Brooklyn, the Dog Who Inspired the Fall of Greyhound Racing

6 min read
Lantern Publishing & Media

Source: Lantern Publishing & Media

“My greyhound and I recommend you read this stunning memoir!”—Dr. Jane Goodall

If you ever had any doubt that greyhound racing never should have begun, no less continued to grow as a highly abusive and heartless global bloodsport, all uncertainties will rapidly evaporate when you read Christine Dorchak and Carey Theil’s new book, Brooklyn Goes Home: The Rise and Fall of American Greyhound Racing and the Dog that Inspired a Movement. Brooklyn’s story, along with that of his loving humans, will move you deeply.

I’m thrilled that Christine and Carey could take the time to answer a few questions about their new book, an inspirational, riveting page-turner about an amazing dog—a true survivor—and the power of compassion, persistence, positive thinking, and love.

Marc Bekoff: Why did you write Brooklyn Goes Home?

Christine Dorchak and Carey Theil: We wrote Brooklyn Goes Home for two main reasons. We wanted to honor a very special greyhound who came into our lives, changed us in ways we could not imagine, and made us better people. We also believed that our story of fighting the cruelty of dog racing could serve to inspire others to reach for change in their own lives. Like Brooklyn, who was left to die at a Chinese dog track, we faced devastating odds and were knocked down many times. We had no money, no clout, and no political expertise, yet we succeeded because we were willing to suffer losses and then begin again.

Source: Christine Dorchak

Brooklyn in his cell at a Chinese dog track, 2018.

Source: Christine Dorchak

MB: How does your book relate to your backgrounds and general areas of interest?

CD/CT: We are complete opposites. The two of us grew up more than a decade apart, on alternate coasts. One of us was raised very traditionally and the other quite liberally; one was an animal-loving “Jersey Girl” turned lawyer, and the other a poet and chess master turned political strategist from the Pacific Northwest.

This Yin and Yang turned out to be a unique balance of opposites, which is perhaps the reason that our organization survived and succeeded against all prophecies to the contrary. That said, we shared the same goal, that of stopping an antiquated and derelict commercial enterprise that was costing innocent hounds their very lives. Industrialized greyhound racing was invented in California in 1919, and our American mistake has been imitated in multiple countries from the United Kingdom to Australia to Vietnam. It is our goal to reverse this trend.

MB: Who is your intended audience?

CD/CT: Brooklyn Goes Home is written for anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog, but our book isn’t just for dog advocates. The strategies we used, to seek incremental change while staying grounded in our mission, can be applied to any fight for social justice. We learned to stay true to our goals and to learn from our mistakes. We came to understand and accept that sometimes we had to lose to win. In fact, on more than one occasion, horrible defeat opened up a gleaming path to victory. One of our board members is a Vietnam veteran, and he advised us early on that our first job was to “stay on the field” and keep focused, whether this be in terms of sustaining our political campaigns, educating the public about dog racing, or helping rescue greyhounds from closing dog tracks. That simple advice has anchored all that we have tried to accomplish for the greyhounds over the last quarter of a century.

MB: What are some of the topics you weave into your book and what are some of your major messages?

CD/CT: People can read our book as a political how-to, which it is! We describe our state-by-state push to outlaw dog racing across the United States and we introduce readers to the diverse group of people who came together to help greyhounds along the way. These folks, Democrat and Republican, old and young, came from multiple walks of life but were united in the singular belief that dogs are family friends, not racing machines. They joined us year after year, often from clashing sides, to become like-minded champions for the greys. Our own dog Brooklyn came to be the living symbol of this shared compassion and love. Through his story, we hope to show that even in these fractured times, change is possible. In fact, it is inevitable.

MB: How does your book differ from others that are concerned with some of the same general topics?

CD/CT: It’s hard to put into words how much we have learned and grown during our fight to end greyhound racing. The battle itself was our teacher, as was gentle Brooklyn. He showed us that the most important thing is to love. Throughout all the decades, the corruption of greyhound racing has always been outshined by the determination, grit, and passion of animal advocates who have made so many selfless sacrifices simply to do what is right. Perhaps that is the real lesson, that only by facing darkness can we discover the light that exists in everyone, even a white and fawn greyhound with gentle eyes and brown spots like a Guernsey cow.

Christine Dorchak

Brooklyn at home.

Source: Christine Dorchak

MB: Are you hopeful that as people learn more about these amazing dogs they will treat them with more compassion, respect, and dignity?

CD/CT: Like Brooklyn was to greyhound advocates, we believe that gentle hounds are true ambassadors for other animals in need of help. Brooklyn was born in Australia, where he failed as a racer. Then, before he was even two years old, he found himself shipped out to the worst dog track in the world. There was no adoption program at the Yat Yuen Canidrome in Macau, and every dog who raced there died there—400 a year! That could have been Brooklyn’s fate, too, but thanks to wonderful people working with us around the world, the track was closed and he was airlifted to safety along with 532 other surviving dogs. He was underweight, his coat dull and dirty, and he had large sores on his legs. Thirteen teeth, worn down to the roots after years of chewing on the bars of his cage, had to be removed.

Relationships Essential Reads

When he was diagnosed with cancer and then suffered a stroke, he should have died again, yet he lived! Brooklyn’s personal story of survival and the way he joyfully greeted each day as a gift taught us to treasure our time on this earth more than ever before.

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