I love dogs. The two that rule my house are furry, friendly short-stack Shih Tzus. They have absolutely nothing in common with tall, sleek, fast greyhounds except that they’re all canines.
So I knew very little about the breed when I walked through the front door of the Greyhound Hall of Fame, which sits in front of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. But I was ecstatic to meet the official greeters — two greyhounds named Gary and Jade.
They’re both retired racing dogs, befitting a museum dedicated to keeping the sport alive. Gary and Jade, who live in their own little “apartment” in the basement, have a tendency of leaning their lithe, slender bodies against people. When they’re not holding court, that is, on their throne in the front lobby.
The hall of fame turned 50 in 2013. It honors the best trainers, owners and dogs of the sport and documents the history of greyhound racing with exhibits on everything from breeding to parimutuel betting. Display cases are filled with trophies, crystal bowls and other winners’ hardware and the status of racing tracks. (The former Woodlands Greyhound Park in Kansas City, Kan., is represented.)
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The hall of fame also works to help find homes for retired racers like Gary and Jade.
Here, at the self-proclaimed Greyhound Capital of the World, where the tour is self-guided and free, I learned that:
▪ A greyhound born in Kansas named Rural Rube became known as the Man O’ War of greyhound racing from 1938 to 1940. People swore that he was almost human because he would pose for cameras. Once he was awarded a gold collar and people were convinced that he turned his head and bowed to the crowd.
▪ Back in the 1930s, monkeys were trained to ride greyhounds like tiny jockeys for exhibition races.
▪ The tip of the racing muzzle is white to make it easier to decide photo finishes.
▪ Every racing greyhound has identifying tattoos inside its ears.
▪ On July 29, 1959, at Mile High Kennel Club in Colorado, during the third race on a Wednesday night, nine dogs crossed the finish line in numerical order — No. 1 finished first, No. 9 was last. Said track official Eddie McLaughlin: “The pattern developed as they hit the turn for home. And then they just poured past the photo chart camera as though it was something intended.”
I had heard this about greyhounds but saw it proven here, that this breed was born to run.
Unlike my Shih Tzus, who only run when they hear the word “treat!”