Here are 10 facts & myths about the breed. Please consider adopting a greyhound:
–In Sierra Vista:
–Nationwide & Worldwide
How could I not want to read a book that has a smiling black greyhound on the cover even though I detest when people call female dogs “bitches?”
The book, DASH: Bitch of the Year, was a review copy supplied by the Independent Publishers Group. The author Andrew Dilger wrote a first-person tale about one year in his life after adopting a retired racing greyhound in the United Kingdom.
I have to say I was lukewarm in the beginning because there was too much information about greyhound lineage which would be interesting to me if it was not about greyhound racing. The book is also written in first person and I find that style of writing tiring for chapters on end. In the case of Mr. Dilger, he was quite animated which is more British in nature and also used some slang which was unfamiliar to me. I almost needed a glossary. One particular word, “flabbercocked” stuck in my mind. According to the Urban Dictionary, it means: A person who is really interesting but a bit of a dick!
I guess that could be said about the author by the author himself because he kept trying to do what I felt was impossible. Greyhound adopters are repeatedly told never to let a greyhound off leash unless in an enclosed area. Why? Because a car backfiring, a twig snapping, a loud noise and the dog takes off running. On the third stride, a greyhound can run as fast as 42 mph or so the propaganda says. Not once, not twice, but three times did the author try letting the dog off leash in wide open spaces and none with good results.
I don’t mean to male bash here but once I was at the gym on the elliptical machine. I was wearing a greyhound rescue t-shirt and some guy got on next me and started talking about his greyhound. I listened politely and then he conspires to tell me how he walks to his mailbox with his greyhound off leash. Another time I went looking for a lost greyhound whose owner said he always let her and his Labs off leash in the Tanque Verde wash. One day the Labs came back; the greyhound did not. She spent the night at PACC with cactus stuck all over her.
Greyhounds have sad stories. The first part of their lives suck as they are racing machines whether it’s in the UK or the US or beyond. I would venture to guess that more than half of the people who adopt greyhounds do so out of pity. The author did and I did as did most of my Tucson greyhound adopter friends. At least we have something in common. In the author’s case, the breeder brought the hound over and they had tea and a chat about Dash. In my case I rescued a greyhound from an adoption group.
The author and his future wife gradually learned about Dash but Dilger was the primary caretaker because he worked from home. The author soon learned after consulting several websites that greyhounds didn’t necessarily want to please, say like Labs or Goldens and that greyhounds are a tad more independent — like cats.
As the chapters progress, the author begins to learn more about the breed and to realize there is no one cookie cutter solution to raising a dog. More importantly, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Phew. While Dilger and Dash bond, he’s also planning a wedding which I thought was hilarious because how many brides would let their grooms plan the wedding? And while planning the wedding, he had the (bright) idea for Dash to be the ring bearer.
In the end, I do give him credit because he finally hones up to his mistakes. Also in the beginning of the book, he almost applauds greyhound racing even though Dash was a pity adoption. On the last page, he says, “From an animal welfare perspective, the world of greyhound racing is a deeply troubling one. The facts and figures on http://greyhounds.uk.org are a necessary sober reminder that a greyhound’s life can be as short as the odds are long.”
If you are the least bit curious as to acclimating your life with an endearing ex racing greyhound and how to plan a wedding UK style, then this book is for you. Dilger dedicates the book to Sarah (his wife) and Dash…in that order. The book is available on Amazon.
April is Adopt-a-Greyhound month. To me, every month is adopt a greyhound month. But since it’s April, I’ll be posting a lot about greyhounds.
I hate public speaking but when Penelope Starr of Odyssey Storytelling asked me to be a storyteller for the topic Interspecies Communication, I thought — I can do that. It was January 6, 2005 and I had laryngitis but managed to get on the stage at the old and short-lived Wilde Theatre downtown which is now Steak in the Neighborhood.
Here’s the story I told:
It was the 4rd quarter of 1998 and through a series of events, my life sucked and I became very depressed. I went to visit a friend in the Bay Area and while sitting in the Oakland airport I noticed a billboard for greyhound rescue. Since I was no longer working 60 hours a week, I had started to think about getting a dog. How serendipitous! The only greyhounds I had ever seen were painted on the side of a bus. The billboard featured a toothy greyhound sitting on a loveseat wearing a stocking cap.
The billboard also said that 30,000 greyhounds were killed every year simply because they didn’t run fast enough. I wrote down the URL and later surfed the site. I learned that greyhounds didn’t shed (which is somewhat of a myth but they don’t shed like Golden Retrievers). I learned that greyhounds were basically quiet, never yappy, and rarely barked. They also had spurts of energy but as retired athletes mostly just raced to the couch and were your every day couch potatoes. That was a lifestyle that I completely was familiar with. I filled out an application.
