Retired Race Dogs Get a New Life
Greyhound. That one word can cause nervous twitches in prospective dog owners deciding on a breed. But fear not; the anxiety-causing attributes are merely myths. Greyhounds require more exercise? False. This breed is at greater risk of health problems? False. In truth, Greyhounds are the friendly, affectionate companions that many hope for.
“The biggest misconception we come across is that Greyhounds require much more exercise than other breeds of dogs,” says Lori Rasmussen, Vice President of Greyhound Pets of America – Minnesota (GPA-MN). “People think that if they adopt a greyhound, they’ll have to become runners or they’d need a big yard. In most cases, the opposite is true. Greyhounds have earned their nickname ‘The 45 MPH Couch Potato!'”
Though it is true that Greyhounds are sprinters by nature and like to run around dog parks or the yard, it is generally short-lived (as in, a few minutes) before they’re off to find a comfortable place to lie down. And don’t worry; daily runs are not necessary as the occasional trip suits them just fine. What’s better? Though jackets and boots may be necessary due to their lower body fat and short coats, Rasmussen says, “When it’s bad weather, they really don’t want to be outside any more than you or I would.”
What about those health risks? The Greyhound was bred for racing, not a show ring with a “standard” for ear size, head size, etc. “Many hereditary problems found in other large-breed dogs, are not present in racers,” Rasmussen says. “In fact, in most cases, you can trace your dogs’ lineage back many generations and even many centuries. They keep very good records of their dogs and the breeding of them.”
Despite Greyhounds making excellent pets (especially for apartment or condo living as they rarely bark), many are still in dire need of a home. According to Rasmussen, most racers retire anywhere from two to four years of age and, with a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, retired racers have a lot of life ahead of them. “With approximately 20 active Greyhound racing tracks still operating in the US, and thousands of hounds needing homes each year, retired racing greyhounds are an excellent adoption choice,” Rasmussen says. “All of the race tracks in the United States are required to use an adoption group once the dogs retire from racing. Without this relationship, a retired race dog faces an uncertain fate.”
This is where GPA-MN comes into the equation. Founded in 1987, GPA-MN is the Minnesota chapter of a national 501(c)3 non-profit Greyhound adoption organization. Equipped with a mission of finding homes for ex-racing Greyhounds and educating the public on the suitability and availability of Greyhounds as pets, GPA-MN is a Twin Cities-based, volunteer-run organization.
The success of GPA-MN is thanks to its effective fostering program. When the dogs retire from the various race tracks around the country, and they enter into the care of GPA-MN, the dogs are placed into foster homes. “Since the dogs have never been in a home environment, they’ve never been around stairs, glass patio doors, shiny floors, etc., so they need time to acclimate to their new lives before they’re adopted,” Rasmussen says. “When we adopt a dog to a family, we want it to be forever; so, by having the dogs in foster homes first, we can get a good idea of the individual personalities of each dog.”
With the hopes of finding a “forever home” for the retired racers, GPA-MN has established a system to match a dog with its new home. When a person or family decides a Greyhound is for them, they submit an application online, followed by a phone interview initiated by GPA-MN. Information gained from the interview is given to a matching committee, to be combined with any new found information about the dogs from the foster families. “When an applicant’s circumstances mesh with the dog’s needs, we arrange for the applicants to meet the dog,” Rasmussen says. “If a love connection is made, the adoption is completed at that time. We believe that this process, although a bit lengthier than some adoption groups, is critical to finding forever homes for our hounds.”