WonderLab celebrates National Dog Day



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Vamsi Vallurupalli learns about the dogs of the Monroe County Human Society from Lori Shields at the WonderLab on Sunday. Bari Goldman and Bari Goldman

These days, Chase  doesn’t move quite like he used to.

His old racing nickname doesn’t apply anymore. He’s no longer “Fast-Paced Chase,” as the locals once called him. Age has slowed him — he’s just Chase now.

He and three other former racers have joined Steve Vaughn on the second floor of the WonderLab Museum to celebrate Tuesday’s National Dog Day with the city’s families.

Kids love him, lining up three-deep for a chance to meet him. A young girl bounces up to him, a mess of pigtails and pink dress dragging behind her, to rub his head.

Chase wakes up, cracks open an eye and climbs to his feet.

He looks her over as she leans in. He opens his mouth, appearing to smile, and steps forward to lick her face.

Chase is a retired racing greyhound, a 61-pound bundle of bone and muscle.

Despite the dog’s racing past, Steve Vaughn , a Bloomington resident and member of Greyhound Pets of America , refers to Chase and his friends as “40-mile-an-hour couch potatoes.”

“To qualify to race, a greyhound has to be able to do 43 miles an hour around the track,” he said. “That won’t win anything, but it’ll get him on the track. To win, he’s going to have to do 48, maybe 50 miles an hour. But then they’re done.”

For Chase, those days are in the past. Now, four and a half years removed from the track, his role requires a little less speed than before.

“It’s just to honor the relationship between humans and dogs in general,” Vaughn said of the celebration. “We do what we call a meet-and-greet here. We do a couple of them a month in the city, but we always come here every year to honor the relationship.”

Now in its 10th year, National Dog Day is intended to give the country’s dogs a day in the spotlight.

As part of the event, Vaughn’s greyhound group and the Monroe County Humane Association spent Sunday afternoon in WonderLab, raising awareness for the protection and adoption of dogs.

Kathy Morrision , a dog therapy advocate for the Humane Association,  said Sunday’s celebration presents an opportunity to reach the community through face-to-face interaction with dogs.

“A lot of what we do is outreach to children, and we have many children who come up to us and are afraid of dogs,” she said. “But with just a few minutes of being around these calm dogs and with our encouragement, we actually see them pet a dog. It’s really quite amazing.”

While the Humane Association doesn’t handle the pickup or adoption of stray dogs — those duties fall to the city’s animal shelter  — Morrison said she has seen a rise in awareness of dogs that could trigger an increase in adoptions.

“I would think so, because there’s extra awareness,” she said. “I do think there’s probably a trickle effect.”

With Morrison on the museum’s ground floor and Vaughn on its second, dogs surrounded Sunday’s WonderLab visitors.

While no adoptions were available on-site, both advocates remarked about the constant attention their dogs received.

“It’s outreach and education,” Morrison said. “It’s part of our mission to get out in the community with these dogs.”

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