by Leslie Csokasy
How Seatac Flew Into My Heart…
I was not looking for another female pet or even another racer. But I like to attend the NGA bi-annual National Meets in Abilene, Kansas. The October 2011 was my third Nationals. Having been around the block a few times, I was familiar with the comings and goings. Watch the races, talk to people, meet friends, drink a few beverages, enjoy Midwestern cuisine, tour farms, applaud at a few awards ceremonies like the Inductions to the Hall of Fame, and finally attend the auction. I think the auction is one of the hardest parts for someone who stepped into racing via adoption network. It is a completely different mindset to the pet life we city folk deal with on a regular basis. Not wrong, just different. I believe if one wants to understand a culture, they have to truly be committed to experiencing it.
When I go and watch the races of the dogs that will be auctioned off at the end of the week, I tend to make a short list of dogs I’m interested in. I am playing with pretend monopoly money but still keep within a budget. I’m looking for a good buy. I know I won’t be able to afford a winner at this event so I look for dogs with potential that hasn’t been realized. Who knows, I might get lucky, right? And I’ll be flush with pretend doggie dollars. Since I’ve bumped elbows with a few successful race dog owners, I know a few tips… look for performance comparing breaking out of the start box to their running thru the turns, can they sustain the speed and close at the end. I keep an eye out for dogs that aren’t afraid to pass, watch their tails, shoulders and head positions. I also do my homework and look at pedigree, how well their mom in particular raced and if any other offspring ran well. I also make note of who owns the dogs and what their reputation is. Oh, Seatac has since taught me a lot more… but she hasn’t entered the story yet.
When I walked into the auction that Saturday morning, gas station coffee in hand, my short list was 8 dogs long. A couple were scratched from the auction – Budz Logan and Darby. Sometimes dog owners will scratch dogs they didn’t think will bring the dollar amount they think they are worth. I take my seat on the bleacher and thumb thru the program. The first dog on my list, Match Maker sells for a modest $5250. I had starred him twice. I liked his break and he was competitive. KK’s Alagasia and KB’s Abalds both get no bids and are passed by. Kells Gambler was passed by the owner at $1750, which meant he felt the price was too low for the outstanding pup. That left a single dog on my list. Number 283. SE’s Penske C. She wasn’t a superstar but I thought she had a nice close. She broke out okay but seemed to get into trouble in the turns, but I bet her price would be right. I got out my monopoly money and counted the pink, blue, white and yellow cash.
They start the bids out at $5,000, quickly drop to $2500, $2000, $1750…. I looked at my list, Number 283 has two stars. I knew this dog was the girl I kept coming back to during the replays. She has good blood lines being out of Flying Penske and a Penske mother. Penske girls tend to do well in distance marathons. I like to watch those races a lot. I daydream about all the reasons, SE’s Penske C, will be a mighty fine racer when I look up and realize the auctioneer is pointing at me. Is this some kind of alternate universe? Wait um, my arm is up in the air. Son of Momma dog, I just bid on a racer…racer 283 in particular. All eyes are on me as I hear “SOLD to the gal in the green t-shirt and the bewildered look on her face.”
I bought a dog. I bought a dog. I stumble out and this nice elderly lady grabs my arm and asks me if I’m okay. Apparently I’m as white as greyhound bald bum. I mumble something about buying a dog. Within a few minutes of waiting for someone to hand me a V8, I am surrounded by a dozen “dog men” well wishers — all with good, better, bad and ugly opinions of my purchase. With the bid slip in my hand, I pay for my new racer.
My kennel owner friend, Joe, agrees to take her at his Miami Mardi Gras Hollywood kennel and arranges for a spot on a hauler. I write another few checks to ensure her transport and find her breeder to get my 283 dog. As he opens up the trailer door, this dark brindle head pops out and looks around with big brown eyes. I ask the kind gentleman, “What’s her name.”
“SE’s Penske C.”
“I know that, she’s the dog I bought, 283. But what do you call her?” Isn’t SE’s Penske C a bit of a mouthful, I think?
“Oh.” Redfaced, I’m sure I looked like a nimwit.
We pull her off the trailer and I realize I don’t have a lead. My adoption friends all swoop around me. Cheryl runs to her car for a lead. Ann and Cheryl snap some photos. Penske C and I stand there looking shell shocked. Various friends and acquaintances wander by, I’m aware of nothing but the brindle swirl dog at the end of a borrowed lead.
I slipped her a few half cookies. She nuzzled my hand. I walked her over to the hauler, put Penske C into her spot and handed over the paperwork. I gave her a kiss and told her not to vomit on the trip, make sure she always holds her potty at the kennel and not to be a loud mouth. And to run swift, smart and safe. I gave her a kiss good bye.
A few days later I got a text from Joe. Penske C made it to Miami, was being a good girl and eating just fine. Facebook found that the track announcer, Ramon, took a few photos. Sarah and Laura Mae, both trainers in another kennel, knew Penske C was my girl and dubbed her Seatac…after the airport, probably visited once on a layover. I was touched that they connected me to her. The name stuck.
