A Greyhound in My Wheelbarrow

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Greyhound racing banned in NSW, Australia today!

Four years ago, when Lucy came into my life, I had no idea we would have such amazing adventures and even witness many historical makings.

Today, in the wee hours of the morning, after a lengthy debate in parliament, Greyhound racing was banned in NSW. It is historic indeed, and what a huge fight it was too! I am, of course, celebrating this event.

Before Lucy came into my life, I had no idea about the barbaric practices in Greyhound racing, nor did I know about the wonderful and dedicated people who worked quietly for years and years to rescue the beautiful Greyhounds after they’d been discarded from the industry. Lucy came to me from a racing industry affiliated rehoming group. I was not concerned, it was about rescuing the dogs, not about the politics. However, I slowly learned the insidious truth about the industry, and became more and more disgusted, appalled and aggrieved. Things came to a head when the ABC exposed the heinous practise of live baiting in their now famous Four Corners programme: Making a Killing.

(Warning: The footage in this video contains graphic images of animal cruelty.)

From this point onwards, I became passionately against this vile form of entertainment, while at the same time my love for Lucy took on a richer dimension.

Greyhounds are magnificent creatures. Anyone who has loved a Greyhound – truly loved one, with respect and reverence – will attest to their unique aura and unmistakable pulchritude.

My Lucy was a pioneer in many ways. In 2013, Lucy became the first non-guide dog assistance dog in UNSW, thanks to the wonderful support of several key people in my application. Lucy was also one of the first greyhounds (probably the second, actually) to be trained as an assistance dog in Australia. She was trained by MindDog, who were the only organisation I could find open to the idea of Greyhounds as assistance dogs. They were also the only organisation that did not not charge me, a PhD scholar living on a small stipend, exorbitant amounts of money. Thank you, mindDog Australia! Some time later, people I did not previously know began to contact me and ask me about Greyhounds and Autism, and their suitability as assistance dogs. One of them went on to adopt and train a Greyhound, Minnie, and managed to convince another organisation to train Minnie as assistance dog. They are now publishing a book about their journey. Congratulations, and good luck, Minnie and Celeste!

Through Lucy, I made many friends and connections in the assistance dog community around the world. There are now quite a number of Greyhounds paired with neurodivergent people (not all Autistic) across Australia, a few of whom have become good friends of ours. In fact, the mindDog family now has quite a number of Greyhounds in active duty!  My friend Rachel’s Gypsy is a shining example of a wonderful mindDog member, well trained and even more well loved – they continue to be a source of support and encouragement to Lucy and me.

Lucy Like-a-Charm was my research and creative muse throughout my PhD journey. Together, we produced Sonata in Z, where Lucy was the inspiration, especially in developing the concept of Clement Space.

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Sonata in Z 2015 – Lucy and friend in Sonorous Repose.

Lucy has appeared in many artistic works, videos and write ups too. I believe it is her charm and grace that has led the way and opened doors!

We were guests in the amazing David Capra’s “Teena’s Bathtime, 2015” video. It was the highlight of my year to have met David and Teena, and become friends with an artist of such stature and grace!

Later in 2015, Lucy and I also participated in the SBS feature, “A Different Way of Thinking“, about autism and neurodiversity.

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SBS feature: A Different Way of Thinking.

Autism and Greyhounds are fast becoming a ‘thing’ it seems, with many more people writing blogs and books and making ‘firsts’ in their own little spheres. Although I am wary of the ‘trendy bandwagon’ effect, I am very glad for the growing awareness that this has generated, hopefully leading to better accurate (non deficits-focused, respectful, native) understanding and acceptance of both Autistic culture and Greyhounds. For a great explanation of What is Autism, check out Nick Walter’s article.

On 2 Aug, Lucy was invited by Dr. Mehreen Faruqi and the Humane Society, to attend an event in Parliament House. To me, Lucy is a symbol of a Greyhound who has beaten the odds of the cruel racing industry and come out a winner in the right way. I don’t want to make unsubstantiated claims of being a forerunner (so many others seem to be doing that lately), but can anyone tell me whether or not Lucy was the very first Greyhound inside Parliament House, and the very first Greyhound assistance dog to be a guest at an event there?

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Lucy keeping watch over proceedings.

At the time the above photograph was taken, politicians on the right side of history were fighting to put an end to greyhound racing. Thank you, Dr. Faruqi, for being such a strong advocate on behalf of the Greyhounds!

What this recent debate has failed to give proper highlight to is the great personal sacrifice and dedication of the people behind the scenes – those who have put their hand on the plough and laboured for years and years at great cost to their own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, to save the innocent lives of magnificent Greyhounds that were being discarded by the racing industry. Janet and Peter Flann of Greyhound Rescue have worked very hard over the last decade in NSW, at the frontier of the Greyhound rescuing mission, paving the way for many more to come. I am in awe of their passion and dedication, sacrificing personal time, energy and finances, enduring threats from the people in the racing industry, and even sometimes being unjustly maligned by the ‘advocates’ who should have known better. Lucy and I are indeed very lucky to count them as our friends. We also got to know vet behaviorist Karen Dawson, who has worked hard to promote the welfare of Greyhounds, and bravely gave key testimony in the commissioned report on Greyhound racing, which helped to bring the racing industry to an end in NSW. Karen has been generous with advice and helped me so much in learning how to care for Lucy. Of course, Lucy and I were proudly wearing our Greyhound Equality Society T-shirt and bandana at the Parliament House event – as we are ever so pleased to be a part of this advocacy group where we have gained yet more friends sharing a common passion. Thank you, Sonja, Jonno, Jennifer and Donna, for letting us be a part of the GES since the very beginning!

Today, history is made, and I am amazed and honoured to have been a very small part of this wonderment – all because of one very special Greyhound, Lucy Like-a-Charm!

Lucy Like-a-Charm, the Greyhound in my rusty old wheelbarrow, trundling along this fantastic journey with me – what blessed cosmic clemency. 🙂

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