Time for an update on the newest member of the staff and family, Dena’s Diamond. She is delightful.
We met on Saturday, June 8, 2013 at her foster home with her human Mama, Riff. To be greeted at the gate by four greyhounds is an experience not to be denied. These gorgeous creatures are always curious and hospitable, and always, always polite and courteous. As I squeezed myself through the gate – remember, if they get loose, they can hit 43-45 MPH in three strides – I was dazzled to see the pack coming towards me, dancing and delicately arching their necks to see who this visitor was.
What is a Greyhound?
Because of their keen eyesight and life spent in either a crate or on the track, these loving, intelligent beings have no experience with stairs, homes, or customs we take for granted. Before being adopted and transferred to their permanent home, a greyhound goes through a transition phase, if they are lucky. My new mentor, Riff, always has two permanent greyhounds and two fosters. She specializes in the scaredy ones, those overwhelmed by the newness of environments outside their usual habitat of crate and track. Over time, ranging from one week to several weeks, she works with her fosters to accustomed them to retirement, their new lives as pampered celebrities. You cannot go for a walk with a greyhound without attracting attention, trust me. Everyone, from child to senior citizen to scary men with serious tatoos, comes to a stop and asks about your greyhound. “Is she friendly? What kind of dog is that? Why is she so skinny? How old is she? She’s a professional racer? What does that mean? How many races did she win?”
Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine, who exclaimed “Oh, Huntie, the love and joy in your voice when you speak of these dogs is extraordinary! Let me get this straight. When you say she is a professional racer, do you mean people bet on them?” She was stunned to realize that greyhound racetracks exist all over the United States and the world. “But why do you call them rescue greyhounds?” She was horrified by the answer. “Because, at best, if they were very good at racing, it is mandated they must be retired by five years old. Until these rescue groups came into being in the mid-1990s, they were routinely killed and bodies stacked like firewood. In fairness to the owners, a retired greyhound is another mouth to feed with no income from racing or breeding being generated.
On the other hand, these dogs have been bred for speed, intelligence, and loving personalities and they can live to be 14 years old. In fact, when you bring a greyhound home, the greatest joy is the bond that forms between you and this very special dog that has waited years to have some personal attention, exactly the quality she was bred for. They are exceptionally well-trained and superb in apartments (remember she’s lived in a crate for most of her life, an apartment is huge to her) and fantastic with seniors. Greyhounds sleep about 22-23 hours a day. A 20 minute walk once or twice a day suffices.
There is something mystical about this breed. I don’t know whether it is due to them having been around since early Egyptian days – they are painted on the walls of tombs. At the risk of heresy, it is just a bit like meeting a cat in a dog’s body, without the attitude. They are reserved until they relax, when they suddenly blossom into these loving clowns, who grin at you, think you walk on water, and this sheer love and affection comes radiating off of them towards you. Now, that is the difference between dogs and cats, which is why dogs are man’s best friend, but I’m telling you, these guys are different. That being said, each one is unique in its approach and view of the world. So, I had no idea what Dena herself would be like. I’d been assured that she was very friendly and outgoing. Most importantly, she’d been rated “cat friendly.”
When greyhounds are brought to the various rescue groups, depending on size and structure of the rescue group, there is a process each greyhound goes through. Naturally, they are examined for their health and well-being, but in addition, they are tested for temperament. How do they react around other greyhounds, other dogs, cats, gerbils, children – young toddlers to teens, what have you. A profile is built up on them so that they can be placed in the best forever home for both the human and the greyhound.
The two groups I have worked with have serious rules and a contract you sign before the adoption is completed. I filled out an application that asks about your experience, your reasons for wanting a greyhound, what your life situation is, do you have a fenced backyard, how well fenced is it, do you have any other animals, what type, how long will you be away from home, etc. In my experience, the local pound will ask the same style of questions. Here’s the difference: you agree to a home inspection, which will be at least one hour – this is for the dog’s protection, not yours. You will sign a contract, promising that the dog will always be on a leash when outside, unless there is a well-fenced area – remember, 43 miles per hour in three strides. They are the second fastest land mammal on the planet, ranking right behind a cheetah. One of the best conditions of the contract is that if your life situation changes and you can no longer keep the greyhound, you promise to return the greyhound back to the group you got her or him from. That way, both of you are assured of the best ending possible under those circumstances.
This began as an update and we’re at close to 1000 words – have I lost you yet? Come on over to Part II – Dena herself.