Sunday, February 22, 2009

Going Greyhound

My husband and I share our home with at least 2 Greyhounds. Currently we have Penny, (above right), our own "forever" hound, who has red brindle patches on one side and white with ticking on the other, and her foster sister, Suzie, (top left). Suzie is one of many racing greyhounds who have lived in our "finishing school", or "halfway house for dogs" before moving on to their next life as happy family pet.

For those who don't know much about greyhounds, above all, they are an ancient, regal breed, once kept only by royalty. There are drawings of greyhound-like dogs on the urns and tombs of Ancient Eygypt, and the greyhound is also mentioned in the old testament, (Proverbs 30:29-31). The breed is also portrayed by Homer, author of the Odyssey. The only one to recognize Odyseus upon his return was Argus, his greyhound.

History lesson aside, once off the track and into the home, they learn their housemanners, such as learning that it's not OK to steal food from counters, learning new sounds, places and faces, becoming familiar with children, eating treats given by hand, and even how to negotiate stairs. After hanging up their silks, these former competative athletes need to learn their "house manners". Few know the meaning of "play", but quickly learn to enjoy their squeaky toys and chewy bones. It's not that greyhounds are dumb, they just have never known anything other than life at the track, where there are few toys and no stairs. Adapting to the sounds and routines of family life and mastering an uncertainty about public places are a few of the issues involving the retirment transition.

Greyhounds are quick learners and eager to please, so acclimation goes quickly. They are affectionate, sensitive, loyal, and typically very well mannered and obedient. This is because they have spent their whole lives in close proximity to humans, and their purpose was to please their caretakers. Once off the track, one seldom hears a greyhound barking, and they aren't typically noisy in this sense. Our foster Suzie, will bark at other dogs, and greets us with her friendly "ROO's".

Retired racers are typically 2-5 years old, and are either younger dogs who didn't perform well as racers, or older athletes who's racing career has peaked. A racer can have as few as 1 or 2 races, or well over 100. We've even seen one who's had over 200 races. These are usually particularly good athletes who have reached and maintained Grade "A", an accomplishment of only a select few.

Because retired greyhounds are more mature, they are less active, but will sprint around the yard and are quickly satisfied with that. They're jokingly called "40 mile per hour couch potatoes". The one thing that Greyhounds are NOT, are outdoor dogs!! They naturally have little body fat and a thin coat that does not protect them against weather extremes!!

Finally, I want to address issues concerning Greyhounds, and alleged abuses they may endure during their working lives. While it's true that the industry enjoys a certain degree of disrepute, (some rightfully earned), and while the track accomodations are generally sterile and sparse, there are a majority of tracks that are immaculately clean, well run, and whose canine residents are treated very well. In the end, it's foolish to poison the family breadwinner, so to speak. A retired greyhound doesn't lie when he or she is re-introduced to their former track caregivers and greets them with a wagging tail and slurpy kisses! I've seen the mutual joy in these reunions between dog and caretaker, who remembers the dog by name - no easy feat when one is "keeper" to hundreds of dogs over the years.
During my early days as foster Greyhound provider, I too, was concerned about track conditions, and the life the dogs may have led prior to joining us. It didn't take me long to find a site that took me through a day at the track, and greatly eased my mind. You might be surprised, as well:


  1. It's so wonderful that you foster these beautiful animals.
    Your crafts are lovely. In this difficult economy, it's nice to know we can still purchase something unique and lovely and affordable!