While April is the official Adopt a Greyhound Month, every month is a good one to adopt a greyhound, according to Karen Casady, a San Fernando Valley resident who has owned two greyhounds.
Her first, Ivy, was a retired racing dog, and her second came from a greyhound puppy farm in Kansas.
“I’ve had dogs my whole life, really,” Casady said. “‘Doggie’ was my daughter Emma’s first word. That dog — Polly — was an Australian shepherd mix. She was a really great dog. She’d run around the pool when the kids were in the pool ‘herding’ them.”
When Polly died, the Casady family waited about eight months before getting another dog. Karen’s long-time interest in greyhounds rose up.
“We started talking to our vet about different breeds and different ideas about another dog,” she said. “We talked about greyhounds or another dog like Polly. The vet said, ‘This is what you need to know about greyhounds: they are friendly, loving and mellow.’ That resonated for me. And he was absolutely right.”
Greyhounds – the backstory
Lean, long-legged and elegant, greyhounds have been immortalized in European tapestries, book illuminations and art. They are an old European breed of sight hound used for chasing game in open areas, but intelligent, quiet and loyal enough for the castle.
Their powerful legs can get them up to a full speed of nearly 45 mph in six strides. Their gait allows them to have all four feet off the ground both when their legs are extended and when their legs contract together.
That sprinting ability made them choice dogs for racing, a sport born just 372 miles north of Los Angeles — at least in its modern form. Owen Patrick Smith invented the mechanical hare in 1912 and seven years later opened the first professional dog-racing track with stands in Emeryville, Calif.
The sport’s profitability has been tumbling for the past 20 years. Between 2001 and 2011 alone, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing across the nation fell 67 percent.
Adopting Ivy, a retired racing greyhound
After the conversation with her vet, Casady went online and discovered the Greyhound Adoption Center near San Diego and contacted them.
A 30-year-old organization, Greyhound Adoption Center has a network of 200 volunteers throughout California to assess potential homes for rescued greyhounds, match families with dogs and support new greyhound owners after adoption.
“A representative came to our house with her two greyhounds,” Casady said. “We’d had dogs, so we had a dog-friendly house and yard. They checked us out and said, ‘Okay, we’ll profile a dog for you.'”
The profile takes into account other pets — the Casadys had three cats and two parrots — space, neighborhood and other factors.
“When we went down to their center, they asked if we wanted to see some dogs. They just turned us loose among a bunch of greyhounds. Ivy just came right into our family group,” Casady said. “It turned out that she was the one they had selected for us — but she actually picked us.”
A red brindled greyhound, Ivy had raced at the Caliente, Mexico, dog track for four years before coming to the Greyhound Adoption Center.
“There are a lot of reasons why a dog stops racing,” she said. “Sometimes they are injured. Sometimes they start losing. Years ago, they used to destroy them and that gave them the reputation of being unadoptable. The media got on to the story and the National Greyhound Association took such a PR hit that they started working harder promote greyhound adoptions.”
When she wasn’t racing, Ivy spent most of her life crated.
“She didn’t know what a house was,” Casady said. “We have a pool. She’d never seen one before. She walked into the backyard and straight into the pool, where she sank like a stone. My son started striping off his clothes to jump in an save her. By the time he got into the pool, she’d floated back to the surface and was paddling around.”
It took about two weeks of gradually letting her into more and more of the house and yard before Ivy started to understand that her world was larger than a crate. Because she had never had a puppyhood, she never became interested in playing with toys or cuddling.
“She was the most wonderful dog ever,” Casady said. “It took her about two years to become a dog dog. She had to learn that she wasn’t a working dog anymore; she was retired and her only job was to decide which couch or which bed to lounge on.”
When Ivy died at the age of 12, the Casadys adopted another greyhound, this time a 68-pound seven-month old from a puppy farm in Kansas: Ella Bella Stella Violet the First.
“The Greyhound Adoption Center decided that because we were experienced adopters, we could handle a puppy, ” Casady laughed. “I think that less experienced people would have said, ‘We’re done!’ long ago.”
Where Ivy was older and work disciplined, Ella is exuberant, wild, mischievous and looked at the family cats and birds as interactive dog toys. She was also a dominant female and began to get aggressive with Casady’s husband Tim until they intervened with a trainer experienced with greyhounds.
If you’re adopting a greyhound
Greyhounds make wonderful pets. Here’s a few things you should know about if you’re thinking about adopting a greyhound:
- Although greyhounds are large dogs (a male stands about 30-inches at the shoulder and weighs about 90 pounds), they make good apartment dogs. They don’t need as much space as some other breeds and they sleep nearly 18 hours a day.
- They are known for being gentle, sensitive, intelligent and loyal to their owners. According to Casady, they love their people.
- They cannot be off-leash outside of an enclosed area.
- They are unable to sit because of their build.
- They don’t have a lot of inherited health problems, like shepherds or other large dogs do.
- They don’t have a lot of fat on their bodies so they do need soft bedding to rest on to avoid painful sores. This plus their lack of an undercoat also makes them sensitive to heat and cold.
- Their blood chemistry is different than other dogs. Among the differences, they have more red blood cells and fewer platelets. They also are unable to metabolize barbiturate-based anesthesia like other dogs. This requires having a knowledgeable vet.
- They are sensitive to insecticides and should not use flea collars or sprays with phyrethrin.
- While they aren’t hypo allergenic, they aren’t as likely as other breeds to trigger allergies in people.