A Parting of Ways
N E W S  L E T T E R
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McKeon's Minute
In 1985 at Wonderland Park in Revere, Massachusetts, an unusual thing happened. Due to extreme harassment of trainers by a newly appointed racing commissioner, and to poor track conditions that went unaddressed by management, a group of trainers decided one night, that they had seen enough. They refused to weigh-in their greyhounds for racing that night. They had previously tried to unionize, but were unable to get the necessary 15 members to form a Teamster local.

The trainers who participated in this wildcat work action were immediately suspended, without a hearing, by the commission, against its own rules and bylaws. While they were able to go to the kennels--which were privately owned and not on track grounds, to care for the dogs--they were unable to set foot on track property, as their licenses were now null and void.

Attempts to have the case heard in court were all disallowed by judges, and after a prolonged period of time, 6-month and year long suspensions were officially handed down by the commission, and later sustained by a court of law.

Later still, it was found that a rash of bad tests for “niacinimide”, which had been one of the triggers that impelled the work action and had resulted in the fining and suspensions of several “honest as the day is long” trainers, were caused by a shipment of kibble.

I happened to have been one of those trainers who took part in that work action. While most of the others served out their time, and renewed their licenses when time was up, I chose not to do so. Having had more than my share of troubles with racing officialdom at just about every turn in the road where I practiced the craft, and knowing my own predilection for testing the limits and patience, and for tweaking the nose of mindless, haughty authority, I deferred.

For years afterwards, I felt as if I had lost an appendage, or a loved one. Not a day went by when I could not see the hurt greyhound faces, in my mind’s eye, staring at me, questioningly, I thought, perhaps wondering where I might have gone so suddenly. I had walked out of their lives, never to return, after all we had done and shared together. Sometimes I hated myself for having let events come to such a quick and unstoppable climax, and for getting sucked into the vortex of emotion.

I flirted with the idea of going back hundreds of times, having had an open invitation to resume my training duties, from my dear friend and mentor, the late, great Don Cuddy, at his kennel in Raynham.

But that was not to be. I would forever have to live my unfulfilled greyhound racing dreams, vicariously, through friends, and through greyhounds who wouldn’t have known me from Adam.

So I have some idea how the greyhound professionals in Florida feel today, in light of the grave injustice that has been done to them, that will change their lives, for better or for worse, leading them down paths they know not where to.

I therefore would advise them, and their supporters, to keep in mind, that the only reason they were able to find employment and to follow their own bliss within racing, is because of the selfless work of the leaders and members of hundreds of adoption groups.

There is quite an emotional backlash being expressed by certain individuals, some of whom have never once strapped leather to a racing dog, but who are duly outraged that the voters of Florida could have been so misled, unquestioningly, by people whose interest and concern for greyhounds, begins and ends at the donation goldfish bowl.

And that outrage is justified. What is not justified--or wise-- is to project those raw, emotional feelings upon those adoption volunteers who may belong to a group which chose not to take a stand as an entity, but whose members may have worked tirelessly, networking and communicating the case for the greyhounds and for racing, to all and sundry within their circle of friends, acquaintances, and even among interested, complete strangers.

If racing is to carry on, it will carry on only after more battles are waged. And if those battles are to be won, it will require the full cooperation and support of people who may be affiliated with adoption groups who are not activist, either pro or con.

The landslide vote in Florida should have informed and advised every greyhound and racing supporter that we need all the help we can get. Ostracizing good, experienced, non-activist groups and individuals, who are part of the network of adoption charities that have enabled racing to still exist where it does, is a self-defeating strategy. It not only weakens and fractures the greyhound community, but diminishes the support that will be so desperately needed, if racing is to survive, anywhere in the country.

copyright, 2018