[gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since my wild and crazy, ex-racing greyhound adoption days. And those were wild and crazy times. At its craziest, three women jump into a red BMW and speed off to one of the more questionable areas of their city searching for a lost dog. At its most inspiring, these same women stand at the top of a fenced yard – a yard that is the size of three official-sized football fields placed end-to-end – and watch more than 20 ex-racing greyhounds chase each other.
There were some sad times, some angry times, some hilariously funny times and some life-changing moments. Here’s a shortened version of the best and the very worst of everything that might happen to you because it happened to me.
You’ll fall in love. Well, you already knew this one, right? If ex-racing greyhounds are your first introduction to sighthounds, you will be absolutely starstruck.
You’ll be invincible. This can happen on your first road trip when you discover that the 1976 Chevy Malibu wagon you’re driving has some iffy mechanical failures and you really should turn around and go home. But. You. Don’t.
You’ll learn to think on your feet: What’s the best way to calm down 6 greyhounds all milling around in the back seat of your station wagon during a human pit stop?
You’ll see things you’ve never seen before: 1) the lightning bolt speed of racing greyhounds at the start of a race, 2) the inside of racing kennels and holding pens, and 3) greyhounds tethered to posts alongside of dog houses, in a farmer’s field in February, with over 6 inches of snow on the ground and more coming down.
You’ll learn new skills: how to politely explain to a kennel owner why you are not going to take the 3 year old female greyhound that is shaking uncontrollably into your adoption program. Two years later, you’ll refuse to take another greyhound – a 12 week old puppy with a broken hip. This time, before leaving the kennel, you’ll call around to find another adoption group that can take it and you offer to help with the transport.
You’ll make new friends. I’m grateful for all of the folks I got to know on this 7 year journey. Some of us still keep in touch. Some not. What I’m proudest of is that this organization keeps going today – it s volunteer base has changed a few times, it’s no longer a chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, and the adoption cycle has slowed down given the decline in the greyhound racing industry. However, there’s an adoption structure in place and dogs are still being adopted.
You’ll learn to speak dog. You’ll learn about dog behavior from other dog lovers and you’ll learn about ex-racing greyhound behavior from the people inside the racing industry, from the hard-core volunteers, from past owners, and, most importantly, from the dogs themselves. Almost before you even realize that it’s happened, you’ll be one of those hard-core volunteers yourself.
You’ll learn what to say to a foster family when they come home to find out that the dog they were fostering bit their 6 month old baby in the face.
You may find a new hobby or start a small business. One of the women who helped run this organization went on to competitive agility trials with a different breed. Still another of us will start an online greyhound gifts store. And someone else will start a dog-sitting service.
You’ll piss people off. You’ll piss off a potential adopting family that has 1) no fenced in yard, 2) no dog experience, 3) and three children under the age of 10 when you strongly suggest they call you back when their youngest child is 12 and they’ve fenced their yard.
You’ll piss off some of your volunteers when you insist that a two year old male greyhound be euthanized because it bit a total of 10 times in less than 48 hours while in foster care.
You’ll piss off some of the general public when you insist on maintaining the neutral position on the racing industry that the parent Greyhound Pets of America organization has incorporated into its by laws.
You’ll get pissed off. You’ll get pissed off when dogs die because their owners were careless.
Finally, when you euthanize three greyhounds (your own) over a 7 year period due to the ravages of bone cancer, you’ll decide that it’s time to go back to being a private citizen. You know that you’d do it all over again just to have these three dogs. Would you change some of what has happened? Hell, yes.