What’s that in her ear?

Bella loves to walk with me to pick up our kids from school. On the rare days we’re running ahead of schedule, we sometimes walk to school as well. She is just over 60 lbs and is the same height as some of the smaller children in our neighborhood. Thankfully, Bella is gentle, softly touching her nose to cheeks and giving tiny affectionate licks to those brave souls willing to pet her. I’ve learned to be ready for the inevitable question asked whenever someone rubs her ears. In some form or another, there are queries about her ear tattoos. Understandably, it can be jarring. There is never a day that I’m not reminded of Bella’s life before we brought her home. Even a simple snooze on the couch, like above, is tinged with the physical evidence of her previous career as a canine track star. Like fingerprints are to humans, tattoos are unique to each racing greyhound, providing their National Greyhound Association identification numbers at a glance. In Bella’s left ear, you’ll find her litter’s registration number. Her birthday and her birth order within her litter are in her right ear. Fingerprints occur naturally, but these distinctive markings do not. They embody something I can’t quite articulate. Bella loves to run. I’ve even seen recordings of her on the track, and she is ecstatic. It isn’t automatically correct to assume that she and her siblings were unhappy or mistreated. On the other hand, it would be false to suggest that no harm was done. Any person who has gotten a tattoo knows it’s not like eating cotton candy at the fair. There are countless stories of animals being injured in sport. We destroy humans for sport as well. Some animals are content and satisfied, nourished and loved. Others are used, neglected, and abused. The same can be said for human athletes. Bella’s tattoos represent a truth about the world, for me at least. When money may be gained or lost, the lines separating right and wrong are blurred. If greyhound racing didn’t exist, I might not be currently hearing snoring from an oddly elegant dog taking up my couch, so I’m grateful it does exist. If greyhound racing didn’t exist, that same leggy paladin might have ears with no scars and a family since she was a puppy, and I wish it was gone. Sometimes, I carefully cover her ears with a blanket because the dissonance is too much.

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