Every greyhound has a story, and most rescuers have many. Most are sad stories of exploitation, neglect and abuse, with few having happy endings. Some stories are tales of good and evil, showing us opposing sides of human nature: those who show no remorse, gratitude or care, and those with incredible courage who never give up, demonstrating their strength through actions of boundless love and care. This is such a story.
Lorraine Ramsay had been rescuing greyhounds for five years and rescued a beautiful greyhound Heidi who had been overused for breeding by the greyhound racing industry until she died from internal bleeding. It was confirmed from the vet that Heidi’s blood vessels were so weakened from over-breeding that there was no hope of her ever recovering.
Heidi had a puppy named Rita. Rita had been raced, and upon retirement kept in a kennel with plans that she would also be used for (over)breeding. Lorraine had tried adopting her several times, begging the owner to take her and even offering to pay for Rita. She desperately wanted to save Rita from the fate of her mother.
One day, Rita’s racing owner collapsed at the kennels where Rita was kept for breeding. He had a heart attack and there was no one around to help him. The man was unconscious and Rita left her puppies and stood over him, barking incessantly until someone checked on her alarm. The man was found, an ambulance was called, and this man’s life was saved by this very special greyhound, Rita.
Sadly, the care or concern for a dog who saved his life was never returned. For the next two years, he continued to keep Rita in the kennels and used her for breeding until she was unable to produce any more litters. After he couldn’t make any more money from her – the same man whose life she saved – dumped Rita at the vet for Lorraine. He mentioned that there was a “pink spot” on Rita’s nose that the vet should “look into” (at Lorraine’s expense – not his).
Lorraine was devastated to find Rita with a huge pink cancerous tumor covering half of her nose. That was no pink spot.
It was initially diagnosed as a deadly MAST cell carcinoma. When the vet told Lorraine that the tumor was inoperable due to the lack of margins around it, she was devastated. However, Lorraine did not give up, and set out to try to find a way to save Rita.
Lorraine took Rita to the Small Animal Specialist Hospital in Sydney where she and Rita met a wonderful oncologist who gave her hope. The oncologist said that if they could reduce the size of the tumor to allow margins, it would be operable.
Rita’s treatment cost more than $12,500. Lorraine raised fund for Rita’s surgery through social media. This resulted in a public outpouring of love and money which raised $11,000 for Rita. Lorraine donated $1,500 out of her own pocket to finance the remaining costs.
What followed were all the necessary tests and a full body scan. For several weeks, Rita was treated with prednisone and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. After a few weeks, the oncologist and surgeon agreed that the tumor was small enough to remove! The surgeon explained that he would cut a flap of skin from above her top lip and pull it forward over the tumor site. He explained that there was a risk of the blood supply failing to that flap. Lorraine held her breath and waited.
The “greyt” news is that Rita survived the surgery, and was reported by her carers that she was the perfect patient, endearing herself to everyone she met.
This photo below shows what Rita looked like when Lorraine took her home after the surgery.
After a few days, Lorraine thought the wound had broken open. It looked as though the blood supply in the flap of skin had failed.
However, Rita remained in good spirits and appeared pain free while she was on medication. She had more chemotherapy and after approximately four weeks of ongoing treatment and progress checks both specialists were pleased with her results.
Rita’s surgery was one year ago. Today, Rita is 7 years old and has been cleared of all signs of cancer. She lives with Lorraine and her other rescue greys and rescue cats full-time and is thoroughly enjoying her life as a beloved pet and companion. Lorraine is completely in love with her and cherishes every moment they spend together.
For most of us, it is incomprehensible that anyone could deny an animal much needed vet work. Even more so when that dog has saved that person’s life. Every day, most of us who are involved in – or simply exposed to – the rescue arm of greyhound racing find these scenarios as common as they are disturbing.
The inspiration to take away from this story is that there are people such as Lorraine, offering time, love, and money to save greyhound lives, and that there is a community of people who are enabling Lorraine – and others like her – to do so. People who continue to open their hearts and wallets to help save these beautiful creatures who the racing industry discards like yesterday’s rubbish.
It is Lorraine and people like her (probably you!) we can thank for giving Rita’s story a happy ending.
It is with heartfelt thanks that we celebrate all of you who are working toward a kinder future without greyhound racing.
If you’d like to donate to help Lorraine continue her wonderful work saving greyhounds, you can contact her via her Facebook page: Rescued Greyhounds NSW Central Coast.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria Sublette has a PhD in Behavioural Medicine (Health Psychology) from Sydney University’s Medical School. She is a proud member of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds and hopes that her efforts will allow her to see the end of greyhound racing in her lifetime.