Retired Race Dogs Get a New Life

By Shane Lueck February 6, 2014

Categories: Causes, Featured - Home Page, Our Affairs, Our Lives, Pets

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

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.”

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

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.

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

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.”

For more information about GPA-MN, go to www.gpa-mn.org; for more distinctive pet photography, go to www.sarahbethphotography.com.

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

Photo by Sarah Ernhart, Sarah Beth Photography

9 Responses to Retired Race Dogs Get a New Life

  1. Tae says:

    Wonderful article!!! Thank you Lavender Magazine 🙂

  2. Sandra Berthene says:

    What is the history of greyhounds coming into a home that already has a mature cat in residence? Good? Bad? Trainable? What?

  3. Chris Peukert says:

    Wonderful article! We adopted Tommy from GPA-MN. A wonderful organization that truly cares for the hounds that they foster and place. Tommy has been the best companion we could ever imagine having. He is wonderful with our 15-year old cat and with friends and family. Not all greyhounds are cat-trainable, but GPA tests all hounds and will disclose the results prior to adoption, and will not place a hound with a high prey drive in a home with cats. Again, they do this to better ensure the greyhound and their new home is forever.

  4. Tracy Keeling says:

    In response to the question about greyhounds living with cats… Both of my greys came from GPA-MN and we also have a cat. Some greyhounds can live happily with cats, as mine do; some can never live with cats. GPA-MN does a great job of assessing the cat trainability of the greyhounds they have in foster care, so if you have a cat you can certainly get a greyhound that will adapt fine to that situation.

  5. Linda says:

    We adopted our greyhound from GPA-MN last April, and could NOT be more pleased with him. The adoption process is thorough and detailed, to ensure that each hound is matched with the family and home that will best suit him or her; the adoption coordinators want to make sure that it truly is a “forever home” for these wonderful, gentle, loyal dogs. Our boy meshed into the family, which already had three resident dogs, just beautifully, and I can’t imagine life without him now. The popular saying about greyhounds is that they’re like potato chips–you can’t stop with just one. Once you fall in love with this breed, you can’t ever imagine not having a greyhound in your life again.

  6. gabriel says:

    I foster with GPA-MN. Our household has twice had what we call “foster fail,” which is the delightful experience of not being able to let one go and adopting it yourself. We love our two girls.

    GPA-MN has been a wonderful place to volunteer and all the people involved are genuinely committed to finding the hounds their new families. We also have meet and greets, events for both hounds and people, and do other fun things like maintain booths at SpringCon and FallCon and other events around the cities so people can meet the dogs and learn about them.

    If you’re thinking of a Grey as a possibility, don’t hesitate to ask questions through the website; someone will get back to you pretty darned quick!

  7. Luana Ball says:

    Great article! Thanks to the folks at Lavender Magazine for providing the GPA-MN community the opportunity to share the good word of the retired racing greyhound! I adopted my first retired racer in 1996 and have been owned by several and fostered (I lost count!)many over the years and remain thoroughly enchanted by them! They have the sweetest personalities and are really very ‘cat-like’. They aren’t going to fetch a ball for you but they will be content just being near their people or snuggling close. GPA-MN hosts many Meet and Greet Events and also participates in several other events throughout the metro and surrounding area where you can meet some greyhounds and learn first hand from their owners how wonderful they truly are!

  8. Kate says:

    Wonderful article! Greyhounds make the best companions and GPA-MN is the best adoption group I’ve met. The continued support you can receive after adoption is unsurpassed. This is my first experience with Lavender. I will be reading from now on.

  9. Marlene Gillihan says:

    I live in a condo and have 1 elderly cat. At this time I am just thinking about a dog. What is the charge and tell me more about these lovely dogs. My brother has an Italian greyhound and he is the most loving dog you could ever imagine. Marlene

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