Going 'grey'

By Diane Schlindwein

March 20, 2013 5 min read

Simply put, greyhounds are great, says Tom Taylor, a longtime owner of retired racing dogs.

If you are ready to share your home with a dog but aren't prepared for a young pup, adopting a retired greyhound might be the right solution, says Taylor, who along with his wife, Bonnie, has been both fostering and adopting greyhounds for about a dozen years.

Adoptable greyhounds, sight hounds that are bred to race, usually retire from racing when they are between 2 and 5 years old. Some who have been kept for breeding may be a little older. Normally, the retired dogs are released to greyhound adoption agencies, where foster parents take care of them until they are adopted by new families.

If you are looking for a greyhound, many states have adoption agencies that are easily located through a simple Internet search (http://adopt-a-greyhound.org is one website), or you might check with a local veterinarian or pet supply store.

"Bonnie and I have taken greyhounds to 'meet and greets' at places like PetSmart, Barnes and Noble and even county fairs," Taylor says. "We would have at least two hounds at a time and bring brochures and literature about the breed. Some people have never seen a greyhound and know nothing about what happens to them after their racing careers are over."

Rescue groups are important and save a lot of lives, Taylor says. "When a rescue group receives greys from the track, they are placed in foster homes until they are adopted," he says. While they are well cared for and have been handled by a number of people, racing greyhounds have mostly been kept at racetracks or in crates. So, while in the foster home, the dogs get accustomed to living in a house and learn about windows and glass doors and how to go up and down stairs.

"Foster parents also observe the dog's temperament," Taylor says. "They notice if the dog is cat-friendly, good with small children, older children or both, or whether he likes to play -- things like that. This helps the organization to match the right grey with the right family."

Sometimes a foster family falls in love with a greyhound and will adopt the dog. "That's what happened to us. We jokingly called this 'flunking fostering 101' -- that's when you adopt your first foster," Taylor says. "Of the 12 dogs we've fostered, we flunked not only fostering 101 with Steve, but also fostering 105 with Marsha and fostering 112 with Jolly."

If you adopt a greyhound at a fairly young age, you can expect to spend many years with your lovable pet. Although they are fairly large dogs (weighing between 50 pounds and 85 pounds and standing 23 inches to 30 inches tall), greyhounds generally live to be 12 to 15 years old.

Greyhounds are fairly low maintenance, adds Taylor. They tend to love people and are usually quite social. They prefer to be kept clean, don't shed a lot and are content to rest most of the day, and they don't have much of a "doggy odor."

However, since greyhounds are sprinters, they can run up to 45 miles per hour for short periods. Therefore, they should always be leashed and handled by a responsible person when outdoors unless they are in a securely fenced area. Remember, retired racers have been trained to chase lures, and it is in a greyhound's nature to run -- and run they will!

Taylor remembers his former greyhounds fondly and cherishes his remaining dog, Marsha. "Flash was white with brown ticking and was a very loving girl who liked to sleep with us and nap on the couch. Steve was a brown brindle and a big, goofy laid-back boy. He would let Flash and Marsha get their treats and food first, and he loved to have his belly rubbed. Jolly, a fawn brindle, was 9 when we got her and was pretty quiet."

"Then, of course, there is Marsha," he says with a smile, looking at his black greyhound, whose muzzle has now gone gray with age. "She wants to be in the middle of everything and wants everybody to know she is around."

Another greyhound parent, Lorie Stewart, says she has adopted five greyhounds. "They call them potato chip dogs because they are so addictive," she says. "You can't have just one."

Taylor agrees. "They are just good dogs. They don't bark much, some love to play with squeaky toys, and all seem to live up to their nickname of the 40-mile-per-hour couch potatoes," Taylor concludes. "Each grey has his or her own personality, and most are just quiet, lovable dogs. I highly recommend them as pets."

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