By Andrea Crouch, Going Home Greyhounds Volunteer
If you would have told me 11 years ago that a retired racing greyhound would one day steal my heart (and my sofa) I would have scoffed and/or rolled my eyes at you. After all, I didn’t grow up with pets, and never considered myself a “dog person.” Plus, I had only been to a greyhound racetrack once and hadn’t thought about it since.
But that all changed one day in late 2004 when I was working as a journalist. I headed out to write a story on Going Home Greyhounds, a Pittsburgh-based, non-profit that finds forever homes for retired racing greyhounds. When I arrived at the home to meet 4 dogs and talk to their humans, at first I thought I must be at the wrong house because it was so quiet. How can a house with 4 dogs be quiet? Then I rang the doorbell and, one by one, these beautiful, elegant and calm creatures came to the door with what looked like smiles on their faces. I never saw such regal and soulful-looking animals before…I immediately fell in love.
A few short weeks later, I began the adoption process and have been sharing my heart—not to mention my couch, bed and everything else we own—with a needle nose. And we can’t imagine life any other way.
Greyhounds are unique dogs. They are so sweet and affectionate that they steal your heart before you even realize it’s happening. I often describe them as a cat/dog hybrid: they love walks, car rides and gobbling up treats like other dogs do; and are light on their feet, agile and prone to sleeping all day like most cats. Greys are often called “45-mile-per-hour couch potatoes” because while they can run at great speeds, they prefer to lounge around on your couch. But since they shed very little, if at all, it’s not a problem.
Because greyhounds love running, people mistakenly think they are aggressive or high-energy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Greyhounds are sprinters, so even if they run, it’s only for a short burst and then they are ready for a nap. Another misconception is that greys need lots of long walks. Like any breed, greys benefit from daily walks and exercise, but don’t require anything beyond that.
Mellow is probably the best word to describe greyhounds. They don’t bark, don’t jump on people and have no aggressive tendencies. We often joke that you cannot have high blood pressure if you have a greyhound. They are so calm that you find your entire home is calmer because they are there. My mom would joke about my first greyhound, Smitty, asking, “are you sure he has a pulse?” When someone brings a puppy or high-energy breed to our house, our current grey Omar often stares at the hyper pooch as if to say, “Dude, relax.”
Because the majority of greyhounds are born on the track (a small portion are born into show dog circuits), they don’t have much experience with the world. Therefore a newly retired greyhound can be very skittish and fearful of just about everything—just as you would be if you were suddenly taken from Earth and dropped onto another planet. This subsides in time with some TLC and treats. These leggy hounds also don’t know how to climb stairs, they don’t know how to play with toys and have never seen a sofa or a child. Time and love fix all of these things, too. In fact, they usually figure out what a sofa is for in about a day!
Greyhounds are definitely people-oriented, which they show by their “Velcro” nature. If you go into the kitchen, chances are they will follow you. If you are folding laundry, your grey will be right beside you. They are happiest when just hanging out at home with their humans.
One thing that makes greyhound ownership unique is that these leggy hounds MUST be on a leash or in a fenced-in yard at all times. This is because greyhounds are sight hounds, not scent hounds, so they cannot find or smell their way home. Greys also must be contained because if they would run off, they could be miles away before you even realized they were gone. On the track, some greys can run upwards of 45 m.p.h. When retired, they are not as fast but are still much faster than any other dog. You will never catch them.
So, if you are looking to add a docile and loving companion to your family, consider giving a home to a retired racer. No one deserves a good retirement more than they do.