When a vet has weekly appointments with greyhound trainers of the ilk of Kelvyn Greenough, Darren McDonald and Jason Thompson he must be doing something right.
For many years, assisting trainers in preparing greyhounds to win races was a major part of the working life of the late Dr. Alex Hauler, a veterinarian who specialised in greyhound racing who passed away from brain cancer in 2004, aged just 58.
Dr. Hauler initially learned the craft of treating racing greyhounds by a man 17 years his senior, the late Dr. Jim Gannon, himself a GRV Hall of Fame inductee who pioneered greyhound medicine.
It is fitting that the man many regard as Dr. Gannon’s number one student has followed him into the Hall of Fame, and elite trainers insist that Dr. Hauler took the treatment of racing greyhounds into a new stratosphere.
Dr. Hauler broke new ground when it came to a number of areas of greyhound medicine including chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and liver treatment.
He befriended a number of greyhound trainers, perhaps none more so than multiple Group 1 winning mentor, Kelvyn Greenough.
“Dr. Hauler was undoubtedly one of the most respected greyhound vets of all time, and I’d only be about 10 per cent of the trainer I am today if it wasn’t for Alex Hauler,” Greenough said.
“He’d provide you with two hours of information in a 15 minute consultation.”
“A lot of trainers don’t watch closely what’s goes on when they take their dog to a muscle man or a vet, but Alex challenged trainers to think outside the square.”
“He’d make us trainers think about every one of our dogs and every problem our dogs had, and then he’d make us follow it (treatment) through and get a result.”
“When a trainer brought a greyhound into see Alex, he would look at the entire picture. He would think about the dogs internally, often issuing blood tests and then treating them.”
“He was also a genius when it came to manipulating greyhounds and is the person that brought manipulation into the sport. He was also a master at acupuncture and referred pain.”
Greenough was one of a number of trainers with a permanent weekly appointment with Dr. Hauler, but if you weren’t a regular then getting your greyhounds into see him was very difficult.
“I would see him once a week with about six greyhounds over a period of about 30 years.”
“It was a case of if you weren’t one of his regulars you couldn’t get into see him. They only way you could get in to see him was by bribing the vet nurse, and that would happen a lot,” Greenough laughed.
“Trainers like Norm McCullagh and Kevin Mugavin Jnr would travel three hours and back from Warrnambool every week to take their dogs to him while others would even travel regularly from interstate, and some of the many champions he treated included Bold Trease and Brett Lee.”
“Anyone who ever went to him said he was the best greyhound vet, but he wasn’t limited to treating greyhounds.”
“He once treated a shark that couldn’t swim by needling up the part of the shark that was damaged. The shark swam away. People couldn’t believe it.”
In fact, Greenough believes that Dr. Hauler would have made a lot more money treating domestic pets.
“He originally charged $10 to treat a greyhound and that later increased to $30 per consultation. He could have made a lot more money treating domestic pets, but he chose to predominantly treat greyhounds because he loved the breed,” Greenough said.
“About 75 per cent of his work was with greyhounds, while the rest of it was a combination of show dogs and pets.”
“He’d rarely watch or listen to a greyhound race, but he’d absolutely love it when trainers came in for their weekly appointment and relayed to him how their dogs had performed during that week.”
“Whenever I had a big win and I’d try to give him some extra money but he wouldn’t take it, he was the opposite of a money grabber and it’s little wonder his funeral was so massive.”
After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Dr. Hauler made it a priority to pass down as much of his greyhound knowledge as he could. As such he spent the last three months of his life having intense one on one sessions with a select few people, including Greenough.
“In the last three months before he died he spent about one and a half hours a week teaching me anything I wasn’t sure about,” Greenough recalled.
“I’d go around to his place and his wife, Joan would have all the food and drinks ready.”
“It was a period of intense learning and I am absolutely privileged to have spent that time with Alex,” Greenough said.
When word surfaced that much of Hauler’s knowledge had been passed down to Greenough, the Pearcedale trainer was suddenly in demand, and he began checking greyhounds for people.
“After Alex died I was working about 30 hours per week checking people’s greyhounds as well as continuing to train a few myself. It was great in a way because I was making a good earn out of it, but the bottom line was that I didn’t have a qualification, so the odd person would question my diagnosis and I just didn’t need the headaches,” he said.
“I just focussed on my training and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to make a good living out of the sport, thanks largely to my friendship with Alex.”
“A few of us trainers called him god. He was my idol.”
Dr. Alex Hauler is one of two veterinarians to be inducted into GRV’s Hall of Fame.