Journey to Otaki
When HUHA first leased the stables at Ashford Park Stud in Otaki, it was only using one of the three wings. The other two wings still needed to have all the hay taken out of them, to be cleaned and scoured and have beds put in them. But it was early days – the facility had only been open for a couple of weeks.
One of the HUHA volunteers mentioned that they had seen an advertisement on Trade Me, selling 15 greyhounds. Fifteen greyhounds is a significant number to be selling all at once. HUHA rang the number to find out what it was all about. It was in fact a closed-down racing facility. Family circumstances had changed and the owner was trying to leave the property and move overseas. He wanted to keep the dogs but it wasn’t practical to take them with him and in fact, it was already proving to be impossible to care for them properly. There were 15 dogs aged 7 to 16 years of age and now the situation was desperate. The only replies he had had were from pig hunters and he didn’t want them to be used for that. HUHA offered to help and the help was gratefully accepted.
The despair and the situation that the dogs found themselves in had a tone of urgency to it. It was decided that the dogs should be picked up immediately. It would be dark by the time the HUHA truck reached the destination and probably light again when the truck returned. The dogs would be tired and there was still hay in their bedrooms and no beds. A team of HUHA volunteers rallied round, they put the News and Coronation Street on time record, left their families to finish off the tea and drove to the Otaki facility to get the wing ready – The Greyhound Wing (as it is still called today, and indeed, there are greyhounds in there with a number of suspiciously ungreyhound-like dogs sharing the wing as well).
Meanwhile, Carolyn and Claire drove to where the greyhounds lived, not knowing what they would find, not knowing the place but driven by the need to bring those dogs home. When they got there, it was completely dark. The owner was relieved to see them and also very upset. Claire and Carolyn listened to the man and surveyed the scene. They prepared the truck to bring the hounds back. They assured the owner that the dogs would be safe, loved and that they would do all that was possible to find the homes that the dogs deserved. The dogs, in accordance with HUHA philosophy, would be forever the family of HUHA; their futures forever significant to HUHA.
Some of the dogs were a good age – 16 years! Two of them were excited about the adventure but the rest were quiet, confused, anxious. They were loaded carefully into the truck. Tina, the oldest girl, rode in the cab with Claire. The long ride home began.
Back at the stables, it had got very hot and busy. All of the hay had been moved out of the 15 bedrooms and the floors had been swept and cleaned. Beds and mattresses had been lugged into every room. Soft, layers of blankets had been placed on the beds, bowls of fresh water put into the rooms, teddies for comfort – everyone worked late into the night so that the wing would be ready when the truck came back. When they finished up, they turned the lights off, locked up and hoped that Carolyn and Claire and their precious cargo would return safely.
And indeed, the truck returned – at about 4.30 am; the dogs and the humans exhausted emotionally and physically. They were so relieved to back the truck up to the wing’s massive garage door entrance-way, stagger inside and see all the bedrooms welcoming, freshly made beds, clean water, all ready for their weary, anxious occupants. One by one, each beautiful dog was taken carefully and quietly into the bedrooms and tucked up safely into their soft, comfortable bedrooms after their long journey.
Claire drove home for a couple of hours sleep and Carolyn slept in the truck before starting their shift at 7 am.
A new journey
The group were not all related. There was Tina (16 years) and all her litter (all 7 years old at this point – Angel, Blue, Boof, Jack, Neve, Rodney, Sharkie, Sugar and Ting); there was Angie (10–11 years) and her daughter, Stella (7 years old); there was Cilla (10–11), Wilma (7 years) and Rosie (10–11). Some had been rescued by the owner from abusive homes, others were all his. They were typical greyhounds – gentle, curious, some unsure, some full of mischief and life-loving; all had that quiet charm that greyhounds have about them, that stillness that steals your heart.
On their very first day, the vet visited and checked everybody over. A regime of care and restoration was commenced. The dogs were still tired and at sea but they soon learnt that they were safe and together and loved. They all learned where the grass yards were and the regular run out into the yards with their brothers and sisters was a delight for dogs and volunteers alike. First thing in the morning, out they ran into the sunshine while someone got their breakfast ready and tidied up their rooms and then back in for a big feed and a lovely sleep-in, stretching legs and toes and luxuriating on their soft beds. Then throughout the course of the day, more play out on the grass, playing games with people and with each other, playing fetch with balls and frisbees, enjoying walks and fuss.
Greyhounds are renowned for their great love of toys – soft toys especially. There is nothing that beats a good stuffie, placed lovingly on your bed after breakfast. One of the 7-year-olds, in particular, developed a great love for teddies and stuffed animals of all kinds. Boof was a very singular dog; a great charmer. He was a dog that would turn people who didn’t really like greyhounds into loyal greyhound lovers. His great love of toys became legendary.
When the volunteers had made his bed and swept out his room, they would then have to tidy up all his soft toys and teddies of every shape into neat little lines for him. His room was like a little girl’s room. Eventually, the number of toys became too much and surreptitiously, one or two would be returned to what was known as the “Boof Bag”, a bag of toys, half way between the wing to the grass yards and the Greyhound Wing. The bag would be positioned carefully. All the greyhounds would run back in from the yards to their rooms and their breakfast and every time this happened, Boof would stop at the bag, rummage around and carefully select a toy of choice to join the toy family on his bed. There were many mixed emotions the day Boof went home to his lovely family (along with his brother, Rodney). He was given the Boof Bag to take home with him that day and the bag and his beloved giant, stuffed bee were so large that they took up most of the car space.
The three girls in Tina’s litter did not get on together in their former home. They got on with the boys but not each other. They didn’t have names and were called “The Nasty Girls”. This was something that needed to be remedied immediately of course. Such beautiful dogs with no names. It was agreed that they should all have beautiful, sweet names and they were called Sugar, Angel and Neve; names which they have kept to this day and sweeter delights you would find it hard to meet.
The greys were all re-homed and there were adventures along the way. Some have since died of course, a couple had to be rehomed, but they will always be remembered and loved and special members of the HUHA family; their names regularly come up among the HUHA staff. HUHA will never forget the day they did that HUHA thing they do, acting on a gut instinct, and driving madly in the dark to rescue 15 greyhounds and bring them home. And since then, a lot of greyhounds have found wonderful homes through HUHA.
The greyhound rescue cemented the way HUHA would operate and clarified for its members what being part of this organisation was going to mean from day to day. No-one was quite the same after those 15 greyhounds; it was the first big event at HUHA Otaki, but it was not to be the last.