Heartbreak at 45 mph

Scenes from the life of a racing greyhound.

Through the adoption group, I learn that Jailamony was trained by the delightfully titled company Bad Boy Racing. At the kennel, I see a smashed-up dog truck with those words blasted across the top of the windshield. But I don't find the truck owner, and I later learn the company has been sold.

In hopes of finding someone who might remember my dog, I make another trip to the track.

A funny thing about racetracks: There are always a few old handicappers who remember every horse or dog in every race they've ever seen, going back decades. In another life, these men could have been great mathematicians or literature scholars; in places like Mardi Gras, where the floor is littered with beer-drenched stubs of daily heartbreak, they are the revered wise men.

C. Stiles
Jerry Berlin, a volunteer with Friends of Greyhounds, has owned seven retired racers. He tries not to think of what his dogs went through before he got them.
C. Stiles
Jerry Berlin, a volunteer with Friends of Greyhounds, has owned seven retired racers. He tries not to think of what his dogs went through before he got them.

During short breaks in the action at Mardi Gras, I ask around to see whether anyone remembers betting on Jailamony. I get a lot of "that name sounds familiar" and "if I could see the books, I'd know the dog." Then someone directs me to Norman Grant.

A fidgeting, wiry black man in a ski cap, Grant recognizes the name immediately. "A black dog," he says. "Your dog's a black dog. I remember."

I nod.

"Your dog don't break. Don't break worth a damn. But she's a closer. She's a strong, strong closer."

Indeed, most of the races in which she placed, Jailamony came from behind. Through a website called greyhound-data.com, I find Jailamony's racing history and trace her heritage back 34 generations, to 1820 — about 32 generations more than I know about myself. Her sire's sire was Molotov, a member of the Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame who set track records in Colorado that still stand today.

The site says there were two other dogs from Jailamony's litter registered as racers: a female named Jam It Up and a male named Speed Bump Brent. Brent never made it past the schooling races, and like the dogs from the litter that weren't registered racers, there is no record of where he is now. Jam It Up is still racing in Naples.

Each dog's racing history includes racing notes written in a cryptic, handicapper code. If a dog broke away from the pack on the back stretch and won, for example, the note might say: "Pulled Away Md Trk."

Jailamony dominated her practice races (to qualify at a track, a dog must finish in the top four). She won her second race at Mardi Gras. She worked her way up the ranks and earned nearly $2,000 in all. But then, her firsts and seconds turned into sixths and sevenths.

The handicapping notes tell the story. Over and over, Jailamony was "bumped 1st turn mid trk" or "crowded early." In race after race, the notes say she "stumbled, fell" or "broke to outside, collided" or "bounced around early." After 25 races at Mardi Gras, she was downgraded to Flagler in Miami.

It was there, on June 13, 2008, that she had her final race, the 32nd of her career. She was wearing the 6 jersey the day she broke her leg. The note is short. It says: "Dropped Back 1st Turn, DNF."

Like so many greyhounds, my dog's life as a racer ended with those three ominous letters, DNF: Did Not Finish.

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