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    Posted byAdmin on Friday, June 09 @ 16:12:14 EDT
    Contributed by Admin




    RADCLIFFE, Iowa -- Alan Hill insists he lives the good life. He sits on a porch that he shares with a robin's nest and a rooster on a warm spring day. He sips on a glass of ice-cold lemonade and nibbles on homemade oatmeal cookies while overlooking 40 acres of lush farmland.

    This is another day at the office for Hill. It is the perfect spot to watch over his investments - raising greyhounds.

    Many of them are worth thousands of dollars. A few lay in grass soaking in the sun while others wrestle playfully or poke their faces through fences hoping for a scratch on the nose.

    They are big and small, brown and streaked, fast and faster. They tear down mini-tracks at speeds up to 40 mph, tongues flailing and tails wagging.

    Iowa greyhounds are in demand these days.

    In 1996, 576 Iowa-bred greyhounds were registered with the National Greyhound Registration. That number has jumped to 2,556 in 2005. Today, 10 percent of all racing greyhounds in the nation are bred in Iowa.

    "I had one guy tell me it's the minerals in our soils. I'm not sure how true that is, but there's something there," Hill said. "The main reason we have the good dogs is because of our bloodlines."

    Hill is among the most successful of the 60 or so greyhound breeders in Iowa. Spurred by the growth of casinos built around dog tracks and purse incentives that nearly double the winnings for greyhounds raised in-state, breeding greyhounds in Iowa h as become lucrative the past decade.

    "You used to see three or four Iowa-bred dogs in a race. Now you see six or seven," said Bryan Carpenter, the director of racing at Dubuque. "That creates an economic stimulus for breeders because they can make more money with an Iowa-bred dog."

    Hill pairs top females with the world's top sires. He will pay between $1,000 and $1,250 to have his females sired by world-class males. A typical litter produces about seven puppies, which are shipped to Iowa to be raised.

    The aspiring track stars spend their first year on Hill's farm, where his job is to make sure they get proper diet and exercise. Hill builds their muscles by feeding the dogs 75 percent protein, mostly meat from a processing facility down the road, and 25 percent standard dog food.

    Twice a week, Hill runs the dogs around the farm. The rest of the time he keeps them 10 to a group, separated by age, in fenced-in areas that feature a miniaturized barn for rest and grassy running lanes as long as a football field.

    "You have to feed them well, keep them warmed up and give them room to run," Hill said. "They love to chase things.

    It doesn't matter what it is. ... They just love to run."

    After a year with Hill, the dogs are sent to training centers, where they learn the finer points of racing. But the dogs come back in numbers that have soared the past few years. Greyhound officials credit much of that growth to out-ofstate breeders who are moving to Iowa in search of profit.

    Iowa Greyhound Association president Bob Hardison, a breeder himself, says that's one of the main reasons greyhound breeding has become a $41 million annual industry for the state.

    "We've had a pretty big economic impact by employees involved and the dollar turnover," Hardison said. "We reinvest a lot of that in the state of Iowa."

    Hill says a breeder can make $100,000 off a $5,000 investment. But after more than 20 years raising greyhounds, Hill says he's not in it just to make a buck. Surrounded by dogs he describes as soft-spirited and gentle, Hill has fallen for the life.
    "You have to work at it to make a nice living," Hill said. "You're probably not going to get filthy rich doing it. But it's a fun living."

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