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A New Year, A New Life, A Winner Yet Again
By Eileen Mitchell
Tahiti Trotter. The name sounds like a tropical drink or South Pacific resort. But for this 8-year-old racing greyhound, life was anything but a day at the beach. He started racing in 1997 when he was just 18 months old, winning race after race. Quickly he moved up the ranks to the highest class possible, a grade "A" racer. Think the likes of Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods or Steve McNair -- with fur. That was Tahiti Trotter.
But even the best athletes eventually peak out and in 1999, after winning more than 20 races, the 78-pound champ started slowing down. And so it was that at the grand old age of 4 years, the renowned Tahiti Trotter was officially retired. But he wasn't about to start using his AARP card at the Greytful Dog Barkery & Boutique just yet.
While about 18,000 retired ex-racers are lucky enough each year to be adopted and live their lives out as professional bed warmers, this fawn winner was sent to a greyhound farm in Colorado. There he was used to sire future grade "A" racers. Yes, Tahiti Trotter retired to a life of sex, which some may think ain't such a bad alternative to golf. Except that he had to share his human with more than 200 other dogs, which probably didn't amount to very much personal attention. And oh, the older he got, the harder those bitter Colorado winters were to endure in his outdoor doghouse.
After four years of fulfilling carnal duties, the studly canine was running out of steam and once again, retirement loomed. Only this time the concept of retirement was a bit gloomier. There was no place left for him to go. No racetracks. No breeding farms. Nobody's waiting arms or comfy couch. For the first time in his illustrious career as a top dog racer and breeder, Tahiti Trotter was a hound without a future.
For an ex-racer, that can be ominous.
Fortunately for Tahiti Trotter, his breeding farm is committed to adoption and they contacted Stu and Barbara Homer of Golden State Greyhound Adoption (www.goldengreyhounds.com) about their elder statesman.
But who would adopt Tahiti Trotter? At 8 years old he was long past the exuberant stage so appealing to people. Even die-hard greyhound lovers might be reluctant to adopt a senior dog, knowing that their time with him might be brief. Why get attached to an older dog only to go through the emotional heartbreak of losing him in just a few short years?
And so with his golden days behind him, in more ways than one, Tahiti Trotter sat in his crate in Colorado waiting for a permanent home. Meanwhile, the Homers went to work penning a poignant e-mail in Tahiti Trotter's voice. Er, bark.
"I just turned 8 this month. For heaven's sake, that's not old for a big guy like me. Don't they know that stud dogs who raced as well as I did tend to live longer and be healthier? I hope they find someone 'cause it's gonna get cold here in Colorado soon and I would love to spend this winter inside with a nice family. I've worked really hard my entire life and am looking forward to a nice family to love in my retirement."
And being not just a champ, but a wise dog too, Tahiti Trotter included his photo to show what a handsome guy he was, even with gray eyebrows.
Many who received the e-mail were touched and shared it with their network of friends. And, as the old 1970s Faberge shampoo commercial went, "they told two friends and then they told two friends . . . " The search was on.
Now JoDean Nicolette of Santa Rosa already had two ex-racer greyhounds, Tommie and Chase. A family physician with a busy schedule, she wasn't really in the market for a third dog. But when she opened her e-mail and took one look at the soulful eyes of this orphan dog she knew what she had to do. And that's how, on a brisk November afternoon, she found herself waiting for the flight from Colorado to arrive in San Francisco and deliver the newest member of her family, the celebrated Tahiti Trotter.
"We have to get a bigger doggie-door," she shared in a recent e-mail. "He's the biggest greyhound I've ever seen, outweighing my boys by 10 pounds. Even still, he's emaciated. He seems really tired. He has started to eat and even play a little. He takes food from my hand and we've not heard a peep from him. Mostly he sleeps and takes up two dog beds."
What Tahiti Trotter doesn't know yet is that JoDean Nicolette is the greatest thing to ever happen to him. Forget about all those trophies, titles and sports page accolades. Tahiti Trotter is now discovering a dog's real rewards: belly rubs, cushy sofas, squeaky toys and handheld treats. And above all else, a human with a big heart and outstretched arms who loves him for what he is: a dog who needed a home.
"We've renamed him Mahatma Doggie," JoDean continued in her e-mail. "Mahatma for short. It means "The greyt (great) soul."