By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The loss of a family dog near Christmas two years ago set a Morinville woman on the path to discovering the joys of owning retired racing greyhounds and spreading that joy to other dog owners. Dorothy Coughlin, adoption representative for Morinville and St. Albert areas with Chinook Winds Greyhound Rescue, said shortly after losing her dog she was introduced to the breed at a cousin’s home. “At Christmas we were at my cousin’s [home] and her daughter had a retired racing greyhound,” Coughlin said. “I sat and snuggled with the dog the whole time we were there. We didn’t know what kind of dog we wanted. We wanted another dog. We liked big dogs, but we had border collies and we didn’t want another quite that active.”
After her experience with her relative’s greyhound, she took to thinking about the breed as a possibility and began investigating the Calgary- and Gibbons-based Chinook Winds Greyhound Rescue program.
“I thought this would be a really nice dog to have, and I haven’t regretted a minute of it,” Coughlin said. Adding she now has two greyhounds. “They’re calm. They’re loving. They’re very well behaved. You can take them anywhere and they’re just relaxed.”
Coughlin explained there is some misconception in the public that greyhounds need a lot of exercise. The greyhound owner said her dogs are perfectly happy with a half hour walk each day. “They love to get out and have a run,” she said. “They’ve got to be in a fenced-in area. They love to get out and have a run, but it’s a short burst and then they are done. They don’t require a lot of exercise, despite the fact they are racing dogs.”
Adoption program achieving success
Chinook Winds Greyhound Rescue Vice President Debbie Ward said the organization started out about eight years ago and is dedicated to finding homes for retired greyhounds. Ward said the program started with the goal of finding homes for eight to 12 racing greyhounds in Alberta. “It kind of just grew from there, and in the eight years we’ve placed about 1,150 dogs.”
Ward’s husband John has been helping to get the word out about the program through social media and by having greyhounds and their owners in a number of parades in and around Edmonton, including last summer’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival parade in Morinville. However, the program alsospreads awareness through a series of meet and greets where greyhound owners meet with those interested in seeing the dogs up close. It is something the Wards and the organization have expanded on.
“We realized there was only one meet and greet in the Edmonton area each month where you could actually meet a retired racer and find out they truly are the best kept secret in the canine world,” Mrs. Ward said. “John and I got busy and organized more events so that we could get the word out.”
Ward said the program has succeeded in placing dogs right across Canada, many of the animals coming from the United States where greyhound racing still exists. Although the sport is all but gone in Canada it appears to be on the decline in the United States as well. While the number of retired racers is declining, interest in the breed is on the rise, in part thanks to the organization’s promotion of greyhounds as family companions.
“They make absolutely amazing pets,” Ward said, noting the transition from racing dog to home life is much easier than people would expect because of the unique way in which greyhounds are raised. “A greyhound puppy stays with its litter mates and its mother for one full year. Nowhere else in the dog world do you see that. They learn very good pack manners from that.” Ward explained after the one-year period the dogs move to a larger pack as they enter the race world where they learn more of the skills that make them a gentle breed. “They develop a great deal of respect for hearing the human voice say no. That’s all it takes to discipline a greyhound.”
That disciplined and routine life in the racing world translates well to home life as pets and companions because the greyhound is content to adjust to the new routines in the home. “They’ve always known routine and they are happy when they know what is expected of them,” Ward said.
Adoption process helps owner and dog
Ward explained Chinook Winds’ adoption program works with prospective greyhound owners once they have put in an adoption application on the organization’s website. The application is followed by a home visit from one of the group’s adoption representatives like Coughlin. “It takes about an hour-and-a-half,” Ward explained, adding they then begin to help find them a dog that is suitable for their particular environment. “We’re looking for a good match of personalities, energy levels, other pets in the home – whether they have small kids or older kids. We look for a number of things.”
For more information on Chinook Winds Greyhound visit chinookwindsgreyhounds.org.