Leland's Quantum Leap

by Ron Evans

The decision Linda and I have made to share our lives with Greyhounds was no leap at all for Kings, Queens, and families of privilege during the period in human history marked by the writings of the bible verses, the Roman and Egyptian empires and the construction of the world's Seven Wonders. The Greyhound was at the pinnacle of civilization's most honored inhabitants, second only to the male lion. These elegant, loyal and highly evolved quadrupeds earned a place in the scriptures of the day, guarded the valuable treasures on earth, and transcended human frailty to glimpse beyond.

So when, on that sunny and welcoming day back in 1994, we decided extemporaneously to wander up the road to enjoy and idyllic Vermont summer along the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, we had no clue this would be a life-altering experience.

We arrived early to Church Street, Burlington's outdoor walking mall and social epicenter. Though few locals had ventured out yet, we were about to meet our first Greyhound up close… then another, and another. Our chance encounter found us front and center at a Greyhound consciousness-raising parade that was to begin within the hour.

We asked the same naive questions of all the adoptive families. Why are they so quiet? Are they good pets? Do they need a lot of running? How come they are just standing around so patiently? We were enamored, then amused by the repeated response: "The best pet I've ever had!"

Although Lin and I both grew up with dogs, for our then 21 years together we had only cats. As schoolteachers in Connecticut it was just easier to leave cats alone all day. But living in the Vermont of Norman Rockwell and Warren Kimble meant embracing the essence of American country life. Nubi (Cowboy), Heavy Fuel, and Nyla (Oriental Uno) were our first.

The slate markers celebrating their special place in our lives can be seen when visiting the Kingsley Grist Mill in East Clarendon, one of Vermont's newest national historic sites. The sun-drenched riverbank alongside the covered bridge was a well-earned retirement and final resting place. We lost Nubi in 2003. And when Nyla passed away a few years ago at age 14, Linda was a wreck.

She resorted to walking our friend's Greyhound Noni Marie twice, often three times a week. This "fix" therapy lasted about two months. When the pain didn't go away we decided it was time to visit the website of our original adoption agency, Fast Friends of Keene, New Hampshire.

Up popped Leland (I Can Feal It). It was love at first cyber-sight.

Tall and stately, handsome as hell and a five-year veteran of the now-closed Hinsdale track… we called then and there.

"Leland is still available but he won't be for long." Sharon Thomas told us. "He needs to go to a good home now."

"How would you describe his personality!" we asked.

"Well'" said Sharon, "he's a real cowboy."

The tears ran down Linda's cheek. I knew where we were going tomorrow.

Something very special happens when you follow your heart. We arrived in Keene in the late morning.

Pulling up to a parking spot next door, Linda noticed the proprietor's name in bold letters: EML. Linda's grandfather, Emil Bagre, had been the stationmaster for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Back in the days of lifetime employment, Emil's 60 years of service afforded him personal meetings with many celebrities of the day including Babe Ruth, plus the rarer notoriety of having met five Untied States presidents during their terms.

"I've never encountered anyone else with that name," Linda said.

I agreed and we proceeded next door, acknowledging the coincidence.

Our senses were acute, the anxiety high as we walked in. The facility, located in a small industrial park in a cul-de-sac, shared space with the owner's transportation business. We were greeted by one of the adoption volunteers.

"You're here to see Leland, right?"

Our pulses quickened.

"He's a Nubi."

"What did you say?"

"You know, he's new here's just off the track. He's a Newbie."

As Linda and I tried at that moment to read each other's thoughts, a series of events were about to unfold that would challenge the rules of animal sensory perception and deductive reasoning.

I'll never forget meeting Leland for the first time and hope that, in writing this account, perhaps you won't either. A majestic fawn, even taller than Nubi, he held a bright blue, circus-style rubber ball in his mouth. He was already out of this cage and playing fetch with several of the volunteers when we arrived on the scene. We observed for a while, exercising restraint; Leland did the same. By the time we returned from our walk/run/bonding session outdoors, he had already made up his mind. We were meant for each other.

As we stood in the middle of the kennel discussing the detail of Leland's adoption Linda's eyes were drawn to a second-level crate with two very frightened, chestnut-colored eyes peering from behind a large, white, plush polar bear.

"Is there a dog in there?"

Sharon opened the cage door slowly. Emil is one of our most difficult cases, she explained. She had been malnourished and abused, living with the pain for so long that she was afraid of her own shadow. Having been adopted out twice that year and returned within weeks, her only comfort in this world was - you guessed it - Big Bear. I've never seen a domestic animal so distraught and withdrawn. Her crate rattled in response to her nerves. Her tail never fell from under her torso. She displayed scars from head to tail.

We all sympathized with Emily, but only one in the room that day knew what needed to be done. A bold and dramatic move was required here and it stunned everyone. Leland took on look at Emily's open crate door, glanced back at us, made the 4ft jump without effort, sat down, braced himself against the crate's metal frame and looked at us defiantly. The message was clear.

If I go… she goes!

So it was. I'll never forget that moment.

We all looked at each other in disbelief; racing dogs never invade each other's space.

Leland was right. Emily (Elmtree Emily), now Emilee, needed him to help escape her prison. Two weeks later we found out they were brother and sister; perhaps he knew all along.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

A former teacher with the Stamford, Connecticut public schools, a board-certified exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and co-creator of the Arthritis Aquatics Advances exercise protocol for the Arthritis Foundation of America, Ron Evans and his wife Linda, a design artist with the Brandon, Vermont Artists guild have spent the past 30 years restoring and living at the Kingsley Grist Mill National Historic Site in East Clarendon, Vermont.

About the Artist

Linda Kiracofe Evans is a design artist, making her home and studio in the Historic Kingsley Grist Mill of East Clarendon, Vermont. With undergraduate concentration in both art education and printmaking, and graduate studies in studio art and design, Linda has had the opportunity to work with such notables as artists Clas Oldenberg, David Flaharty,and Anna Held Audette.

Linda is the creator of the cloisonne colored pencil technique. By layering colors and trapping them in fine outline, she weaves them among the wonders of both architecture and nature, forming designs rich with color and iconic beauty.

A deep love of the Greyhound dog is a recent focus in her work, bringing Linda recognition as the nation's foremost Greyhound Design Artist.

By integrating her appreciation of architectural & natural forms, Linda’s creativity guides her to produce the artwork she has always envisioned, at her beautiful “Art on the River Studio”, located in the Historic Kingsley Grist Mill in Central Vermont. Through 30 years of preservation with husband Ron, this National Historic Site has been showcased in numerous publications and media including; The Boston Globe, Vermont Magazine, F.H.B. Deck and Patio Idea Book, and The Today Show.

Linda K. Evans
Historic Kingsley Grist Mill
Linda Kiracofe Evans
2964 East Street
North Clarendon VT 05759