rise to the top
By TIM HORAN
The phrase “From the outhouse to the penthouse” usually refers to one’s rise to the top of a profession starting from the bottom.
In the case of Dave and Deb Strickland, their rise to the pinnacle of the greyhound business literally started with an outhouse.
The Stricklands from Abilene and their families were honorees at the National Greyhound Association Banquet at the Eisenhower Presidential Library Courtyard Wednesday night.
“Mom (Deb) was always in the business as a young girl,” said Mike Strickland. “My grandfather Don (Bartley) had pups and he had a litter of pups that became orphans at a very young age. He asked my mom if she wanted to raise them. We didn’t have any greyhound facilities at the time, so we converted this outhouse into a dog pen.”
“It was just the shed part,” Deb Strickland said.
“We were raising cattle and hogs on a farm in Nebraska,” Mike Strickland said. “Mom raised that litter of pups and it turned out to be a good litter. With that success we turned a wooden grain bin into a kennel and with a little more success we moved to Abilene in 1988.”
One of the pups that ran at Tri-State was Outhouse Speed.
“We called it the ‘Outhouse’ litter and that was the first litter that we raised,” Mike said. “It’s been a long line of family ties with the Bartleys; Grandpa Bartley, mainly.”
Don and Esther Bartley raced a kennel in Arizona and later came to Abilene to become success greyhound breeders. Deb’s brother is Rick Bartley who along with his wife, sons and daughter, are also greyhound breeders and kennel owners.
That Outhouse litter propelled the Stricklands to become full-time greyhound breeders, although Dave still continued to raise some livestock.
“Dad was always involved in livestock and he worked hard at it,” Mike Strickland said. “He has always enjoyed animals in general: horses, cattle. He’s got goats out there.”
Dave Strickland has also been very successful in the cutting horse business.
“He doesn’t have a lot of horses but he has one horse (Smart Cadillac) that was ranked ninth in the world two years ago. That’s a pretty big deal,” Mike said.
The Stricklands once housed some of the top sires in greyhound racing in the late 1990s. At one time in the sire standings Fortress* was ranked second; EJ’s Douglas ranked third; Grey’s Statesman was ranked eighth; LPD Makers Mark ranked ninth; Evening Memory ranked 18th. They also raised Minaki Zeke.
“That was unique. Dad was pretty proud of that,” Mike Strickland said.
“Dad was pretty much one of the first ones to go into frozen insemination,” Strickland said, adding that Abilene’s Wayne Strong was a early pioneer of the FI program. It was the Stricklands perfecting an insemination method, which improved conception rate that propelled the frozen insemination program to new heights.
“One of the benchmarks at that time, Fortress* got 49 breedings in one month,” Strickland said, referring to the sire which was in import to the United States, thus the * after the name. “That was unheard of.”
Before frozen insemination was perfected, a top sire might get 60 breedings one year.
Today the frozen insemination program is the mainstay of the greyhound breeding business.
“The result of those sires and other sires have been pioneers revolutionary in the development of frozen semen and surgically insemination programs,” said NGA Executive Director Gary Guccione. “It wouldn’t be where it is today without David.”
Guccione gave three traits of the Stricklands.
“They are hard working, responsible and honest,” he said. “How could that triple combination not have a positive influence on our game?”
Dave and Deb’s daughter Julie Doane was the master of ceremonies.
“We recognize that everyone in this room has a story and we’ve all made a contribution to the industry,” she said. ‘It takes all of us working together to make things happen.
“We learned from my folks by not what they said, but what they did,” she said of her parents. “We got a lot of life lessons on the farm, taking care of animals.”
Among the speakers were Julia Ward Veal of Abilene, Lester Raines of West Virginia and Don Godby of Colorado who didn’t attend due to illness but had a statement read.
The Stricklands raised top greyhound LPD Makers Mark for Godby.
Raines bought his first greyhound from the Stricklands, Fortress of Gold for $17,000 in the NGA Auction. Ward and Strickland each owned half interest in the greyhound that went on to set the track record at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Fla. Raines has been an NGA auction buyer ever since.
“Coming here it’s nice to see everyone,” said Raines. “I have learned over the years that to be successful you have to have family and friends. I will tell you this, of all the things I do, this is the only profession where family and friends seem to be tied together.”
One of the Stricklands’ top litters was by HB’s Command and Morning Memory that included Evening Memory and Awesome Memory. They also exported dogs like EJ’s Douglas to Australia.