Her unofficial schooling reports were not favorable. She wasn’t fast enough for the Mardi Gras track. Different tracks and kennels were discussed and I finally settled on Sanford Orlando in the Burk Kennels. Donald Burk is a friend of mine and his family has a long, successful history in the racing business. Because I knew them personally, I knew Seatac would be treated well and given a chance at success.
Seatac made a quick pit stop for a week at Joe’s kennel at Palm Beach. I woke up on my birthday to a photo of her on my phone, “Hi, Mom… Happy Birthday, Love Seatac.” A friend from Ohio was passing thru, knew it was my birthday and surprised me. The racing world has some really good people in it.
Once in Orlando, the reports were better. She was romping like a winner in her unofficial morning schoolings so Donald wanted to put her right in. She showed some promise but never breaking her maiden. His wife, Joy, shared she was princess of the turn out pen. She also took my advice and kept her crate kennel clean. I sent some care packages…treats and toys. At Christmas, Girlie, as I liked to call her, had enough biscuits to share with the whole kennel. And she got a great toy with 16 squeakers that was the envy of the whole race kennel…and a source of annoyance for Donald & Joy.
A good friend of mine, Brad, lives locally in Orlando and was there for every race. I got photos weekly and knew she was getting some awesome, well loved scratches behind the ears. He took video of her schoolings and sent them to me. Another friend drove down from New England to tour the track and see my Girlie. Seatac had a fan club.
During the big ice and snow storm in January, I flew down to see my girl run. She hadn’t broken her maiden yet but I watched every single race. I knew she had potential but I was worried her welcome was wearing thin. Dogs have to make some money in order to keep their kennel spot…earn their board and kibble, if you will. I made plans for her to fly home with me. Our agreement was if she ran well, meaning she earned a doggie paycheck, I’d let her stay. If not, time for a couch.
The Burk Kennel is clean and tidy. All the race muzzle with their names hung with care. It was climate controlled and quite pleasant. The hounds were happy and all sang to me when I came in the first time. I quickly became old news. Seatac and I hung out for a bit. She got a massage. I brushed her while Joy checked her toes and pads. She had a few tail wags for me but her eyes were all for Joy. I guessed that was a good thing. To be honest, I was a little jealous, though.
The next day was the BIG day. After a tour of the track, which was amazing, I went down to the Ginny Pit to wait for my girl. She was calm, strong and completely focused on the track. Seatac was all business. Her eyes darted from mine to the starting blocks. She barely registered the nice lead out handling her. The Racing Secretary brought her over to me and let me wish her good luck. Several folks were standing by and also were curious about greyhounds as pets. The track announcer shared Seatac and my story over the loud speakers as Girlie was lead on parade. Apparently the odds against her dropped substantially as she suddenly became the favorite in the race. I guess gamblers like a good story.
Girlie broke well and fast. She hugged the rail and I did a double take. Oh my holy muzzle, Seatac was in front! She was leading the track record holder. I’m not sure I took a single breath as my girl was passed at the end. She took a respectable third place…earning a whooping $29. My cut was $14.75. We celebrated with a shared cheeseburger and fries that Joy had given me. Seatac was not going to be on her first flight home to the Pacific Northwest.
She never Hit the Board (placed in the top four) again. A month later I decided that while she loved to race, it was time for her to come home. After a rather tedious series of missing flights and her kennel not fitting thru the door, Donald trying to sweet talk the cargo guys and Brad driving all over Orlando on a Craiglist crate purchase wildgoose chase… on her fourth arranged flight, Seatac flew into Seatac airport. I was there to meet her at the gate. She came out of the crate and one whiff of my hand and the tail started to wag.
While I love each and every one of my dogs, Seatac and I have a very special bond. I’m not sure if it started the moment in Kansas when I double starred her name in the program, it cemented over half a cheeseburger in Orlando or if it began somewhere else along the way… but I do know that our story has not finished. I love my SE’s Penske C, or Seatac or affectionately known as Girlie. She’s my heart and I count my blessing each and every day. While Seatac didn’t win much money, I still think she & I won the biggest stakes race in gaming history.
Note: All racing pictures in Gallery courtesy of Brad Bolton.
The October SHORT List
KK’s Alagasia – passed with no bid at the auction. Went to Mardi Gras and was adopted out
KB’s Abalds – sold for $4,000 and is at Sarasota, running 27 races so far and up into Grade A
Harmonious Man – was kept by the breeder and is running successfully in Grade A at Dubuque
Budz Logan – kept by the breeder, ran at Palm Beach but is retired and available for adoption
Kells Gambler – kept by the breeder and is running Grade B at Gulf Greyhound Park
Darby – kept by the owner and is running at Palm Beach.
March Maker – a solid Grade B runner at Sarasota and Palm Beach. He sold for a little over $5k
SE’s Penske C – ran at Sanford Orlando, was purchased for $1500, never broke her maiden but has paid back her owner in spades with love and the education of a lifetime.