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One Woman's Quest to Provide a Peaceful Retirement for a Rescued Breeding Greyhound

We talk to Teresa King about her dog Leaf, who worked in a racetrack kennel and now has cancer; it's sure to make you a believer in fate and love.

 |  Oct 18th 2013  |   17 Contributions


Do you believe in love that is meant to be? Teresa King sure does. She fell in love with Leaf, a Greyhound repeatedly being used for breeding at a racetrack kennel in Oklahoma. Teresa fell in love with Leaf online before she ever met her, and although it took years, Teresa never gave up on her dream of giving Leaf the kind of loving home that she deserves.

Not long after she and Leaf finally were connected, Leaf was diagnosed with cancer, yet despite that, it’s hard to think of a luckier dog.

I’ve talked to lot of dog guardians about the special relationship and history they have with their dogs, but nothing compared to the incredible connection between Teresa and Leaf -- and you won’t believe the story of how they came together. I had the chance to talk to Leaf’s mama, Teresa, about their journey together, and am thrilled to share it with you. 

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Leaf relaxes.

Sassafras: Tell me a little bit about Leaf.

Teresa: I’ve known Leaf for about three years. About three years ago I got one of her daughter’s from Golden State Greyhound Adoption. I started looking up the racing history and lineage where you can track the tattoos in their ears and I saw her mother, Leaf.

I called the rescue group and said I really would like Leaf and they said she was being kept for breeding. Then, they called and said they had a son of hers out of another litter, a half-brother to my dog, and I said OK I’d have him, and also asked about Leaf. They said she’s still making babies and I said OK, I’d wait. Another year later I got a call and they said there is another daughter and I said that I would foster her. I adopted her in about one second flat, so now I had three different offspring of Leaf from three different litters. I called again and asked about Leaf, and finally she was ready.

We got the call in May of this year that she was ready, just needing to be spayed and vetted. Then, she went into heat and they said I couldn’t get her yet because she couldn’t be put on a truck. I said I would fly to Oklahoma and rent a car to drive her home. Finally, she got the go-ahead and was vetted and determined to be cat-safe and I flew to Oklahoma, picked her up in the SUV and drove her to California!

How many dogs do you have?

I have five dogs. I still have my first girl that I got at 15 months; she’s not related to the rest and she’s my first baby. Then I have three of Leaf's puppies, aged four, four and five, and Leaf is 9.5.

What was it like finally getting her?

I had known her for three years through the website but had never seen a picture until I got the picture of her with her last litter from last October. There was just something there. When I first looked at her I only had the one dog. I don’t know what it was; I think magic is all I can say. I was totally tenacious about getting her, not in a rude way but just like, where’s my Leaf? If I had to go through adopting two more dogs to get her I would have.

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Leaf's final litter of puppies.

How did things go once you had her?

Leaf landed here the second week of June and three weeks ago she was limping. She has osteosarcoma in her left front leg. We seem to have caught early. Now she’s not limping and she’s comfortable. Leaf’s mad she can't walk with the other dogs, but she has to be leash-walked carefully.

We had to reschedule our conversation the other day because of her health. Is she doing okay?

We’re guessing that the little episode from the other day is the cancer likely spreading to lungs and other places. So far it was just once and she’s happy.

It must be hard to have just adopted Leaf and already be dealing with such scary medical news.

It’s sort of like I’ve known her for three years and really had a thing where I knew I just had to have her. Even if it’s just for three to four more months, however long this is going to go on, this is meant to be. She needed to be somewhere comfortable and happy for however long we have.

What are some of Leaf’s favorite things?

Her favorite food is peanut butter. It was fascinating to watch her; it always is with Greyhounds, but especially with the older ones who have lived so long in a routine on the farm. It’s fascinating to watch her to learn what she can do, that she can sleep in any bed she wants and that she has beds all over the house that she can come and go wherever she wants. She can even come into the house and come in the kitchen to get a treat if she wants it.

Leaf loves standing at the top of the steps and looking at the squirrels and listening to the birds. She just looks around, just watching all the noise and the squirrels. She loves sniffing around. We all do our stomping around in the morning and then she’s just so sweet, she just follows me from room to room and just wants to be where I am.

What kind of treatment route have you chosen for Leaf?

I’m not doing any treatment. She’s on pain meds. I figure she has been through so much, having at least 30 babies between all the litters. We know from X-rays it’s cancer. I don’t want to stress her out; she doesn’t like the car rides so we won’t do more car rides for X-rays. Just before she came she was spayed and had seven teeth out so she’s learning to eat with a different tooth configuration, and that was a lot, and then to be put in a car and driven from Oklahoma to California ...

She needs to rest, and she needs her peace. She needs peace and calm and loving. As soon as I get an indication she’s not comfortable anymore then we will say goodbye. Leaf surprises me every day that she’s fully pain free and comfortable.

I made this decision for her sake. For my sake, if I wanted to keep her longer I might have tried radiation to slow the cancer. But that’s controversial (if it will make the bone more brittle) and I’m not going to put her in the car and through treatment. It would be me wanting to keep her longer, but this is for her. She shouldn’t be put through any more and should be comfortable.

I know that Leaf was recently photographed as part of The Pet Food Express -- My Mutt program, where dogs are photographed and then their photos are put on display in the stores.

I’m very involved with Golden State Greyhound, for about nine years. Now I’m part of all the meet-and-greets outside the Pet Food Express. They give us space and tents in the summer to keep us cool. I’ve been doing that for probably six years. As I started adopting my dogs, I made donations to Golden State Greyhound. They would give us My Mutt certificates to get them photographed. I’ve had photos of eight of my dogs up on the walls at Pet food Express.

It really does promote Golden State Greyhound. It’s fun when I’m in the store with other people and I might have a dog with me, and I’m like, "and that’s mine and that’s mine and that’s mine." Even when they’re no longer here with us it’s like he’s here and she’s here ...

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Leaf's My Mutt photograph!

Does she recognize her puppies?

No, she doesn’t. When we first got home, I think her son recognized her a bit. He seemed interested but I’m unsure if it was interest or recognition.

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About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

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