Just One Lick
Note to all people with ADHD: When you give to others, you will receive more than you ever imagined.
I heard about greyhounds from my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Bengston, in Connecticut, who talked lovingly about the three greyhounds she had rescued. Sitting in front of her desk, I would glance over at the dogs’ photograph and daydream about playing ball with them in the park instead of memorizing multiplication tables.
After moving to California, my family and I decided to adopt a greyhound. Not long after we settled in our new home, my mom contacted a local greyhound rescue group. Days later we visited the greyhound farm, ready to bring home one of the females.
The Friend I Needed
Leda, the adoption coordinator, led us into a warm room lined with kennels housing greyhounds that had just come in from a Colorado racetrack. When young greyhounds no longer win or place in races, they are killed or sold to medical research labs — unless they’re adopted. Animal Planet was playing on the TV, presumably to entertain the dogs.
“Who is in that last kennel?” I asked.
“A white female with brindle markings, but she doesn’t come out,” Leda answered.
I was intrigued. I opened the kennel door, and the dog retreated to the back of the cage, huddling in the shadowed corner. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“Hello there,” I said softly, slowly extending my hand to show her that I was friendly. Hesitant, she moved toward me, her brown eyes watchful. Then she licked my hand, and our bond was sealed. I knew she was mine.
I coaxed her out of the cage, and we sat together on the floor. Leda was surprised and said, “We have been trying to get her out of her crate for days. There is something special about you, Madison.” The dog shivered slightly as I stroked her back. She had a scar on her thigh from racing, and her fur smelled of urine, from her long journey to the farm. I named her Athena.
The Bond We Share
Now I know why experts say that young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often make the best pet owners. Athena and I were both vulnerable, afraid of what life might bring. Athena had been forced to race, and now she found herself in a strange place. I had just been transplanted to the West Coast — a new place, new people. What’s more, I had just been diagnosed with ADHD. Athena and I were soulmates. We needed each other.
My love for Athena grew to include other dogs. I got involved with the Greyhound Protection League in my town and volunteered with our local greyhound rescue group. We spoke at county fairs around the state, telling interested people how to adopt dogs. As I grew serious about saving greyhounds, about helping these beautiful animals, a funny thing happened: I was better able to cope with my ADHD.
What I Discovered About Me
I like doing something for other people, the environment, and animals. It makes me feel great, and my ADHD symptoms seem to take a back seat to my passion. Note to all without ADHD: When you give to others, you will receive more than you ever imagined.
What’s more, I have developed confidence in my abilities. When I try to persuade someone to adopt a dog and they finally call, six months or even a year later, to say that they’re ready, I am thrilled. I know that all of my efforts led to the adoption, and that I have been part of something wonderful.
Last summer I volunteered at an animal hospital. I wasn’t bored or distracted. I stood still for hours watching the veterinarian realign a dog’s fractured leg or remove a disk from a dog’s spine. I was keenly interested and emotionally connected. Now I know what I want to do with my life — be a vet — and it’s all because of Athena.