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When we think of a greyhound, our thoughts usually turn to images of tightly muscled dogs pursuing a toy rabbit around a track at high speed whilst being urged onwards by crowds of yelling spectators.
They are lean, mean racing machines capable of speeds of anything up to 40 miles per hour.
However there is much more to them than high speeds and muscles.
Every year 10,00 greyhounds are retired at the age of four. Out of that 10,000 only 1,800 are re homed. Some owners do take responsibility for the dog's retirement by either keeping it as a pet or making sure that it is re-homed with suitable new owners. Sadly, for every owner who does take that responsibility, there is another who simply dumps the greyhound on the streets if the dog is lucky. Sometimes newly retired dogs will be inhumanely destroyed.
Organisations such as The Greyhound Trust and Rescued Racers are there as a third option to being dumped or destroyed. They home, feed, exercise and love their long legged charges until a responsible, suitable and above all loving home can be found. They are dedicated to raising awareness of the greyhound's plight and many people have dedicated their lives to finding those loving homes. I speak from experience as I adopted Bonnie, my beautiful brindle greyhound, almost two months ago.
Contrary to popular belief they don't require 15 mile hikes every day and nor do they need a special diet. Before Bonnie moved in, I would've found it hard to believe that greyhounds are natural born couch potatoes. They only need two 20-minute walks a day. This is due to the fact that they have been trained to run short distances at a very high speed so they run out of steam very quickly. They aren't known for their stamina or endurance.
Having said all that, as long as they are with their owner they are quite content to plod along for as long as required.
A greyhound is not the dog to go for if you're looking for a guard dog. They're quite timid. The owner is likely to end up protecting the greyhound rather than the other way around! They crave human attention and are patient with children. I have a three- year old who can be a little naughty at times. Instead of growling, Bonnie will just walk away. Tolerance and patience are common in the breed. Greyhounds are better with children than most breeds.
The myth about a hound having very specific dietary needs is just that, a myth. They eat the same amount and type of food as other dogs of their size. They dont need any special veterinary care although, as with any other breed of dog, pet insurance is a good idea.
A greyhound has a very low percentage of body fat in proportion to its size. It is literally all muscle. There is approximately only 16% of fat in a greyhound's body weight in comparison to 33% of fat in the body weight of a comparably sized dog of another breed.
A greyhound in racing condition is likely to lose muscle and put on a little extra weight when retired. Few dogs remain at racing weight, often gaining 5lbs in their retirement.
Once retired, a greyhound still has a lot to offer, not just in terms of loving companionship to it's new owners. They make the ideal Therapet or Pets as Therapy (P.A.T) dogs. Pets as Therapy currently has eight greyhounds registered while the Therapet scheme has five. The dogs have to be assessed as being suitable volunteers. The dog should be friendly, will come when called by name and will show enjoyment when being stroked or groomed.
When it's established that the dog has the right temperament, it will then be registered. The schemes involve the owner taking the dogs to visit nursing homes, children's hospitals etc. to visit the patients who love animals but don't have access to them.
So what do you do if you've got a home to offer a hound? Naturally, the first step is to do a little research. If you have access to the Internet, you can log on to www.dogsworldwide.com or www.kentgreyhounds.com, or www.greyhoundrescue.co.uk. These are just three sites that supply information on every aspect of owning a greyhound although there are many others too numerous to list.
If you're anything like me, you'll prefer to make a phone call. I phoned The Retired Greyhound Trust (0870 4440673) with my twenty questions. I was told everything I needed to know and a few things I hadn't even thought to ask about.
The usual next step would be to visit the kennels and see all the dogs waiting to be re-homed. In my case, Bonnie had already been suggested to me as being 'the' dog for us. I had found her photo on the Kent Greyhound's web-site and that one look told me all I needed to know about her. She was 'the' one for us. I got lucky. Cathie, the lady who had answered my questions and listen to me blather on over the phone was available to visit my home the next evening. As with all adoptions, the house has to be checked by someone from the chosen organisation to make sure that gardens are secure, fences are high enough and the house itself is large enough for the greyhound to have a little swinging room. Also she expanded on all the information I had already been given and in short, she left no stone unturned. At the end of her visit, the good news was that my family and I had passed inspection! We made arrangements to collect Bonnie early the next day.
That was five short weeks ago. Bonnie settled in after the first five minutes and now it seems as though she has always lived here. I'm glad that I didn't listen to everything that other people had told me. If I had, I would've missed out on one very loving, affectionate, patient, undemanding friend.
Dogs Worldwide.com - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Paula Harker copyright 2001
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