Skip To The Main Content
Menu
Search

In This Section

Christine Dorchak earned her degree in 2005 and is a proud alumna of New England Law. She is also a longtime animal advocate and the co-founder of GREY2K USA Worldwide, a non-profit organization focused on ending dog racing and promoting the adoption of greyhounds. She has dedicated her professional career to campaigning against the greyhound industry, advocating for the humane treatment of racing dogs, and working to phase out the practice altogether.

She’s recently co-written a memoir entitled, "Brooklyn Goes Home: The Rise and Fall of American Greyhound Racing, and the Dog that Inspired a Movement". We interviewed her about her new book, her experience as a self-described “greyhound lawyer,” and her personal story of survival.

Q: What inspired you to write this book now?

A: Our book tells the story of how a small Massachusetts group emerged to make an impact and empower a growing humane trend in society. It is also a remembrance of three glorious years spent with the magical dog who inspired a movement to end dog racing across the globe. We had no money, no clout, and no political expertise, and yet we succeeded because we were willing to suffer losses and then begin again. We also wrote our memoir because we believed that our story of challenging greyhound cruelty could serve to inspire others to reach for change in their own lives. Like Brooklyn, who was left to die at a Chinese dog track, we faced devastating odds and were knocked down many times.

Brooklyn Goes Home is written for anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog, but our book isn’t just for dog advocates. The strategies we used of seeking incremental change while staying grounded in our mission, can be applied to any fight for social justice. We learned to stay true to our goals and to learn from our mistakes. We came to understand and accept that sometimes we had to lose to win. In fact, on more than one occasion, horrible defeat opened up a gleaming path to victory. One of our board members is a Vietnam veteran, and he advised us early on that our first job was to “stay on the field” and keep focused, whether this be in terms of sustaining our political campaigns, educating the public about dog racing, or helping rescue greyhounds from closing dog tracks. That simple advice has anchored everything we have tried to accomplish over the last quarter of a century.

Q: If the reader can take anything specific away from Brooklyn's story, what would you like that to be? 

     A: People can read our book as a political how-to, which it is! We describe our state-by-state push to outlaw dog racing across the United States, and we introduce readers to the diverse group of people who came together to help greyhounds along the way. These folks, Democrat and Republican, old and young, came from multiple walks of life but were united in the singular belief that dogs are family friends, not racing machines. They joined us year after year, often from clashing sides, to become like-minded champions for the greys. Our own dog Brooklyn came to be the living symbol of this shared compassion and love. Through his story, we hope to show that even in these fractured times, change is possible. In fact, it is inevitable.

Brooklyn and I had a lot in common. We're both survivors. I was run down by a speeding MBTA trolley when I was in my 20s just after graduating college.  Despite my serious injuries, I was determined to walk again, recover my memory, and become independent again.  Four years after my accident, I was back at work and running marathons again! I went on to enter law school, promising to do something good with my second chance at life.

Brooklyn also survived his own death sentence when he was shipped to race and die at the only legal dog track in China. Bred in Australia, he found himself in a tiny concrete cell in Macau at the worst racetrack in the world, the Yat Yuen Canidrome. No dog ever got out alive. But he had within him a kind of joy and resilience that allowed him to endure nearly ten years of terrible neglect. In the end, we were able to close the Canidrome and airlift over 500 surviving dogs to safety. Sweet Brooklyn came home to us. He was happy every day, enjoying each moment, even after being diagnosed with cancer and losing a leg. Just as I do, he treasured every day as “extra.”

Q: Did you face any challenges when writing this book?

A: The hardest part about preparing our memoir was knowing that Brooklyn wouldn't live long enough to see it in print. We lost him weeks before finishing the first draft, so the last chapter is stained with tears. But in telling his story, we hoped to demonstrate that no matter what the problem, there is a path to solution. Change starts with the courage to take the first step and then keep going until the end.

Q: What do you believe makes greyhounds unique from other dog breeds?

A: Greyhounds are among the fastest animals on earth, and they love to run. They just don't need to race for the gambling industry. Commercial greyhound racing is an American invention which is based on exploiting dogs for profit, turning gentle family friends into racing machines. Looking back historically, racetracks didn't even think of releasing greyhounds for adoption. In fact, the industry put out the idea that these were vicious dogs, and couldn't live safely in homes. As a result, tens of thousands of greyhounds were killed every year at more than fifty dog tracks nationwide. But then following breakthrough stories on 20/20 and a 1991 National Geographic Explorer exposé, tracks were forced to do better. Racing kennels started to partner with adoption groups, and greyhound rescue blossomed. There are still two dog tracks in the US, with a churn of 2,000 dogs a year. So rescue and adoption remain very important until we can finally outlaw racing nationwide through our federal bill, H.R 3894, the Greyhound Protection Act.

Q: What advice would you give to students who love animals and are interested in protecting animals with the law?

A: It's so important for students to understand that the rigors of law school provide the precise training needed to meet many of life’s challenges. I went to school for four years at night, working by day, and it was very hard. But it was worth it!

I was very fortunate for two reasons. I could not afford a higher education, and received a full scholarship to attend New England Law. Secondly, even though the school does not have an animal law program per se, I was able to tailor a curriculum that prepared me for working in the political and judicial process.

New England Law allowed me to improve myself, learn more, and have the tools to take action. Ever since I survived my early accident, I knew I had a debt to pay. I believed my dog had saved my life by pulling us from the direct path of the train. So when I came out of my coma, I promised to return the favor. I had to do something to help dogs. But what? It was not until several years later that I learned about the cruelty of dog racing. GREY2K was formed in a one-room basement office in 2000, and, since that time, we have closed down nearly 50 tracks in the US and one abroad.

But none of this would ever have happened without the skills and experience I gained in law school. It's really that simple. I cannot stress enough how important is to have the expert skills of analysis that are gained through the study of law. What I especially appreciated about New England Law’s program was the real life legal experience it provided. My internship at the Office of the Attorney General allowed me to observe firsthand how the government and the law interact. I was immediately thrust into helping with cases and had to think on my feet, just as I do every day today. Most of all, my degree provided the roadmap for my legal career and allowed me to keep my promise to dogs.