The greyhound below, Magic Wizard, was one of many the author met during her years at a dog track rescue center. This story is hers.
There is nothing more magical than the collective crooning of greyhounds as one starts her song and others follow.
It is the moment when they are one. There is no competition. There are no humans who exploit the greyhound's love to run. There is only understanding of each other in the world they had been born into, a world in which they are at the mercy of the dog track and the lust of money.
One such greyhound stands out amongst many.
This is the story of Magic Wizard. This is Magic Wizard’s Song.
She takes her first lungful of air, the trajectory of her life already planned, money is dispensed hand-over-fist. Her name comes from a readymade list; the flashier, the better. This name will distinguish her forever as she begins her life as a racer.
Growing into awkward paws, Magic Wizard's graceful body fills out, and her training begins. First, she tracks a toy dragged along the ground, and before she knows it she's chasing an artificial lure before graduating to following the bait around a track. She loves to run, the instinct to chase coming naturally. Her last test will be her acceptance of the starting box, the crate closure she will burst out of every time the alarm sounds.
Her training continues and she gets better and better, the distance she races and the number of competitors increases. Every trial, she competes against eight others.
In time, she develops her own running style; she likes the outside. Not too close to the rail but not so near in the middle she’d be at risk of getting sandwiched.
She is 18-months old when she runs her first race, the Shoreline Star Greyhound Track in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but she doesn’t care about any of that. All she cares about is the thrill of the race. She doesn’t care about the humans in the stands and lining alongside the windows, betting on her success. She only cares about the thunder below her feet and the wind whistling through her ears as she chases that lure, that lure she’ll never catch.
The small trailer is cramped, but twelve greyhounds fit into their three by two crates. She is none-to-nicely guided though one door before it shuts with a cruel snap and crack as the lock is set. And there is an open side of her cramped space, metal bars separate Magic from her neighbor. On the walls of her prison is years of grim and in some cases, dried blood from high tempers and quick snarls of past racers. She doesn’t know or care where her next destination is, but she does know where ever she’s going, she will see that lure again.
Magic Wizard is returned to her cage, her soiled bedding replaced with stiff coils of recycled paper. The constant restlessness in her prison has created bald patches on her hindquarters.
Since her career started, she has ran in more than a dozen races, winning some and losing others.
The last shift for cleaning the cages is about to end, and then the kennel is thrown into darkness.
Steered by her lead-out, the person who takes her to her starting box, she is number 4.
She waits for her turn.
She can see the dusty track through her small starting box window, humans stand along the rails, there is a booming voice echoing through the air.
The door springs open.
The greyhounds are let loose!
Each racer has their eye on that motorized 'rabbit' as it zips around the track, just out of reach.
Magic Wizard rounds the corner, keeping close to her fellow racers, when a rival, twice her size, slams into her, the impact sends her off-kilt.
She loses her footing and tumbles out of control, somersaulting off the track, her head-slapping into the metal rail.
Everything fades to nothing.
She does not see her fellow racers as they continue towards that elusive lure. She does not hear the humans as they run towards her still form and discuss her future. She misses the arrival of a woman who refuses to allow her life to be extinguished by a needle. There is no feeling of her being carried to a truck bed. She’s unaware of the bouncing over uneven asphalt as the truck trundles across the football field distance to a small rescue center on-site. She knows nothing.
Magic lays comatose in her kennel at the rescue center, all around other ex-racers looking to go to their forever home, observe her quietly, her immediate neighbors sniffing her through the wire kennel separating them from her.
The rail's impact fractured her skull, leaving a permanent hole between her frontal bone and temporal line. There is little hope for survival, though the rescue does all they can and pray against the odds she will come back to them.
She is officially crossed out of her kennel’s roster.
It is the weak thumping of a thin brindle tail gets the attention of an employee.
Magic has awoken from her coma, groggy.
Every day she grew stronger but only allowed minimal movement, so she mostly lays in her cage, that brindle tail always thumping when her crate opens. Her caretakers agree her racing name is fitting. Only by magic did she triumph over death.
In time, the extent of permanent damage left by Magic’s injuries becomes apparent. Her voice is silenced. No more can she bark, only a hoarse croak. She has an endless post-nasal drip. She wobbled when she took her first steps after the accident, but even as her stride strengthened each day, she never loses the wobble. The rescue center has a special helmet crafted to protect her fragile skull from the slightest trauma.
Each week, potential adopters mill through the kennel, looking at the greyhounds who yearn for something they don't know is real. A forever home.
It has been months, Magic living at the rescue center, always overlooked. It'll be almost a year before her shot at freedom would come for her.
An early summer day, an older couple enters the adoption center, their minds made up. They had seen Magic’s picture on the local dog adoption website. This couple did not care Magic had no bark or that she had nasal drip. The wife thought the dance in Magic’s gait was endearing and unique. And the husband cared not for the custom helmet Magic wore; he’d have a better one made, one that the rescue center's strapped funds didn’t constrict the quality.
Magic's much-deserved retirement had come.
Magic laid on a fluffy bed, an army of toys surrounding her at all times.. Her beautiful brindle fur has filled in, no longer rubbed off by restlessness in metal crates. Her loving owners keep a watchful eye when she walked and played, she had to be careful. She couldn’t bang her head.
When she wasn’t snuggling her favorite plush or favorite humans, she was croaking at the birds and squirrels from the living room slider.
At long last, she had a family who loved her and spoiled her forever. This is the Greyhound’s Song.
This is Magic Wizard’s song.