Retired greyhound racers won over the hearts of Michele and Paul Billick and Cara Bonawitz before they became greyhound racing owners. Neither Michele and Paul or Cara had experience with owning racers prior to 2019, but are more than excited for their new ventures. Through the National Greyhound Association’s (NGA) 2019 Fall Meet Pup Giveaway, winners Michele and Paul added a new pup to their racing ownership and Cara won her first greyhound racer. Speaking with Michele, Paul, and Cara, it was very clear that they are passionate about greyhounds and the racing industry, and want to ensure that the pups they love continue to be a part of their lives for as long as possible.
Adopting their two current retired racers, Bristol (Wiki Dopey) in July of 2016 and Candy (PW’s Grandy) in April of 2017, Michele and Paul Billick quickly became in love with greyhounds. Through their retired racers, Michele and Paul learned a lot about the racing industry and Michele found herself on the board for the Erie Shore Greyhound Adoption of Ohio. Wanting to know everything about greyhounds and their lives before adoption, Michele and Paul did research and met some great people in the greyhound racing business. They credit most of their racing knowledge toward the wonderful people in the industry who have helped educate them and show them the truth of what is happening with the pups before they go to their forever home. To Michele and Paul, it was clear early on that greyhound racers are treated wonderfully because they could see the happy personalities and sweetness that exist in Bristol and Candy.
“They [greyhounds] are driven, learn so much, and become such great pets because of their racing experience and because of the people that care and love them.”
Through a visit to Abilene, Kansas, in June of 2019 for the Heart of America gathering, Michele and Paul’s involvement in the greyhound racing industry would move to a new level. While at the event, Michele and Paul asked questions about the industry and how to become an owner of a greyhound racer. Everyone was very open, honest, and gave great advice. While in Kansas, Michele and Paul visited Mooch and Dixie Olson’s farm and ended up picking out a pup to purchase who will be finished at the farm before heading to the track. That pup is Paul’s Cosmos, named after both Michele and Paul’s fathers, and they call her Lil’ Boo. They did not plan on purchasing a greyhound racer when they attended the Heart of America event, but their love for greyhounds and wonderful support from those in the industry easily got them on board. Paul loves visiting Lil’ Boo who gets extremely excited to see them. She seems to know that Michele and Paul are her parents.
Wanting to do something for Michele and Paul’s 10th wedding anniversary, they thought it would be fun to go on a trip and decided that destination could be in Abilene for the National Greyhound Association’s (NGA) 2019 Fall Meet. It was at the meet that Michele and Paul had no idea that their greyhound racing ownership would expand. At the Fall Meet Auction, Michele and Paul saw some amazing greyhounds. They had not intended on purchasing a greyhound, but seeing the pups sparked something in Michele and the next thing she knew, her hand went up in the air to purchase a greyhound from David Strong’s farm. That pup is Windy Charolet who is currently in Jacksonville and will run out of Jim Blanchard’s Kennel.
Little did Michele and Paul know that their greyhound racing ownership would not end there. When they arrived for the Fall Meet, they were notified about the Pup Giveaway and decided that they would throw their names into the drawing. Michele did not think they would win since she does not usually have the best luck, but that luck would turn around for them as they won Annie, a pup from Ken Biehle. Michele and Paul chose the name Annie since they won her while celebrating their anniversary. Currently, Annie is at Mooch and Dixie’s farm where she will be finished till it is time for her to head to the track.
One of Michele’s favorite memories so far from her involvement with greyhounds consists of her mother who had always been afraid of dogs. When Michele and Paul adopted Bristol, the fear Michele’s mother had for dogs quickly diminished. Her mother completely adores Bristol and Candy. To Michele, that is the power greyhounds can have. Through their gentle demeanor and wonderful personalities, Bristol and Candy completely changed a person’s negative view of dogs.
“It says a lot about the greyhound and their discipline and what they have learned in their short years before they come to their forever home.”
The best thing about being involved in the greyhound racing industry for Michele and Paul is seeing the truth of the business and really experiencing for themselves what the industry is about. They have visited greyhound farms and have seen the love that the farm owners have for the pups. It is something that they wish everyone could experience. Michele and Paul’s goal is to bring the truth of the racing industry to anyone and everyone that they can.
“If we can change one person’s mind or heart, we’ve done something and we’re just going to continue to do that.”
The NGA’s other Pup Giveaway winner, Cara Bonawitz, has been involved in greyhound adoption since 1998 when she adopted her first greyhound. Cara had always had dogs throughout her life, but when she adopted a greyhound, she knew from that moment on that she would always have a greyhound in her life. Cara has kept to that, adopting a total of five greyhounds.
Though Cara realized that her greyhounds had been involved in the racing industry, she did not think much about the racing side of the industry till about 2 years ago when Amendment 13 was first being discussed in Florida. Cara did a ton of research and found herself wanting to get more involved in the industry. This involvement spurred her to attend the NGA 2019 Fall Meet where she learned about the Pup Giveaway on the last day of the meet. Cara decided that she would participate, but much like Michele Billick, Cara did not think she would win and considered her participation as a donation. About 120 handwritten raffle tickets later, Cara’s name was selected. She was in disbelief because she really did not think she would win. When her name was called, Cara was beyond thrilled to have a greyhound racer, who she named Ziva. She cannot wait to watch Ziva race and then come home to her forever life with Cara.
Though Cara had never owned a greyhound racer, she knew that she wanted Ziva to race. Understanding the culture and life on the greyhound farm, Cara knew that she wanted her pup to train with the rest of her siblings and have the opportunity for a racing life. Ziva will be training later this month with Tracy Shephard.
“I believe those dogs are born to run, live to run, love to run.”
Cara finds it amazing that most greyhounds end up being raised and trained around their siblings. Through their experience and training on the farm and track, the greyhounds end up being well socialized and sweet. Cara believes that the pups would not be the way that they are if there was any form of abuse that happens during their raising. Greyhounds get so much love during their racing careers that the love they received shines when they go to their forever homes. For Cara, it is what made her completely smitten with retired racers. She finds that this shows with her greyhound Zuma who jumps up and gives hugs. Cara believes Zuma learned this while being raised and continues to give hugs to Cara.
One of the things Cara loves about greyhounds is that they have their own personalities and quirks. She loves how gentle, socialized, smart, and sweet greyhounds are. Things that only greyhounds seem to do like “roaching” or “smiling” are some of the quirks that have captured Cara’s heart with greyhounds.
“Greyhounds are the unicorn of the canine world. So spectacular and majestic and make the most amazing pets… You can see their souls on their face.”
We would like to thank Michele and Paul Billick and Cara Bonawitz for taking the time to speak with us and share their experiences in the greyhound racing industry. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.