When Cry Calaveras places in the money at Southland Park Gaming and Racing, it’s a win for both Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option (MSGAO) and the hound’s owner, Ray Wong. That’s because Wong donates 10% of Cal’s winnings to MSGAO.
“As an owner and a greyhound adopter, I believe supporting the work of MSGAO is the right thing to do,” says Wong, who has owned racing dogs for two years and been involved in adoption for a decade. Since coming to Southland’s Northshore Kennel in 2011, Cal has earned more than $1,780 for MSGAO.
“Ray has been a terrific supporter of greyhounds and greyhound adoption,” says Vicki Cohen, MSGAO director. “He’s donated his time and his money to promote adoption. It’s the kind of commitment that is invaluable to what we do.”
In addition to Cal’s winnings, Wong has donated photos and other items to the silent auctions conducted at MSGAO’s annual Fall Reunion, the major fund-raising effort for the track-sponsored adoption program. He also lends a helping hand at a multitude of MSGAO events.
Cal started his racing career at the Birmingham Race Course, where Wong first saw him run. “He was a blue dog who just blew by the other dogs, winning race after race,” says Wong. Wong purchased Cal in July 2011 and moved him to Southland Park Gaming and Racing. “[Southland is] more challenging for him and the payout is better. It seems Cal’s more than up to the challenge — being in the money 60% of the time.”
Wong, a retired Middle Tennessee State University professor and former newspaper editor/photographer, came to racing through adoption. He and his wife, Mardy Fones, adopted their first hound, Bart’s Viper (Mel), a Southland alumnus, in 2002. They became very active volunteers with GPA/Nashville, an all-volunteer organization that finds homes in Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky for retired racing Greyhounds. They also provide support at events as well as being active in communications for the program. “Along the way, I met a lot of dog people and got interested in the unique culture of the racing greyhound and the people who care for these dogs,” says Wong.
Since 2007, Wong has kept busy shooting photos at tracks, farms and greyhound events to document the lives of dogs from birth to retirement, as well as profiling breeders, kennel staff and other industry professionals who care for the dogs. He hopes to use his photos in a book documenting a culture that’s disappearing as U.S. tracks close. (His work also is showcased on his website, RayHoundTales.com.)
Wong’s ownership of racing greyhounds (rather than adopting retired racers) has gained him entrance into the world of greyhound racing, helping him with the development of his book project. “Gaining the trust of racing people is crucial to the success of this project. I found owning dogs gives industry people a level of comfort,” says Wong. “They accept me as someone who understands their work, their issues and their love of these dogs.”
Wong currently owns 11 racers. At home, he and Mardy have four retired hounds, Okie Darkness (Shadow), another Southland alumnus, as well as Reta Raccoon, Deforest Kelley and senior hound, Athena.
“It’s a privilege to be allowed to photograph these dogs at all phases of their lives and to get to know the people behind the scenes in dog racing,” says Wong. “By donating a portion of Cal’s winnings, I hope I’m promoting in some small way the cause of retired racers everywhere.”