On Wednesday of this week, we had to make the agonizing decision to help our nearly twelve-year-old greyhound over the Rainbow Bridge. Chase had been my friend, confidante, walking partner, and “baby” since 2012. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in March, and we feel very thankful to have kept him until November while treating with prednisone. But as a retired racer, he also had arthritis and in the last few months, walking became painful for him, so we added gabapentin to the mix. Over the past few days, getting up and even climbing the single step into the house became a problem for him. His passing Wednesday was peaceful, and we know we did the right thing, but it doesn’t make looking at the empty space where he used to lay any easier.
(Chase in his favorite spot)
Chase originally came from Daytona, Florida. He was birthed in a kennel known to produce top-notch dogs. He was a winner, a talented racer, and raced until mandatory retirement age at four and a half when he sustained an injury. We proudly took him home a few months later when his original family returned him because of financial troubles.
A couple of weeks ago, Florida voted to abolish greyhound racing and close their remaining tracks. Although well-intentioned in their desire to protect greyhounds from abuse, Floridians may face another issue in the aftermath of this decision. Only seventeen tracks remain in the US, and Florida has eleven of them. This is meant to be a gradual phasing out of the sport to be completed by 2020.
But as a volunteer with a local greyhound adoption group, I worry for the fate of these dogs. This decision presents a huge problem to the greyhound community at large. What is to be done with all of the retired racers? Thousands of them will soon need homes. According to the Orlando Sentinel, there are an estimated 8,000 dogs currently on the tracks, and some 7,000 puppies in breeding facilities. Some kennels have vowed to stay open until the bitter end, but many will close down immediately. These people will have lost a portion if not all of their livelihood and caring for the dogs will be too expensive. They will need to get rid of the dogs right away.
It should be noted that although greyhounds may have historically been abused (and no doubt still are in some cases), many kennels truly love their dogs and treat them well. Chase was never abused, and he came to us a confident dog who still loved to run (and we tried to find opportunities for him to do so when possible).
(Greyhounds in motion are mesmerizing)
Regardless of which side of the issue you stand on, if you’ve ever thought about adopting a retired racer, this is a great time to do it. Greyhounds make wonderful pets. Docile and eager to please, they are not barkers; they are calm, gentle, and emotional. Most do not have a high prey drive (although some do, so they must be tested with other small household pets to make sure they’re suitably homed). People used to ask me all the time if we had to exercise Chase constantly. No. Greyhounds are couch potatoes. They may do 45 miles per hour on the track, but they sleep 18-20 hours a day on a comfy cushion. They love walks, but they need nowhere near the amount of exercise that a golden retriever or a labrador requires. They may weigh in at 50-75 pounds, but they make good apartment dogs and are happy to be anywhere you are (our adoption group leader likes to say, “they’re stackable”). It’s very easy to have more than one grey. I should also mention that Chase never had an accident in our house until he got sick. They are well-mannered, clean, and regal.
Obviously, I’m partial, but I’d like to see all of the dogs get into good homes.
Most states have greyhound adoption groups, but I can also recommend The Sighthound Underground (SHUG). They operate all over the US and rescue and rehome all sighthounds, including retired racers, Spanish greyhounds known as galgos (rescued from deplorable conditions in Spain), Italian greyhounds, podencos, Afghan hounds, Salukis, Borzoi, and mixes of all of the above.
Please feel free to comment with your questions about what it’s like to live with one (or more) of these awesome dogs. I could talk about greyhounds all day long.
For a general greyhound-as-pets site, check out Greyhound Pets of America.