They all had that glow! We’re talking here about the people who have adopted and are sharing their lives with retired racing greyhounds.
As for the dogs, all looked content, placid, snug in their coats on this cold Sunday morning, quietly standing close to their families. Not one barked the entire time we were there, unlike the other dogs at the event.
We met half a dozen or so at a gathering last month in a Côte Saint Luc arena, at a fund-raising get-together to support autism.
It was a perfect occasion to get to know the people who have adopted greyhounds that had retired from the racing life or were let go because they never fulfilled the expectations for racing dogs.
While they are used on the race course, the dogs are well cared for and not mistreated in any way, it was explained to me. But when they get too old to perform or do not respond to expected behavior as racing animals, they are “retired” and made available for adoption.
Donna Deskin of Côte Saint-Luc adopted Ricky about three years ago, when he was two. It was her tenth adoption of a greyhound.
How did it she get involved?
“When I was a girl my parents wouldn’t think of having a dog,” Deskin said, with a hearty laugh, but once on her own, she adopted a puppy born in a friend’s house and “fell in love.”
When he died, she wanted a dog that looked totally different and after a friend introduced her to his two greyhounds, she went to an adoption event in Pointe Claire and “the rest is history.”
She explained what draws people to these racing veterans.
“They’re quiet. They’re companions. They won’t chase balls. They won’t chase Frisbees. They’re there to stand beside you, sit beside you on the couch. They love to run, but they don’t need to run.”
“They’re like the cat of the dog world – they curl up with you.”
Deskin has a second greyhound at home, an 11-year-old who was too frail to come to the arena event on this cold Sunday. She said she walks them twice a day and takes them outside for a pee-break at day’s end.
When she lets them off the leash in a fenced-in dog park, the dogs will sprint at 72 kilometers an hour. That usually does not last for long.
Ricky was a bit young to “retire” but on the track did not seem that interested in the protocol, which is chasing the “bunny” that was hanging in front of him.
“He would rather have a chat with the dog racing next to him,” Deskin explained, and so after three such incidents, he was deemed unsuitable as a racing hound. In contrast, one of her previous greyhounds was retired after an active career of more than 200 races.
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Vanessa Prinsen, a software engineer who lives in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, was there with eight-year-old Phineas, her first dog since being on her own. She wanted an “apartment dog” that was big, and was told that greyhounds are perfect because “they sleep a lot, they’re quiet, they’re not going to bark and disturb your neighbours, and they don’t need too much exercise. They are not dogs who will be jumping all over you, or chewing things.”
“I also liked the idea of having a dog that used to be an athlete.”
She feeds her dog raw meat – hamburger patties from the pet store – having switched from kibble. “It makes his coat shinier and improved his health a lot.”
Pierre Tousignant has had 12-year-old Zorro, for almost a year. He has been fostering greyhounds for about 15 years, and says this is about his 35th. He boarded the dogs until a suitable home could be found.
Prospective adoptees fill out an application form and contact the all-volunteer support network here for an interview and home visit. If approved, they accompany the applicant to the kennel in Vermont where dogs are presented that are a good match for the prospective adopter.
As one volunteer explained, the home visit is necessary because “we have to make sure the patio doors are secure, that people understand the ins and outs, the steps in adopting a greyhound.”
Adoption costs, according to those who completed the process recently, is $450 US. Before placement, all dogs get a veterinary exam, are spayed or neutered, heartworm test, rabies vaccination, distemper/parvo vaccination, routine worming and flea dip, grooming, nail clipping, and ear cleaning. Adoptees get a health certificate, ID tag, and a new collar with a leash.
A muzzle is provided for safety as they learn to live in a home. Registration papers are included when available.
Zander Fajertag lives at her parents’ home in Saint-Laurent borough with Brazil, and she shares the dog chores with her dad while her mom “gets the fun part of staying home and hanging out.”
“It’s our first family dog. We wanted a bigger dog that fit well in a condo. They are giant couch potatoes: they sleep all day. They don’t take a lot of space.”
“When I went to the foster home, basically the dog chooses you, you don’t choose the dog. When we went to Pierre’s home in Laval, Brazil was all over me. We fell in love. There were three other dogs, and I instantly connected. He was already house-broken.”
Although Brazil raced in Alabama, she adjusted well to the winter when she was adopted close to her second birthday. “She loves the snow, jumps in it, runs in it, sometimes licks the ice.”
“She’s known as the greyhound of the neighbourhood. Everybody knows her. She has a lot of dog friends, human friends, a lot of people love her.” Hélène Morency, who works in a veterinary clinic, adopted her greyhound three years ago and named her dog after the Egyptian god Anubis.
“They are quiet, they are goofy, they are amazing – the best companion you can have.”
“He waits for me to come home, on the couch, watching TV.”
Annick Legault, of Saint Zotique, near Valleyfield, brought three-year-old Barbados, adopted three months ago.”
“They are rare, majestic looking, elegant. I went to get a greyhound with my daughter, Marie-Ange, and the dog was the one who chose her!” Legault enthused.
“At the beginning Barbados needed a bit of stair training and had to get used to some of the sounds when we went for a walk.”