This month is Adopt A Greyhound Month. We at GPI want to thank all our volunteers and donors for their tireless dedication and generosity in helping fulfill our mission of finding forever homes for all our greyt Greyhounds and Greyhound mixes. We could not do this important work without you. One of our wonderful volunteers, Robin Reich, volunteered for two weeks at the Macau Canidrome to help care for the remaining Greyhounds while they waited to find homes.
Robin was kind enough to share her experiences with us about her work with the Greyhounds in her own words. She also took these photographs where you might see two sweet boys you may recognize, our very own Sam and Theo. Thank you Robin for all you do to help the Greyhounds in need and for writing this compelling piece about your time there. Please read on in Robin’s words.
My Macau Canidrome Experience
by Robin Reich
Ane Brun’s song “All We Want is Love” keeps playing in my head and I can’t stop tears from falling. All I keep seeing are the eyes of 500 greyhounds looking at me, half filled with hope and starving for love, from my trip to Macau back in November. Little did I know I would be seeing 19 again, this time at Greyhound Pets Inc, starting in December.
I had been following the plight of the Macau Canidrome greyhounds for several years, a deeply sad and troubling story. Five decades of killing greyhounds that were being exported from Australia, plus 9 from Ireland, an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 in all. The Canidrome race track was killing 30 – 40 a month for being too slow, sick or injured. Then there were the Macau born greyhounds, the ones they started breeding in desperate, lonely, concrete cells.
When international pressure finally forced the Canidrome to shut down on July 21, 2018 leaving 532 abandoned greyhounds behind, my heart and encouragement from my husband led me there. A brave seven year battle led by the now infamous Albano Martins of Anima Macau to whom these dogs owe their lives, with partners Pet Levrieri and Grey2K, had against all odds been won. The next daunting task lay ahead to air lift the survivors to safety and into loving homes. Pet Levrieri asked me to character assess and photograph 76 of the greyhounds heading to Europe and the UK for their bios. Grey2K asked for my help in photographing Brooklyn for their newsletter, the poster child for the Save the Macau Greyhounds campaign who was long thought to be dead.
Albano took me that first day to the Canidrome, and I am grateful to him for getting me in. Volunteers had been kicked out by the government who seized control of the care of the dogs from Anima, and hired a cleaning company instead! Albano wanted outside eyes keeping track inside that very dark place. I quickly realized while everyone thought these dogs were now safe, they were not safe at all. Their only chance to survive was to get them all out as quickly as possible. The deadline to accomplish this enormous task originally had been September of 2019. It was shortened by the government to March. At least the track owner was made to pay for all transports, just as she had also been made to pay for all of their care.
I will never forget the echoing thunder of close to 500 greyhounds barking (some had already been sent to safety in the US), something in a strange way I looked forward to each shift as I arrived, and a sound I will never forget. I couldn’t wait to get in through the layers of security and walk them as they spent all day in their cells. For many shifts during my 14 days there, I was the only volunteer and felt completely alone and distraught. I burst into tears so many times witnessing what these gentle souls had to endure. Dark, wet, concrete cells with decrepit rusty, sharp bars. Greyhounds lying on the cement floor with open wounds from lack of soft bedding and some without any bed at all. Greyhounds very underweight, with rotting teeth, some with mouths full of blood.
Surviving, rubs, and kind words
Their only stimulation other than 2 meals and 2 short walks a day was chewing on their metal bars or scratching on the wall. Greyhounds with scars, ragged coats and red raw feet as their cells and the pavement for their walks were never dry. Many were old, who had somehow survived this living hell. And the adorable young ones still full of life who were born in their cells. Greyhounds being rough handled, hit on their walks and dragged along while trying to pee. A worker who thought I was too soft demonstrating how to grab one out of her cell, as if she were some sort of wild beast. Never once did these sweet, polite souls try to take off when I opened their gate. They gently, yet enthusiastically slipped their heads right into their leather collar waiting patiently as I buckled it up. I walked 2 dogs at a time, while the workers walked groups of 5 and 6. After going twice around the kennel blocks, their leash was hooked to a high line off the ground which didn’t allow them to lie or sit down waiting for their cells to be cleaned. Some cells would be hosed down while they were still inside. After all were walked I would photograph the dogs on my list whenever the gracious local volunteers could be there to help. The remaining time I spent going from kennel to kennel, greyhound to greyhound putting my hands through their bars to give them rubs and a kind word.
The hospital kennel
I tried to visit K4 every day, the hospital kennel, where the dogs with open sores had to stand for long periods of time tied on short leads as their medications dried. I would stand with them giving them love till they could go back to their cell and lie down. And there were those like Very Fast whose leg was permanently injured and who had been made to race. There was Midnight Terror who I held in my arms while he uncontrollably shook. His body had gone septic as he had been only thrown a blanket the three days he was shivering with fever in his cell. I kept crying out to get him attention but by then it was too late. I felt so bad for Kenny, a kind man from Hong Kong who loved him and was soon to bring him home. He was one of 15 survivors who would never make it out. Others had died a lonely death in their cell.
Heart dogs, love, and send offs
But there were many bright spots too, like the day Goodyear.Com, my heart Macau greyhound, escaped from her cell, running to find me with workers in tow. I had no idea what all the commotion was till I felt a cold nose and a warm body besides me as I was walking another greyhound around the kennel blocks. Every day she would pull her handler to find me and give me the biggest, most loving greeting of all. There was bossy boots Cee Magic in K4, who barked and barked at me when I went to pet someone else. And the dedicated local volunteers who loved the dogs so much, they gave me great hope in knowing the dogs were not alone. The send offs too, were bright spots in the week, farewells and good wishes to the greyhounds leaving in cars. They were heading to cross the new 55 kilometer Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao bridge to the airport, starting their long journey to freedom, a loving forever family and a soft couch. By March 26 all had miraculously made it out! Most came to America, followed by Europe and the UK. Some were adopted locally in Macau and Hong Kong. And 21 are waiting in foster homes in Macau before heading to loving homes in Australia.
Global community and forever homes
What I witnessed at the Canidrome will haunt me the rest of my life. But I will forever be deeply touched by the light of those gentle greyhounds, the kindest creatures and their unconditional love. So starved for affection and a kind word, yet showering me with more love than I could ever return. So willing to forgive, despite the heavy hand of abuse they had suffered their whole lives. So resilient and ready to move on, as witnessed by all of the stories and photos shared by families who have given them a forever home. I am grateful for the global community too, so many who joined together in powerful voice, and who never gave up to save these precious souls. GPI was there from the beginning to offer them a place. Ready to help with loving hearts, just as they have been doing for greyhounds around the world in need, who only ever wanted to be loved.