Hannah Wasylkowski 2016

Only the Animals

It was a sunny summer’s morning, January, 1996, when my long life began. Training started pretty soon after and it was not pleasant. Long hot and cold days of running, nights spent in cages and “diets” that didn’t even seem edible. Being a racing greyhound was a tough life.

Although talking about my boring horrible life is not what I want my story to be about. Bravery, that is what I want to be remembered for. Not the stupid “superhero movie” kind, but the rare-and-seemingly-easy-to-find but only-found-in-the-best-dogs kind. I knew this from the day I was born, though no one would ever consider me as a ‘brave’ sort of dog. But follow your dreams and one day they will come true, right? Well the 4th of July 1997 was the day.

It was my first race day. 4th of July was always a big race, I guess my trainer wanted to start me off on a strong foot. It looked like others had the same idea, as I found four of my brothers and sisters in the trailer with me that day. We were all very nervous but remembering what we had been taught over the last six months kept us reasonably calm. Except for Samson, he was yelping and shaking for the whole trip. He had been the runt of our litter and I was the only one that ever looked out for him. I had always wished that after our training was over he wouldn’t be picked to race, but the trainers saw potential in him. Everyone did, he was a real gun when it came to running, and that is was he loved to do, it was his dream. So I guess that is why he was so anxious about his first race, that day was the real test. The test to see if he was really cut out for racing.

Everything was a blur from the time the trailer pulled into the race venue, to being put into the start boxes. I was next to Samson when he was put into the box and when I looked at him there was no sight of his previous frightened expression. I guess he had finally got his head together and remembered how important this was to him as he now had a look of pure determination. At that moment I decided that his racing career was far more important than mine decided to look out for him in this race, rather than to try to beat him. I had no time to plan how exactly I would follow through with my decision as the bell rang and the doors flew open. All the dogs stampeded out ahead of me and I immediately lost sight of Samson in his bright yellow race vest. I sped up a little and soon found him out the front of the pack. Remembering my plan, I left my position at the back. I caught up to Samson in a matter of seconds, immediately realising that I was much faster than these dogs. Maybe I was born to race, not Samson. He was obviously fit for a race dog, as he was keeping up the pace very nicely, but he just wasn’t fit for the racing scene. Maybe this was my destiny, I had just never known. Before I knew it, I was speeding way out in front of Samson with my eyes on the prize. I had completely forgotten all about him and was chasing my newly found dream.

Although a moment or two later my mind floated back to me and realised what I was doing. Samson was my little brother and I couldn’t abandon him like this when racing was what he lived for. My whole racing career could have been at stake but I knew I couldn’t do this to him. I was just about to slow down when suddenly Karma took hold. My front legs buckled and in a blink of an eye I had my head in the sand, legs flailing and I flew straight into the barrier. I took such a blow to my head and my lungs that the air and my consciousness was knocked right out of me.

I don’t know how long I was out for but I woke up to someone nudging my head. I weakly pushed them away as the movement was making my whole body ache. They stopped immediately, as if they knew. I opened my eyes to see Samson’s huge dark eyes looking down at me worriedly. A trainer rushed over and grabbed him but he struggled and snapped through the muzzle, not wanting to leave my side. Immediately I panicked. A misbehaving greyhound was a dead greyhound. I was lifted and carried away watching helplessly as two trainers held Samson back as he tried to chase after me.

I drifted in and out of consciousness after that and I don’t have a clear picture of what happened. All I can remember is the thought that kept running through my mind. “Samson, we can’t die. We can’t die Samson. We can’t die!”. I was praying for Samson’s life the whole time, even when I was unconscious. But then at the same time I was praying for my own so that I could see him again and tell him that I’m sorry.

It turns out they let me live because otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here at the front fence telling you this story. I am waiting for Samson to come home. It’s been five days…