I needed dog legs…
Donna was her racing name, as in Prima Donna. Back then I thought that was a weird name for a dog, but back then I didn’t know anything about greyhounds even though I had been around other dogs as long as I remember.
I don’t remember when I first noticed greyhounds but a few years ago three of them appeared in one of my paintings.
Or rather their legs did. I needed some tall legs for a painting in my –toys and dogs- series so I paid more attention to the anatomy of different breeds and stumbled onto the somewhat grotesque physique of the canine racer’s ‘turkey leg’. Muscle packed and over sized at one end to bare bones and stick like at the other. Now that was the perfect model.
Pretty soon I was painting the rest of their bodies, fascinated by how, even in the last details, these dogs are build for minimum wind resistance and maximum speed. The eyes were what hooked me. Huge and perfectly almond shaped, deep amber in color, there was an expressiveness in them not often seen in other dogs.
Of course one can’t get interested in greyhounds and not hear about the controversies around the race tracks.
Greyhounds, once discarded from the track as losers, face death. Nowadays rescues around the country find homes for many of them but a lot of them still get killed. There are about 10 race tracks left around the country, mostly in Texas and Florida.
Soon I was in touch with a local rescue. My little dog Kruemel had just turned 18 and her days were slow and surely numbered. I could handle another dog, even a big one. My research showed that greyhounds are calm dogs overall with only short bursts of energy, otherwise couch potatoes, affectionate and mellow with a cat like personality. Even though much of this turned out to be true I was not prepared for what it would take to get there.
It took a while to find the right dog because it needed to be matched for cat and small dog compatibility, since track dogs are trained on life bunnies and furry lures and greyhounds have a long history as hunting dogs.
And so one day, there she was, beautiful Donna. Coming from the Arizona race track she was the pup of successful racing champions with a history as far back as the 1800’s starting in England then Australia and eventually coming to the US. Discarded after only 6 test races because she didn’t win, she showed up at the rescue at 4 years old.
Snow white, with a wild sprinkle of black spots like poppy seeds (which gave her her off-track name) she was a dog painters dream. A black ‘eye patch’ and one larger spot on her forehead made her face unique and gave a glow to her amber eyes. A glow that was only there in color not in spirit as I found out soon enough.
-To be continued.