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Ex-Racers Are in the Homestretch

Greyhounds: Pilot logs 8,000 miles ferrying dogs slated for death to adoption agencies.

July 25, 2002|SUFIYA ABDUR-RAHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pilot Maggie McCurry has been flying for 16 years but she said she has never traveled with the precious cargo she has carried during the Great Greyhound Goodwill Air Tour.

Her 24-day journey ended Wednesday at Van Nuys Airport when she and two retired racing greyhounds emerged from her airplane that McCurry dubbed the "Wings of Greyhounds."

She flew the plane, packed with pillows and blankets for the passengers' comfort, 8,000 miles, gathering 28 greyhounds, two or three at a time.

McCurry's rescue mission took her to 24 cities, including Boston, Indianapolis and Tucson, to keep greyhounds from being euthanized after they got too old to race.

Greyhounds begin to slow when they are between 2 1/2 and 3 years old, but the breed usually lives to be 12 years old, she said.

All of the dogs she rescued were given to greyhound adoption groups around the country, McCurry said.

"Greyhounds only have two options at the end of their careers--adoption or death," McCurry said.

Most racetracks don't have adoption programs, and the dogs' owners and trainers generally don't want them if they can't win races, McCurry said.

"If [a dog] is not making money, they don't even want to feed it," she said.

That's when groups like Greyhound Pets of America come in and groom the animals, place them in foster homes and eventually find people to adopt them, said Dana McNamar, a volunteer for the Orange County and Greater Los Angeles chapter. He said the chapter found homes for 220 greyhounds last year.

McCurry, a former Studio City resident who now lives in Sedona, Ariz., said she got involved with greyhounds six years ago when she adopted her dog, Lanky Lance, who died last month. "You get tired of just buzzing around the sky, flying to Santa Barbara for lunch," said McCurry, a recreational flier. "I wanted to do something useful."

She said she started a nonprofit group, Wings for Greyhounds Inc., and began the rescue flights, which cost about $200 an hour. The group gets grant money and donations to pay for the trips.

"It's great [seeing] their little faces and you know that they're never going to have to race again or wear muzzles," McCurry said.

Linda Brown, who runs the Acton-based adoption group Retired Racers Inc., said greyhounds are surprisingly well-behaved animals. "They seem to conform to pet life naturally," she said.

Her only suggestions for potential adopters are to have a leash on the dog at all times, a fenced yard and to feed it twice a day. They don't even need more exercise than any other dog, Brown said. "They're just a great breed of dog."

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