By Peter Fenemor
The deep-seated affection for animals held by Leaha Washington is very evident when speaking to the 17-year-old.
That affection has flowed through to greyhounds to such an extent that it has resulted in Washington being projected into a new positive life direction. That direction contributed to her being deservedly announced as the February GRNZ Board Award winner, a monthly award which celebrates young achievers in the industry.
After an unfortunate setback, she informs us on how she is now thriving and living her dream, while working and handling greyhounds for her mother Angela and her mother’s partner, trainer Craig Roberts.
“I have always been an animal person. I loved them when I was growing up, thinking they are very special.”
Washington is now a very contented young lady after enduring a degree of terrible bullying when at high school. That led to health issues, which prompted her to move onto her current environment.
“I left school a year ago to work with greyhounds and I consider that a privilege. It isn’t really working when you are working in something that you love doing. The dogs put a smile back on my face.
“Just being with greyhounds is mentally and physically rewarding. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that they trust you with what you are doing,” she enthuses.
Washington enjoys racedays, saying, “It’s amazing watching the greyhounds race. They are so intelligent and graceful.”
Washington has undertaken a number of southern road trips to race at Invercargill.
“They are tough, but very enjoyable days. I appreciate the opportunity that Mum and Craig have given me to work with greyhounds.”
Asked if she has a special greyhound, she responded with, “They are all special, although I have a soft spot for Texas Jewel. I picked him out as a puppy and watched him grow up into being a race dog.”
Craig Roberts, who along with Angela also prepares harness horses, is impressed with Washington’s work ethics, saying, “She’s a natural animal person, who is a big asset for us.
“Leaha can cope doing the greyhounds by herself. She is very much hands-on and has her fingers on the pulse.
“She is also very proficient working with our horses. She can gear them up for us, which is a huge help.”
Washington is determined to stay working with greyhounds.
“I would like to stay working in dogs for as long as I can. I would also like to be involved and work in the rehoming side of the industry.
“There is a lot of misconceptions out there (general public) about greyhounds – they don’t see how much work, care and attention we give our greyhounds from pups through to the race dogs and then into their retirement.
“I have raised orphaned pups – just working with them, providing them with their needs every two hours is very special.
“One day in the future, I would love to have and run my own kennels. That would be the ultimate for me to train a couple by myself.”
And Washington’s reaction to her winning the monthly GRNZ Board Award? “Winning this award was very unexpected and to be recognised like this is truly amazing.”