I can feed and walk two." I had a fenced in yard and already knew more about Greyhounds than some people who own them so I planned to rescue one myself.

A sad turn of events halted my plans to rescue another former racer because Leslie Ann would soon become my dog.

Two months after my last visit with David I flew back down to Austin to bring Leslie Ann home with me; Dave's health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. You see, my best friend had been living with full blown AIDS for the past two years and his health reached the point where he didn't feel he could take care of his dogs the way he wanted to. A month prior to this visit his mom had adopted his Lab, Travis, and Dave and I had agreed that no one else should ever own Leslie Ann again except me.

I once asked David why he chose Leslie Ann instead of the other Greyhound. With no hesitation he told me, "That other dog was so perky I knew he would easily find a home but Leslie Ann looked like she needed to be loved. I really know what that's like so that's why I wanted her."

I frequently sent Dave pictures and videos of Leslie Ann but after she settled into her to her new home with me in Michigan David never saw her again in person before he died. I spent the last month of Dave's life with him at his mom's house in Louisiana where he was reunited with his Black Lab, Travis, but he frequently asked about Leslie Ann and asked to see the videos I had made of her running.

After Dave died Leslie Ann and I went to school at a local dog academy so she could earn her therapy dog certificate (my Chocolate Lab, Jesse, had already earned his). As a certified therapy dog Leslie Ann, along with her best buddy, Jesse', became volunteers for a local AIDS service organization, a retirement home and the pediatric unit of a local medical center.

Les' and Jes' became immediate celebrities when we started our therapy work. Some of Leslie Ann's clients have had to give up their pets so they love it when she visits. Her clients who haven't had to relinquish pets also love her, especially the children, because she's kind of like the dog they never had or never will have. She will jump in bed and cuddle with her clients if they invite her to (she's a 'hound that loves her hugs), she is safe for anyone of any age to walk (because she never pulls on leash and doesn't mind going slow so even clients who have trouble walking can take her out), her clients love to see her run (c'mon, is there anything on earth more beautiful than a Greyhound kicking up a cloud of dust while running at full stride?) and she has the ability to raise people's spirits from worst to best by a nuzzle of her needle-nosed muzzle or a twitch of her infinitely expressive ears.

Who cares if Leslie Ann didn't win money for gamblers betting at the track? Right now she's a winner two to three times a week in many people's hearts and a daily winner in mine. Even more, she's a living daily reminder of my best friend.

Kindly Contributed By:
- Forest Godsey,