Agency encourages greyhound adoption

Dan McDonald

Dan McDonald

By Anna Heinemann

In her first few years of life, Madison slept in a crate for about 20 hours a day and was let out only three to four times a day for bathroom breaks. Now that graduate student Erin Snook has adopted her, though Madison may have had troubles adjusting to steps and tiled floors, she seems to have found a loving home.

Madison may be a dog, but for the members of the Peoria Greyhound Adoption Inc. agency that placed her in Snook’s care, finding families for retired race dogs is as important and difficult as finding a suitable home for a child.

Agency volunteers like Snook came to the weekly Farmer’s Market at Lincoln Square Mall Saturday to share their stories of adopting greyhounds and to encourage residents to consider adoption, said Kathy Laurent, area coordinator for the agency and a greyhound foster parent.

Laurent brought her greyhound, 5-year-old Brycie, along to meet people at the market.

“I had seen a dog race, then went after and met the greyhounds – I just fell in love,” Laurent said.

After her dog passed away, Laurent said she adopted her first greyhound and offered her services as a foster parent for the agency. In the last three years, Laurent has housed at least 30 dogs, which have stayed at her home anywhere from one day to seven months.

Laurent said there is a greater need for adopting greyhounds than most other breeds of dogs because they begin racing as early as 18 months old and, though they live to be age 12, are too old to race by their sixth birthday. She said up to 20,000 greyhounds are therefore seen as useless for racing purposes and are euthanized each year at racetracks.

“If a dog isn’t a win or can’t find an adoption agency to place them, then the Greyhound Protection League sends them to us,” she said.

Laurent also said a lot of the dogs that are placed in the agency are puppies whose fathers are unknown, meaning they can’t be registered because their bloodlines are unknown.

Chris Russell, another Peoria Greyhound Adoption Inc. foster parent, said her basset hound passed away two years ago last month. And exactly two years ago last month, she got her greyhound, Clay. She now fosters greyhounds looking for homes and has adopted a second greyhound of her own.

“They’re very sweet, gentle dogs – a very sweet disposition,” Russell said. “And certainly there’re a lot of greyhounds who need homes, so you’re surely doing a good thing in adopting them.”

Laurent said that because handlers on the tracks early in their lives manage greyhounds so closely, they tend to crave human attention. Another benefit of greyhounds is that they don’t have an undercoat, so they shed half as much, she said.

Because greyhounds can move as fast as 45 mph after just a few strides, Laurent said part of the adoption agreement is that owners will keep their greyhounds on leashes at all times when out of their homes.

Even so, Snook said Madison managed to get away from her twice last year while on a walk.

“But she just ran a few blocks and turned around, like ‘Now what?'” she said.

Snook said that, from her experience, greyhounds make great pets – even for people who live in small spaces.

“For the first six weeks I had her she stayed in my apartment,” she said. “She was wonderful with it – not too rambunctious.”

Russell said the agency holds events once a month during good weather to teach local residents about the need for greyhound adoption.

“Certainly we get a lot of people who stop to meet the dogs,” Russell said. “And at least they know that’s available.”

Laurent said anyone interested in adopting greyhounds should check out the agency’s Web site, www.greyhound-adoption.org. But she did warn that, as with any rescue group, some people don’t think before they adopt.

“So ask yourself, ‘Do I have the time?'” she said. “I’ve had some people come in and want to return the dog, and, well, that’s hard on the dog.”