Most people reading this probably have a dog or two laying around on their sofas/beds/directly on their lap (in my case). You know the feeling of sleeping in and relaxing on the weekend and watching Netflix with your four-legged friends. If this is something you are looking for, you may not know it but a greyhound could be the couch potato of your dreams! This month I spoke with Dana Nutter, President of the Charleston chapter of Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), and she told me all about this gentle and loving breed.
GPA is a national organization that was founded in 1987 to help racing greyhounds find homes after retirement. South Carolina has 2 chapters that place dogs in Columbia, and along the coast from North Carolina all the way down to Savannah. Their stance on the racing industry in general is very diplomatic and pragmatic. Dana said “National GPA and all of the chapters take a neutral stance on the racing industry [because] we would rather work with trainers/kennel workers/owners to get the hounds when they retire versus working against the racing industry...Our mission is to connect the retired racer with the most appropriate family.”
While there aren’t any racing tracks in South Carolina, Dana told me that GPA-Charleston works with other greyhound adoption groups in Florida. “Some of the greyhound groups in Florida have kennels at the track so as soon as a racer is retired, they can move directly into the adoption kennel. And other adoption groups rely on foster homes, like us. The goal is to move the greyhounds out of Florida as quickly as possible to relieve the pressure off those groups because if the adoption kennels get full and the other adoption groups are at capacity, what happens to the retired racer is the question we don’t want to ask.”
A greyhound’s ‘career’ typically begins around 18 months of age. Some of the better racers (read: profitable) work for 3 to 3 ½ years before they are retired. Female dogs are sometimes then used for breeding purposes for another 3 to 4 years before they are made available for adoption. Because of this, most racing dogs have never spent any time in a home. If you are considering adoption, GPA urges you to follow the advice of your local chapter about welcoming this unique animal into your home. Even if you’ve had dogs all of your life, these special pets require some additional time to make the transition from “racer to pet”. However, they are very smart and extremely adaptable and with a little patience, can become a beloved member of your family. “They are often referred to as the ‘cats of dogs’ as they are more of the sit back and watch personality…” said Dana. She also told me that, while some greyhounds are more shy and scared at first, they are generally very laid back, gentle and friendly. After their careers as racers, one of the only sports they tend to participate in is couch surfing. Dana told me that they take their retirement very seriously. “They like to run and will [do] a couple laps around a dog park or back yard but that’s about it! When they race, they are sprinters not endurance runners...so we say they need the same exercise level as most dogs with a couple walks a day.” These qualities also make them great dogs for anyone living in an apartment or condo, since they tend to be quiet and have low-energy.
GPA-Charleston’s greatest need right now is foster homes. “We can only bring up as many retired racers as we have open foster homes.” said Dana, “We do not have a kennel so we rely completely on foster homes.” Being a foster is an important job because, as mentioned before, it is likely the dog’s first time in a home and even things such as hardwood floors and stairs may be totally new to them. Since there are usually several active adoption applications pending at GPA, most fostering commitments would be around 3 to 4 weeks long. GPA gives you all of the necessary supplies - food, crates, etc…and then you provide the love! If you would like to learn more about fostering, please visit their website at http://www.adoptcharlestongreys.org/foster.html.
If this extremely persuasive and witty article has convinced you to adopt a greyhound, here are the next steps: Visit the organization’s website and fill out an online adoption application. There is a non-refundable $15 application fee that goes along with this process. Someone from GPA-Charleston will review your application and set up a time for a home visit or let you know of an event where you can come and interact with the dogs and speak to a chapter representative. GPA will choose a pet for you based on the information provided in your application and knowledge gained from the visit with you and your family and then do a “meet and greet”. If all goes well, you pay an adoption fee of $285 and then the belly scratches can commence! To read about the entire process in more detail, please visit http://www.adoptcharlestongreys.org/adopt_process_overview.html.
If adoption isn’t right for you at the moment there are plenty of other ways to help. You can sign up to volunteer at events, participate in community outreach activities, host fundraisers - the list goes on! For more information about volunteering, call (843) 343-2982 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, monetary donations are always welcome, as well as gift cards to pet stores and other establishments.
Right now, the dog racing industry is in flux. Dana told me “[they are] in a state of change and uncertainty as tracks across the country are beginning to close. Currently there is proposed legislation that will come up for review in 2017 that can potentially affect the number of tracks.” If these facilities begin to close, GPA-Charleston will be there to take as many hounds as possible and get them into homes. So even if early retirement isn’t in the cards for most of us, with your help it can be a possibility for some of these gentle, loving and good-natured dogs.