In His Own Words - Adopter/Owner Skip Potter

OWNER PROFILE - SKIP POTTER

KEEPGREYHOUNDSRACING.ORG
Educating and advocating for the SPORT of Greyhound Racing!
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Hi My name is Skip Potter (Douglas Potter, Jr.). This is my 11th year in Greyhound racing, and my 13th year in Greyhound adoption. I take a lot of pride in being involved in racing. It is the best thing that I have ever done. It has given me a purpose in life. I am fully licensed by the state of Florida for 11 years, and am a member of the National Greyhound Association. My current racers are "I'm A Hugger" and "Aaron Solow."

Since Matt Schumitz and others are telling their story, here is mine.

March 12, 2006

Dogs' best friend
Author: TINA FIRESHEETS

Edition: People & Places
Section: People & Places
Page: P1
Dateline: RANDLEMAN
Estimated printed pages: 3

Article Text:

RANDLEMAN - On the day Skip Potter met Justin, he discovered his purpose in life: to work with greyhounds.

It was December 2004, Potter's first visit to Project Racing Home's retirement and adoption center in Randleman. The center relies on a crew of dedicated volunteers to help care for the dogs.

Potter, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, never doubted that he could help at the kennel, despite his physical limitations.

Justin, a 74-pound rambunctious greyhound, acts more like a puppy than a retired 5-year-old race dog. But on Potter's first day there, Justin put his head obediently on Potter's lap.

Potter stroked Justin's head and talked to him soothingly. He then told kennel owners Kimberly and George Jewell that he would put Justin back in the crate.

The Jewells told Potter to give it a try, but that he probably wouldn't succeed. People without disabilities have a hard enough time managing Justin, a stubborn and muscular dog.

But Potter was stubborn, too, and stronger than he appeared. He worked tirelessly to grasp Justin by the collar, leading him toward the crate - a task more difficult for Potter because he is unable to use his right arm and leg.

The Jewells taunted and teased him. "C'mon Skip. We've got to get him back in there. Today!" they joked.

Forty-five minutes later, face flushed and the veins in his neck bulging, Potter got Justin inside the crate. He felt like he'd won a race, and it became a turning point for him.

Potter, 31, volunteers twice a week at the kennel and is a Project Racing Home board member. He often joins the dogs and other volunteers at events promoting greyhound adoption.

Since his first victory with Justin, Potter has trained three Project Racing Home greyhounds to be therapy dogs, which can assist owners who use a wheelchair. Two have been placed in homes and one is ready for adoption.

Potter chooses dogs with calm dispositions and those that are comfortable around his motorized wheelchair. It takes him three to six months to train a dog. It never occurred to him that he wouldn't be successful - even on that first day with Justin.

"It's hard to explain; I just know things have to be done, and I just figure out a way to do them. That goes for inside the greyhound walls and outside in my daily life," said Potter, who also runs an online travel-consulting business.

Potter also is drawn to energetic dogs like Justin. They have a lot in common, he said: "I can't sit still. Neither can Justin. I love to be around people and so does he."

Potter's love for greyhounds began with a visit to Iowa in 2000. While visiting a friend at a casino, he planned to wager on a horse race. But something else caught his attention: a greyhound race.

"I had been interested in the American Kennel Club and dog shows for years, but had never seen or heard of greyhound racing before," Potter said.

He gave it a try and, after four hours of betting, he won enough money to buy a soda. He attended many greyhound races thereafter. "It's just beautiful to see these dogs run," Potter said.

But it wasn't until a family friend adopted a greyhound in 2003 that Potter came into contact with one.

He searched the Internet for local greyhound groups and found the Jewells' then-fledgling organization. Potter became a volunteer, working on communication and fund-raising efforts, mostly from his home.

He now owns two greyhounds, Taylor and Brandy. Brandy lives with Potter and his parents; Taylor, a race dog, lives on a farm in Florida and will begin training in June.

People have a lot of misconceptions about greyhound racing, Potter said. He's visited several training farms and hasn't observed any signs of abuse. Greyhounds, which can reach speeds of up to 40 mph, love to run, he said.

"For me, personally, it is my goal to help the dogs keep doing what they love to do and place them in a home when they retire," Potter said.

His love for greyhounds has spread to his father, Doug, a High Point dentist who also serves on the PRH board of directors.

Doug Potter said his son has become a different person since he's discovered greyhounds.

"The dogs gave him a sense of worth, a sense of importance," Doug Potter said.

George Jewell, concerned for Potter's safety, initially was hesitant about his working at the kennel. But his wife convinced him otherwise.

"He won't break. If he falls, we just pick him back up," Kimberly Jewell said. "I don't view anybody who's handicapped as any different."

Potter, who has earned national recognition for his work, spoke last year at a national greyhound convention.

It still surprises him that his life has changed so much.

"I'm not going to be in the NFL. I'm not going to be in the NBA. This is my chance to be involved in a professional sport," Potter said. ''I just love raising and training them."

Contact Tina Firesheets at 373-3498 or tfiresheets@news-record.com

Caption:
Jerry Wolford/News & Record

Skip Potter has gained national recognition for encouraging Greyhound adoption groups to allow disabled people to work with them.

Memo:
Skip Potter finds purpose in training Greyhounds to work with people like himself who use wheelchairs.

Copyright (c) 2006 Greensboro News & Record
Record Number: 060311622883

Click Below For Skip's Inspirational Video