JAY — Three special, four-legged friends visited the North Jay Grange for its April 14 meeting.

Elizabeth Tulip, of Augusta, and Donna Irish, of Wilton, brought greyhounds Vida, Karra, and Yukie for a visit with the Grange members and guests. They gave a talk about greyhounds and how they are used not just for racing, but once they retire, for use as house pets and comforting people at nursing homes.

“They’re awesome companion dogs,” said Tulip.

“They’re good family dogs,” Irish agreed. “They’re lovable and patient.”

The three dogs that they brought to the meeting were once used for racing. A greyhound’s racing career starts around 18 months of age, and by national law, they must be retired at five years old.

They are incredibly fast dogs, and can get up to 45 miles per hour in three strides. For that reason, they must be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in enclosure. Tulip and Irish noted that they will react to movement, which triggers their instinct to run and chase.

The Maine Greyhound Placement Service in Augusta is the only shelter in Maine that is greyhound-specific. More than 4,000 dogs have been placed with Maine families since the shelter came into existence.

The dogs love going into nursing homes to meet and comfort residents, and enjoy interacting with children, too.

“Selfishly, I enjoy doing it,” said Irish. “I’ve made a lot of friendships with people. It’s really a benefit for everyone.”

It was fitting that the greyhound program took place, for the North Jay Grange’s 2015 Community Service Award was presented to Normand Leclerc of Jay, who is well-known for bringing his greyhound to nursing homes. Although he was unable to attend the meeting due to illness, Lecturer Marilyn Morse said that he would be recognized in person at the Grange’s May 12 meeting.

April is National Grange Month. The North Jay Grange, which was incorporated in 1874, is the third oldest in Maine. It was the 10th Maine Grange to come into existence, hence the formal name “North Jay Grange #10”.

The Grange held its meetings in its original building from 1874-1894, until the first building burned. Within six months, they built the structure that they use today to hold meetings.

Years ago, granges had stores. People could buy clothing, hardware, ground beef, ice cream, and other goods. The arrival of “big box” stores that could sell items for less forced the grange stores to close. The North Jay Grange’s store closed in 1974, and was the last grange store in the nation to fold.

At one time, said Morse, the North Jay Grange had 400 members. In the past 10 years, they have done community suppers and benefits to help with painting, installing a new roof on the grange hall, and general upkeep.

Worthy Overseer Jim Locke talked about community service. The Grange started right after the Civil War as an organization to help farmers.

“There are very few farmers, perhaps, in the Grange anymore,” he said. “They became a political group in the 1870’s and 60’s. They had quite a bit of political clout.”

Locke said that the granges were instrumental in getting electricity to rural areas, and mail delivery.

“You have to remember that there wasn’t a lot of government programs back then, so we had to take care of ourselves.”

Patrons Oxford Insurance Co. was a grange function, he said. “There was a lot of benefits for people joining the grange.”

Locke gave his thoughts on the definition of community service.

“I tend to believe that one person can make a difference, maybe not to do a lot of things, but one person can make a difference in someone’s life,” he said. “Things like benefit suppers, little things like taking someone to the doctor. People need to start taking care of other people, or else there aren’t going to be people around.”

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