Our dog, Koa, has either Greyhound in his lineage or the smaller Greyhound, deemed unfit for racing, Whippet. You can see it in his slender and and deep chested torso and in the muscled bulges of his hind quarters. Because dog people often get to talking about “what your dog is” and “where did he or she come from”, we meet other people who have pets with similar breeds. On two occasions, we’ve met owners whose dogs are retired racing Greyhounds. Each time I meet one of these dogs, I’m struck by how nervous and introverted the dog is. Here are animals, with unparalleled speed amongst its species, and yet when asked, the owner reports, “no he never runs, he just sleeps a lot.”
This morning Koa was running with some dogs at the park. As if often the case, he’ll give chase to one who has a ball, or he’ll allow himself to be chased. Each time this happens, we watch a beautiful expression of life force unfold: Koa begins by keeping speed with the other dog and then, as though an internal threshold is met, his body opens and begins to pull away, out ahead of the other dog. He doesn’t appear to be moving his legs any faster, but in this expression of self, he seems to be emanating a wholeness of some kind—a sort of realization of “Whippetness”. It’s at that moment, when he kicks into this extra gear, that everyone in the park turns and watches. It’s like we’re all being treated to the fulness of this being’s being; to something we may know within ourselves. We’re inspired and delighted every time. It’s quite humbling.
Koa’s not the only dog who does this. Undoubtedly, the Greyhounds we’ve met know how to do this too. This morning I got to thinking about it. Each time Koa re-discovers and then begins delighting in this extra gear of beingness, you can see his expression change. He’s no longer running with a dog, he’s entered into some kind of reverie. And yet, can you imagine being born with such capacities that then, like so many Greyhounds have endured, get exploited to fulfill a completely unrelated and even demeaning purpose like gambling, prestige, or abuse?
The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals did an analysis over a seven year period, revealing that 80 000 greyhound pups were entered into racing during that time period. Some of the consequences of racing were significant, like broken necks, spinal cord injuries, and broken skulls. Many died, and others suffered neglect and diseases related to neglect. Some dogs were found to have even been given cocaine to enhance performance. It’s no surprise that Greyhound racing has recently been banned in New South Wales, Australia.
What if the recovering Greyhounds I met, who while expressing their deepest inborn prowess, were also whipped, injected with drugs, and forced to keep running when other beings around them were falling, hurting themselves, or dying? Would you ever want to run again?
What if these dogs I’ve met have understandably associated doing what their bodies are born to do with all sorts of distorted expectations and circumstances, so that they’ve become essentially allergic to that inborn expression?
Do we know something about this too?
Could we imagine freeing what we or any being does best from all the constraints and distortions we or they have ever learned surrounding it?
Could we all come to run one day together in that kind of freedom?