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Puppy love: Hobby trainer with two jobs on cusp of $1 million payday

On Instagram, there's an account dedicated to a greyhound that is often seen tearing up and down the sand at a variety of popular swimming spots on the northern beaches. When she's not doing that, she's usually lazing about the apartment. Going for a casual stroll.

Adam Crouch checks in every now and again to see what she's up to, the greyhound money can't buy. Right now, she'd be one of the most valuable pups in Australia. More than once, Crouch's phone has rung and the person on the other end of the line has offered an open cheque book and begged, "name your price".

Big chance: Adam and Andrew Crouch with Big Butters.

Big chance: Adam and Andrew Crouch with Big Butters.

Each time, he politely explains that the greyhound which whelped his first litter – one which has a pup in the world's richest greyhound race at Wentworth Park on Saturday night – is not for sale and won't be having any more babies.

"I've had people say, 'I don't care how much you want, we'll buy the whole litter before they're born'," Crouch shrugs.

"A lot of people think the greyhounds are about money, but it's not. No amount of money will bring her out of retirement. She's happily retired in an apartment on the northern beaches. She's living a good life."

When former NSW Premier Mike Baird announced his intention to shut down the state's greyhound racing industry more than three years ago, Crouch thought his passion was over before it had barely begun.

He approached the industry-run Greyhounds As Pets adoption program and entered Dashandy Black for rehoming. Dashandy Black was only a modestly performed greyhound which won her first race on debut at Newcastle's The Gardens track and didn't salute again in another 20 starts.

But she was Crouch's Sliding Doors moment.

Each day now, 26-year-old Crouch walks down the back of his South Windsor property after finishing shift work with NSW Health and tends to the dogs. His only two seasoned race greyhounds, Jamella Jet and Big Butters, will line up in the life-changing Million Dollar Chase. It's a hobby for him. Aside from full-time work in the health sector, he has a second job as an on-call firefighter.

The back of the old property he shares with his father and nan used to have stables rather than kennels. His father Andrew and mother Karen were players in the harness racing game until Adam asked his old man if they should try their hand at greyhound racing.

A few months ago, Adam's grandfather passed away. He had prosthetic legs  but would sit on the house's balcony in the afternoon sun each day and recount every little move made by the pups to Adam when he arrived home from work. Even now, Adam's 83-year-old nan sings to the greyhounds each day as he and Andrew prepare their food.

"When the ban went through [nan and pop] were both devastated," Crouch says. "We have no doubt the dogs put an extra few years on pop's life. They were the reason he got out of bed every morning.

"I just found greyhounds have much more personality than the horses. It was hard to connect with the horses, but with the dogs . . . we love them and each has their own different personality.

"It's such a challenge, but so rewarding figuring out what makes a dog click. It's definitely a full-time job in itself. But having dad and nan as well means it's a team effort. And when you love it, it makes it a helluva lot easier."

Some will say it was fortuitous to have so much success with their first foray in the sport, but the Crouchs perhaps deserved a bit of luck.

Adam's sister Katie was working in Lindt's head office, next door to the Martin Place cafe, the day of the Sydney siege. Andrew remembers trying to ring her phone and calls going unanswered. She was ushered out soon after.

A few months later, Katie was trekking in the Himalayas when an earthquake struck and worried government officials called the family to see if they'd had contact. They hadn't. Worried harness racing friends put out a public appeal for any information. Again, Katie was found safe and well.

This year, the wheel has started to turn. Jamella Jet and Big Butters aren't among the favourites in the Million Dollar Chase, but the Crouchs have a one in four shot of scooping a life-changing seven-figure purse.

After the heats, Adam jokingly promised a few friends an all-expenses paid trip to Mexico if they ended up winning. He thought he had no chance.

"I'm starting to think, 'shit, how much does a holiday to Mexico cost?' It could be a reality," Adam jokes. "One of them said it would cost $20,000 to get five or six of us over there. It would be unreal. I'm only young. It's a house deposit and more. I'd hate to even think of winning. It would be insane."

Adds Andrew: "This has been incredible. This is a really good game and the people are so nice. The dogs are just like our kids. We go to work and get our wages and this has been unbelievable."

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