By BILL DURYEA
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- When greyhound racing begins today at the Tampa Greyhound Track, the fastest dog in track history will not be there.
Dominator, a rare blue brindle, appeared in 155 races during his career and won a formidable 43 percent of them. He finished in the money 120 times. Dominator is now in the Greyhound Hall of Fame as the first dog ever to win the Rural Rube and Flashy Sir awards (given to the best sprinter and distance racers in the nation) and to captain the All-America team.
Some 20,000 greyhounds are euthanized each year, according to some estimates. But Dominator's owner, Don Ryan, says his prize dog has gone on "to his next reward." We chatted with Ryan recently about Dominator's sweet hereafter.
Question: What's Dominator doing right now?
Answer: He's at our farm here in Abilene, Kansas. He's a real capable stud dog. We take him to the veterinarian and have him drawn for frozen semen. We have the capability of shipping all over the country. We also do other natural matings with females. Basically all he's really doing, he's got a nice big shady pen and he's waiting for the girls to come see him.
Question: How did he get the name Dominator?
Answer: We get asked that question a lot. He was from the very beginning the dominant one out of the litter. We knew from the time we started training him that he was a real special dog.
Question: What did you first see in him?
Answer: He's got tremendous determination. You really see it in his demeanor. And he's doing that in breeding, too. He's an aggressive breeder. Like with great football players, they have that extra level of intensity.
Question: You say he's an aggressive breeder; I can't pass that up. How is he different from your average dog?
Answer: Greyhounds are different from other man-kept species, say, for example, cattle or hogs, which are bred for reproducing. Greyhounds aren't bred that way. They're bred for ability. Consequently, because they were always kept for racing, they don't pass on traits of reproductivity. Molotov, for example, he's a very good stud dog, capable of doing multiple breedings, but not as much as Dominator is. This guy here has the total package.
Question: Does Dominator do greater numbers of breeding sessions? Does he have greater reservoirs?
Answer: That's a good way to put it. His semen productivity is high. In each one of the counts we'll do on him, he may have 1.7- to 1.8-billion sperm for every draw. It's really quite high and very strong.
Question: What does he earn for a draw or for a mating session?
Answer: At this point, to mate as many females as we can, to get as many pups out there as we can, we've kept the fee quite low. It's only $500 for every breeding.
Question: How would that rank? How high could it go?
Answer: Once he becomes a proven sire, it can go almost triple that. But it will take some time. He's still pretty young. He's only 4 years old. He'll have a breeding capability of up to nine years or so. But with the frozen semen, for every single draw we get, we can multiply it by 10. That's 10 females.
Question: Talk to me a little bit about his racing style. What made Dominator as fast as he was?
Answer: He had versatility. He was capable of doing something at that level that few had done. He was able to run both the sprints and the three-eighths (of a mile) races. To break a track record in the sprint and still be able to win a big stakes three-eighths race is an unusual thing.
Question: Was he a closer or was he more box-to-wire?
Answer: He was more box-to-wire. In the sprints he could close, but in the three-eighths he was strictly box-to-wire. All the way through his career he was very good about picking a lane. He could pick and choose his way through the pack. In a two-dog race there may have been others that were faster, but they didn't have the intelligence to go along with it.
Question: Is he as speedy a breeder as he was on the track?
Answer: I'll put it to you this way, he's kind of like a young boy. He's just now learning. He wasn't too good to start with. But as time moves on, the more he does it, the better off he gets. He just needs to feel it through.
Question: Is he breeding a lot more than the other dogs in your kennel?
Answer: No, Molotov has a lot more breedings because he's the No. 1 sire. But Dominator's sire, P's Raising Cain, was the No. 1 sire before Molotov. Since P's Raising Cain has passed away, what you hope is there's a son to take over the father's place. That's what our goal is at this point.
Question: What's Dominator's typical day?
Answer: Right now it's pretty hot in the summertime, so he has this big kennel area where he stays by himself outside. He's laying under the air conditioning and kind of relaxing during the day. Like any other dog. Right at the end of his pen there's a 6-acre grass field, and we put him out there three or four times every week in between breedings. We do that to keep him fit. He is also a super-good eater, and we like that a lot, too. He'd take your fingers off to eat.
Question: Has he put on some pounds in retirement?
Answer: I think he raced right at 74. He's probably 76, 77 right now. They're like all of us. They get age on them and they put on weight. A stud dog is no different than a racing dog. A stud dog has to be fit in order to produce properly. If you get him too fat, he becomes lethargic, and he's not able to reproduce his semen.
Question: How many draws or inseminations is he likely to go through in a week?
Answer: We have to rest them, too, just like we do with the racing dogs. Breeding is stressful and takes work, so we generally won't breed them but once every three days. He'll have at least three days' rest in between every time we breed.
Question: These visits to the veterinarian, does he enjoy these?
Answer: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Once they get in that mode . . . We were considering bringing him back to Tampa to race, but he's only got one thing on his mind now. And we're not surprised. The intense kind of dog he is, he's going to focus on that one thing. He loves to go.
Question: How long before racing fans in Tampa and St. Petersburg get a look at his progeny?
Answer: I'm sure it's going to be beginning of 2002 in St. Pete, maybe not right at the beginning of the meet, but sometime in February or March.
Question: And what's Dominator doing right now? Still sleeping?
Answer: He's just getting ready for his noon meal.
Question: And this afternoon?
Answer: He'll be lying under that air conditioning and sawing logs.
Question: Has he had a breeding session today?
Answer: He just got done doing it yesterday. He won't go back until Friday. On Friday he gets to do his job again. He loves it.