By Liz Whelan
Katie Wyllie is one of those people who are universally liked in greyhound racing.
The 26-year-old received numerous nominations for the GRNZ Board Award, and she was ecstatic to learn she had won the August edition of the Award.
"I was definitely surprised!" says Wyllie. "I've had a think about what I'm going to do with the $500 prize and I've decided I'm going to put it towards doing a governance essentials course through the Institute of Directors in March next year."
Wyllie was exposed to greyhound racing at an early age through her mother, who had a
share in a dog called Paddy's Answer, which was bred and trained by family friends Jean and Dave Fahey.
However, it was many years later that Wyllie herself became involved in the sport. First, she decided to become a teacher and attended the University of Canterbury.
"I was in my last year at university and I went to Sean Fahey's (son of Jean and Dave) 21st birthday," she remembers.
"Dave told me that he had a part-time job going at the kennels. I was looking for a change, and instantly fell in love with the dogs."
She worked most mornings for the Faheys while she finished off her teaching degree. After graduating, she began working as a teacher. But it didn't take long for her to switch vocations to working for fulltime for the Faheys.
"The dogs are so much better than kids!" she laughs. "They listen, they don't argue back, the parents aren't problems!"
A typical day for Wyllie starts at around 6:30am, and throughout the day, she's involved in a variety of tasks, including feeding, toileting, exercising and treating the dogs. Her favourite activity is bathing the dogs.
"I got to bath 11 of them last Sunday, I was so happy!" she enthuses. "And they must just feel so good afterwards as well."
She lives on the property of Robin Wales (Opawa Racing Limited), where she also helps Wales with rehoming greyhounds.
"Finding the perfect fit for the greyhounds is really important to me. I had one of Robin's best broodbitches in the house for a year while I worked alongside Nightrave, as she was very timid. We found the perfect fit for her, and now, whenever her parents go away, I look after her – and that's the case with a number of our retired greyhounds.
"I love the racedogs, but once they're retired, seeing them in their new homes is just something else. It makes it all worth it."
Wyllie also stands former New Zealand Greyhound of the Year, American Warrior, at stud, and he has already got a number of promising progeny on the ground.
While life can be hectic, she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Jean and Dave are amazing to work for. It doesn't feel like work to me. I would eventually like to breed a litter and train at some stage, but for now, I just love what I do."