A few days later someone called me and said that they had to come to my house and check out my suitability and speak to all members of the household. I had a roommate named Jim who was a workaholic so we had to work around his schedule. Lynda who was my adoption rep came with her dog Cody, a big blue 80 pound male. He, Cody (not my roommate) promptly vomited on my patio; she said he was car sick. She said greyhounds spend 22 hours a day in cages and don’t get one to one contact like most dogs. Trainers and handlers handle many at once and don’t encourage affection. Most are love sponges simply because they never had any loving. Lynda made a few recommendations like putting a spring on the gate and masking tape of the sliding glass door. She said I had to be approved by an adoption committee.
A week later I was approved. The first dog they sent me to look at was in Garden Grove in Orange County. I lived in Redondo Beach. If you know anything about the So Cal terrain; you know that it’s at least four major interchanges away. After several wrong turns, I found my way. Many greyhounds live in foster homes so they can be acclimated thusly making the adoption process more foolproof. During fostering they are housebroken, learn to walk on tile and stairs, interact with family members, and learn basic commands. The hound I was looking at was black and white (like the markings of a cow) and weighed 75 pounds. He wouldn’t come to me but he walked well on leash. His name was Painter.
The next day the adoption committee called me to go look at another dog in Hacienda Heights; again Orange County and multiple freeway interchanges. Unlike some greyhound owners who may chose their first dog based on sex or coloring, I based mine on drive time. I said, “Oh, I’ll take that black and white dog.” (not knowing at the time that his coloring described as “parti” is uncommon and soon he was going to be the life of my party.)
A week later it was back down to Garden Grove with Lynda to pick up Painter who didn’t want to leave his foster home. As we drove back, my heart beat fast – I was really quite nervous (probably more nervous than I am now). I wondered about the responsibility involved and my commitment to it. Lynda dropped us off and there we were – two timid souls – ready to start our great adventure.
Since greyhounds are used to being with other greyhounds they may suffer separation anxiety. During the first 48 hours of adopting a greyhound the adopter is recommended to spend a solid 24 hours with the dog and then gradually leave them. I put Painter in my bedroom where he had a dog bed and then put up a baby gate. Initially I would pretend to leave and go to the front door and say bye bye and slam the door but not leave. I could hear him crying. I’d wait 5 heartbreaking minutes then pretended to come back and go get him and he’d be happy to see me. Then I would leave for 10, 15, 30 minutes. The first time I was gone for an hour, he greeted me at the door pogo-ing with enthusiasm. The baby gate was retired to the garage in perpetuity. Soon he would have run of household.
A year later the rescue group asked me to foster. I can do that — I thought — but I failed fostering and then there were two. Lily, a spunky 2-year old brindle bombshell bounced into our lives. Just like people, their personalities are so different. While Painter was 99.9 percent a good boy, Lily and I have gone to obedience school three times. I think we are too much alike because we continually jockey for the role of alpha bitch. I’m the boss applesauce.
After I got Painter I joined a greyhound listserv on the Internet to educate myself further. At that time there were 300 of us on the list, today there are over 3,000 worldwide. The Internet has fortunately widened the net of greyhound adopters but depending on the source – 15-30,000 greyhounds are still killed in this country. 15 states still allow greyhound racing – AZ has 3 tracks but Florida has 16. However I have to mention that the only track in Oregon closed on Dec. 31. During its 75 year US history, the so-called “sport” of greyhound racing has claimed the lives of at least one million greyhounds. They are over bred, run 365 days a year – in the snow – or in triple digit heat and when they don’t run fast enough they’re sold for laboratory testing, disposed of, or if they’re lucky — find loving homes.
Every day I try to be the person my greyhounds think I am. They are my inspiration, my passion, and my welcoming committee. Painter is now 10 1 /2 and Lily is 7.
Sometimes I hear myself talking to my hounds and wonder how a fairly articulate woman can reduce herself to “It’s kissy time! Mommy wants kissy. Give mommy kissy.” One day I overheard my brother talking to his dog like that and realized it was simply genetic.
But back to the love of my then-life.. After about a week, he abandoned his dog bed for my bed. We had a nightly ritual where I would sing and tell him just how much I loved him. The operative word here was YOU. I’ll spare you the singing but it went something like YOU are the sunshine of my life. YOU got a smile so bright, YOU should’ve been a candle. YOU light up my life. This went on for weeks and months until one night as I started to burst into song, he leaned his needle nosed face into mine, put his paw on me, and said, YEW.
On that note – - Thank YEW.
That was in 2005. Today it’s 2011. Currently, only 7 states have greyhound racing. Arizona has one track with live dog racing in South Tucson. As long as greyhound racing exists, it will be a dying industry.
Karyn Zoldan has another greyhound in her life now named Jett.
Penelope Starr blogs about telling stories for the Tucson Citizen.