Greyhounds Bring Life Back to Family, Farm

Written by Tonda Bradley

When Carmen Jorgensen drove past the family farm every day, she mourned the fact that the farm was no longer being used and that her family had scattered. When her husband, Wayne, passed away after 48 years of marriage, the family hog farm had closed. She and her daughter, Sonja Green, continued to run their business, Copper Pig, in the City Mall, but she missed the times that the whole family would work together on the farm. The boys, son-in-law Robert Green and son Wade Jorgensen, had started working in the nuclear field, and were gone quite often.

“The land was just sitting there, not being used, and it just didn’t seem right”, she stated. Carmen was on a trip to Iowa for a family reunion when a solution for the family farm was presented.

“I usually cut across country to Des Moines to get on I-35 to come home, but this time I took a different route. Actually it was a longer route. I always listen to AVHO radio out of Des Moines, but this time dad and I were listening to AMES radio. The head of the Iowa State Board for Racing dogs and Horses was speaking about Greyhounds, and how easy it was for a mother or a child to get into the business.”

“Alan Hill, who had been raising Greyhounds for 25 years came on and told us that you can’t feel bad, because when you get up every morning, your dogs are waiting for you, and they just make your day. I was hooked,” recalled Carmen.

“I called the next morning and spoke with Alan, and he invited me to Iowa to see his kennel. I went to Iowa the following week and spent half the day with him. He assured me he would help get me started in the business, and on the first of November, I got my first dog, Regal Rose Bud, better known as Rosie.”

Rosie was sent to Abilene to be bred with a top sire, Dodgem By Design, and had 12 puppies in her first litter. Then Carmen bought an additional 12 puppies from a kennel in Kansas. She was in the greyhound business.

“It is so exciting” states Carmen. “I was never much of a dog person, but I love my dogs. It has brought our entire family back to the farm. Our morning starts at 7:30 a.m. We all meet at the kennels for our first visit of the day. We talk to and pet the dogs. We then mix their food, which is a mixture of 1.5 pounds of fresh meat and vitamins.

The dogs are fed this only in the mornings. They eat from self feeders for the rest of the day. Their water is checked and they are loved and petted, and then loved and petted some more. They are very loving, sweet dogs, says Carmen.

“We then all go to our regular jobs, and meet back at the farm in the evenings to check on the dogs again. We walk them, teach them to lead and get them used to a collar.”

“Everyone in our family is involved,” says Sonja. “My brother Wade, his wife Beth, and her two children, Jordan, 12, and Dakota, 18, also work with us. My husband, Robert helps every day and our daughter Britni, who is a pharmacist in Memphis, is right there with us when she is home.”

“Sunday is bath day” says Beth. “It is just such a joy to watch everyone get involved with bath day” chuckles Carmen. “All the dogs get scrubbed down with Dawn and we all get filthy, but it is so much fun.”

The dogs are kept in pens that have runs that are 340 feet long by 15 feet wide. There are three dogs to every pen, and each pen includes a house that Robert and Wade built. They are taken to the vet regularly and Carmen estimates that by the time the dogs are released to go to the trainer, she has invested around $2,200 to $2,500 in each dog. After training, the dogs are sent to the kennel at a track to race. Most of Carmen’s dogs race at Southland in Memphis.

“When the dogs are sent to the track, they become the property of the kennel there,” states Robert. “Those kennels are extremely clean, and the dogs are very well cared for.”

“Greyhounds love to run,” says Carmen. “They are natural runners, and they love to compete. Even here on the farm, they run up and down their runs and compete with each other. I think most people have a misconception of the track. The dogs are exercised four-to-five times per day, well fed, and have a personal groomer and trainer. The kennels are air-conditioned and the dogs are checked by vets regularly.”

“I have a pass to the track and can go check on my dogs whenever I want. Our family goes to the track often on weekends to see our dogs run. When a dog wins, the breeder and the kennel split the purse. When your dogs win, it is such a proud moment. They are like your children; their accomplishment is your accomplishment.”

“The dogs typically race at the track for about four years, then they come home, and we place our dogs for adoption. They make wonderful, loving pets.”

“One of the best things about this business is the people. We have met so many people that have helped us.” says Carmen. “When I first started, I knew nothing about the business, so I called the track and they put me in touch with a man by the name of Darby Henry, who has been in the business for over 50 years.”

“He invited me to his home and he and his wife gave me great advice on my dogs. He has been to my kennel four times to see my dogs. Our meat suppliers, Robert Hume and Mike Harris, have helped with any feeding questions we have had, and has made suggestions for us. These people have helped make my business successful.”

Breeding is a vital part of the greyhound business. Originally greyhounds were bred for royalty as hunting dogs.

“Wade takes care of our breeding programs,” states Carmen, “Most of the work is done on computer. We look for things like afaststarter,aspiriteddog,etc.Whenapup is 12 weeks old, they are ‘tattooed’ in their ears. The association is very strict on the ear- tagging procedure. The information on the ear tags includes our kennel name (CBJ), the date of birth, litter number, markings, toe nail colors, along with other information.

The Jorgensens and Greens make this a family night too. Sonja, Jordan and Dakota transfer the pups back and forth. Beth fills out all the paperwork, and Robert and Wade do the actual tagging.

“We typically breed three different sires. However, the female is the important part of the breeding process. A total of 80% of the characteristics of a pup come from the dame. Breeding fees can run from $500 to $1000. A female dog can sell up to $50,000, depending on breeding.”

One of Carmen’s first litters of pups was bred on November 25th.

“This was the anniversary of mine and Wayne’s first date in 1956 in Iowa,” she says. “He took me to see the movie, ‘Love Me Tender’ with Elvis Presley. We decided to name all the pups with an “Elvis” theme. Their names are, ‘Love Me Tender’, ‘Presley,’ ‘The King,’ ‘Heartbreak,’ ‘Teddy Bear,’ ‘Lisa Marie.’ ‘Tupelo,’ ‘Elvis,’ ‘Memphis,’ ‘Graceland,’ and ‘Ruppie Doo,’ which is Beth’s son’s nickname.”

“Having these dogs has added purpose back to my life,” states Carmen. “My dogs are such a joy, and they all have such personality. That moment when they look up at you with those big, brown eyes is pretty special. Most importantly, having these dogs has brought my family back to the farm.”

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