D. E. Larsen, DVM
We welcomed our first spring in Colorado. The Rocky Mountain winter had been hard for us Oregonians. Spring term gave me a light schedule in school since I already had taken the microbiology course while at Oregon State. And we had a few extra dollars since I was working at the University dairy.
“How do you bet when you go to the dog track?” I asked the janitor, Bob, as I was helping him tidy up after anatomy lab.
“There are a few guys who have a system, and then there are those who pick the dog who takes a dump going to the gate,” Bob said. “Actually, the dogs are worse than the horses. I think you have a chance on the horses, but with the dogs, it is all the luck of the draw.”
“My wife and I haven’t been out since school started,” I said. “I have a few extra dollars, and the neighbor lady said she would watch the kids. I thought I would take Sandy to the dog track.”
“If you want an evening of fun, and you aren’t worried about making a thousand dollars, there are a couple of strategies to use,” Bob said. “The one that I think works the best is to pick the top three dogs according to the sheet and bet two dollars to show on each of them. Doing that will give you the best chance of not running out of money. You won’t win a lot, but you should win a few dollars.”
The parking lot at the Loveland dog track was packed, and we had a long walk to the grandstands. A woman from Denver had won seventy thousand dollars last week, and everyone must think they can repeat the process.
Sandy and I were both a little excited. This was our first date night in some time. We worked our way through the crowd and found a relatively empty section of bleachers that was close to the starting boxes and close to the betting windows.
The first dogs for the first race were just starting their parade as I returned with a couple glasses of beer. Sandy had been scanning the cheat sheets and had the three dogs for us to bet on all picked out.
Our budget was limited. If we wanted to have anything left over for dinner, we needed to be careful with our betting. Otherwise, we were going to have a short night out.
I took the list and headed to the betting window. There was no line, but the lady in the booth seemed rushed, and I stammered and had trouble getting the information out. She was spitting tickets out faster than I was talking, or so it seemed.
“That will be eighteen dollars,” the lady said.
“Eighteen dollars?” I said. “I only wanted to spend six dollars on this race.”
“There are no refunds,” the lady said. “That will be eighteen dollars.” She pushed the pile of tickets out toward me.
I paid her eighteen dollars. That was just about our entire budget for the night. We had set the babysitting money aside but had hoped to have some cash for dinner.
I was quiet as I seated myself on the bench beside Sandy. I carefully looked through the tickets the lady sold me. I had nine tickets, and they were all the same. They were two-dollar tickets for the number one dog to win, and the number one dog was not even on the list that Sandy had given me.
“I’m excited,” Sandy said. “And you’re sitting there like all gloomy.”
“It looks like I sort of mess up at the ticket window,” I said.
“What happened?” Sandy asked.
“I’m not sure how I did it,” I said. “But I put all our money for the evening on the number one dog.”
“The number one dog was not even on my list,” Sandy said. “What do you mean by all our money?”
“We have eighteen dollars on the number one dog to win,” I said.
“Look at the odds,” Sandy said. “The number one dog is way down the list. I guess we had better drink up and get ready to go home.”
“We need to watch the race first,” I said. “You don’t know. They say that those odds don’t really mean a thing in the dog races.”
They brought the dogs back down the track to load them in the starting boxes. We stood up on the bench to get a better view. The number one dog looked like the biggest dog in the group.
“I don’t know, Sandy,” I said. “I like the looks of that number one dog.”
“Sure you do,” Sandy said. “You put all our money on him. You are bound to say he is a good-looking dog.
Sandy grabbed my hand to quiet her excitement as they loaded the dogs into the boxes. The mechanical rabbit was on the inside rail of the track. The doors flew up, the rabbit took off, and the dogs bounded out of the boxes.
The number one dog came out of the box with half a link lead. By the time the pack hit the first corner, the number one dog was clear of the main group. He was almost leaving the other dogs in his dust. Sandy was starting to jump up and down on the bench.
When he entered the final turn, the number one dog was running entirely by himself. I had a flashback to that sixth horse race in Boston where my horse almost came to a standstill and lost just such a lead.
But the number one dog was running strong. Sandy was in danger of breaking the bench now. She was jumping up and down so hard it almost made me jump a bit without even trying.
The number one dog finished the race a full two seconds ahead of the second-place dog. I jumped off the bench and helped Sandy down to the solid ground. We rushed to the ticket window to collect our fortune.
The odds paid out at nine to one, so we collected $162.00. That was no minor figure in the spring of 1972 for a struggling college student who got $212.00 a month from the GI Bill. We felt rich.
“I don’t think we are going to do anything but spend money if we stay here,” I said. “The chances of hitting another winner is slim to none. Let’s go find a good restaurant and then go to a movie.”
“That sounds great to me,” Sandy said as we started pushing through the crowd toward the exit.
We found a nice restaurant in downtown Loveland. We had a candlelight dinner with prime rib and all the trimmings. A treat we would not have dreamed of a few hours ago.
As we walked out of dinner, people lined up across the street to go to the movie. The marquee said Sometimes a Great Notion. I just glanced at Sandy.
“We have plenty of time,” Sandy said. “Judy said she was fine as long we got home before midnight.”
So we went to the movie. I would guess we were the only ones in the theater with any real connection to the logging industry in western Oregon or to the setting on the Siletz River.
What a great time we had, and entirely by accident. Or by design, as I liked to kid Sandy. After all, I worked with greyhounds in anatomy lab.
Photo by Jannik Selz on Unsplash