Once we decided to adopt Slider, we had to wait a couple of weeks before bringing him home. I decided to spend the time researching his racing career.
After Googling around aimlessly for a while, I ended up on a website called Track Info, which aggregates results from various animal races. (Well, really just greyhounds and horses.) In the greyhound section, there’s a dog search. I typed in Electric Slide, and his racing history popped right up.
At first, I couldn’t make any sense of the racing results, row after row of gibberish. I deduced that Slider’s whelp date was his birthday: September 18, 2009, exactly one year before Rachael and I got married. A dog born on our anniversary? Maybe this was meant to be.
I discovered that his father was Flying Penske, the Wilt Chamberlain of greyhounds, who according to the site has a mind-boggling 8,159 children. Slider’s mother, Eye Oh Wah, was much more responsible, birthing just 32 pups. Some of Slider’s brothers and sisters had names like Eat My Dust and Instant Winner and Track Super Star. I can imagine the sibling rivalry was intense.
Much of the racing info on the site still confounds me, but I was able to decipher a few things. The first column on the left, obviously, is the date of the race. Slider’s first race was in June 2011. He finished third. His last race was just this past June. He came in seventh. Most of the races include eight dogs.
In between, Slider ran about 150 races, one every few days. Most were held at Southland Park, a casino and greyhound-racing venue in West Memphis, Arkansas, just across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee. The first few races of his career, though, came at Mystique Casino in Dubuque, Iowa.
In the center of the list of results is a series of bold columns. The one on the far right is Slider’s time in that race, usually around 40 seconds. The distance is most often 703 yards. That means his average speed was usually around 35 miles per hour, though greyhounds can top out at more like 45. They’re among the fastest land animals, behind cheetahs and not much else.
To the left of the time is how far Slider finished behind the leader, and the number to the left of that is where he placed. (The shorthand text to the right of the time also indicates how he fared.) By my quick tally, Slider won 13 races and finished second another 20 times or so. (There’s also a grade system, with A races and B races and so on, but I won’t bore you with those details.) He wasn’t a grand champion, but he held his own.
Best of all, the site has video of each race. I have to admit, in those weeks before we brought Slider home, I already felt a strong bond with him, just from watching him win races. When he crossed the finish line first, I felt an irrational sense of pride, as if I were somehow connected to his success.
The races at Southland all follow a similar format: The dogs begin in a starting box. A siren blares, and then without fail, the announcer always says, “Rusty’s on the move!” A mechanical rabbit then comes shooting past along the inside rail. “Here comes Rusty.” A split second after the rabbit passes, the doors of the box flip up and the dogs coming charging out. “They’re off and racing!”
Greyhounds at a full sprint are a sight to behold. Their strides are impossibly long. The dogs go from a crunched position to completely sprawled out in a split second. In both positions, they hover above the ground, all four legs floating on air.
In Slider’s wins, he tends to start out in the middle of the pack, then come charging forward at the end. In his final win, on May 12, he emerged from the pack at the final turn (in the video, look for dog No. 2). The announcer refers to him as a “crafty veteran.” His first win came in his second career race, a Grade E matinee, at the track in Iowa. There, they say the mechanical rabbit is “rolling by the river.” In a green-striped No. 7 jersey, Slider gets pushed outside early and falls behind, but he makes a move through traffic around the far turn, and pulls away down the stretch, clearly outclassing his competition.
My favorite of Slider’s wins came on June 29, 2012, during the best stretch of his career. It’s a nighttime race, which I think adds to the atmosphere. Wearing No. 4, he gets off to a slow start. Quickly, he falls back into fifth place, so far behind the leaders that at some points, he’s not even in the view of the camera. But midway through, he makes a move on the inside, pulling into third, then second. As they enter the home stretch, he’s still probably two or three lengths behind.
Then he puts his head down, kicks up dirt… “Four cranking it up!” the announcer yells. “Electric Slide! At the wire!” He wins by a nose.
Yep, that’s a pet I can get behind.