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Life after the racetrack

Retired greyhounds make great pets

July 13, 2013
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer (bbroschart@theintermountain.com) , The Inter-Mountain

Usually when people think about adopting a dog, they picture a small, furry puppy - but there are other options. Many greyhounds are in need of adoption, and two Elkins natives fell in love with and have provided "forever homes" to these dogs.

Alexis Carlson, who now lives in Gainesville, Va., said she found herself working at home and decided it was time to get a dog, but she knew she did not want a puppy.

"I went to a meet and greet and met folks who owned greyhounds," Carlson said. "I fell for the dogs - they are so beautiful and such gentle animals."

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Greyhounds need to sleep or rest on big pillows or cushions, because the breed does not have long fur or fat to cushion their joints.

Carlson said she immediately made an application to adopt a greyhound fromed Virginia Greyhound Adoption, a group near her home.

"Representatives from VAGA came to do a home visit," Carlson said. "This allows them to get to know the potential adoptive family to help match the right home with the right greyhound."

Carlson received her first greyhound, Harper, also known by her racing name U too Hopsing, on Jan. 31, 2009.

"In the greyhound world, this is referred to as their 'Gotch Ya' day," Carlson said. "Harper was not quite 6 years old when I got her. She had raced in at least 37 races with 17 wins before an injury took her off the track.

"After her racing career was over, she became a brood mom and had at least two litters of puppies."

Carlson's happiness with Harper was shortlived, unfortunately.

"In September 2011, Harper was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer," Carlson said. "After an eight-month battle, I had to let Harper go in March 2012."

She said owning a greyhound is like having a toddler.

"They are fun to watch as they learn and discover about the world around them," Carlson said. "While they are racing, they are never around another dog breed or even other animals like frogs. It is great to watch them discover the world."

Adoption of greyhounds who can no longer race or who are no longer winning is growing, she said.

"There are quite a lot of greyhound racing tracks in Orlando, Fla.," Carlson said. "Prior to the 1990s, dogs were taken from 'kill wagons' outside the tracks. The problem is that in Florida, greyhounds are classified as livestock. Some dog owners send their greyhounds out to be adopted and others put them to the 'kill wagons' where they are euthanized."

Carlson said in her area, there are about nine groups that help rescue greyhounds and help them find a home.

"My second greyhound, Sara, aka JC it's a Sara, was one of Harper's puppies from her second litter," she said. "I adopted Sara in March 2010. Sara was 18 months old when she came to me. She only ran in three races. Sara celebrated her fifth birthday in May."

Carlson said a famous saying among greyhound owners is, "greyhounds are like potato chips - you can't have just one."

"My third greyhound, Sydney, aka Sign and Drive, came to us a month after Harper died," she said. "I did not plan to get another greyhound so soon but Sara was grieving the loss of Harper. Sydney ran 60 races and was the 2008 Jacksonville Sprint Classic Champion. Sydney's racing career ended with an injury in 2010 after which she was a brood mom but her pups did not survive. Sydney was 6 years old when she came to live with us."

Carlson said adopted greyhounds have to learn about walking in the grass, dealing with cats and that they can't walk through sliding glass doors.

"Greyhounds are like 70-pound cats," she said jokingly. "They are incredibly lazy and will sleep 18 hours a day if you let them."

Carlson said anyone considering adopting a greyhound should read as much as possible and remember that a greyhound is only like other dogs "because they both have four legs and a tail."

"These dogs are very fast, and they can run 40 miles an hour," she said. "They must be on a leash or watched at all times because if one gets away, you cannot catch up when they travel that fast. They also have tremendous eyesight, being able to see a mile away.

"They are also prey driven, and some do not distinguish between small furry creatures, so if you own a cat or another small dog, make sure they are cat-friendly. Also, greyhounds need to sleep or rest on big soft pillows. They can't rest on hard surfaces because they don't have long fur or fat to cushion their joints. That is why you only see greyhounds standing or lying down."

Carlson said greyhounds come in 30 different colors and are elite athletes.

"These animals are built for speed," Carlson said. "Their necks are bigger than their legs. It is too awkward for them to sit. They are very easy to take care of and they have minimal shedding."

Carlson said greyhounds are not great swimmers because they are all muscle with no body fat. They live 14 to 16 years.

"They are not particularly susceptible to a lot of health issues," Carlson said. "Ohio State University has a greyhound wellness program that offers care for the animals. They are unique animals and veterinarians should be familiar with their breed."

Elkins native Jody Nichols Mohr, who now lives in Salem, reconnected with Carlson after 30 years and came to share her love for greyhounds.

"I had always been very interested in greyhound adoption and had always heard they make great therapy dogs," Mohr said. "Alexis came for a visit more than three years ago and brought her greyhounds. The rest is history."

Mohr, who has been an administrator for a nursing home since 2001, said she frequently takes her greyhounds to work.

"The residents, staff and families love to interact with the dogs," Mohr said. "Approximately a year ago, a satellite group of VAGA began in West Virginia."

Mohr offers meet and greets at Morgantown Petco and the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport. She also conducts home visits for evaluation of potential adopters.

Mohr said she has a passion for helping with greyhound adoptions.

"For me, knowing that the racing career of a greyhound can be very short depending on their ability and potential career-ending injuries, it makes sense to raise awareness of the need for loving, forever homes for these amazingly loving, gentle dogs," Mohr said. "Not every greyhound is racing material and many do not ever compete but still need homes."

Mohr said she encourages people considering greyhound adoptions to learn more about them with books like, "Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies," by Lee Livingood and "Adopting the Racing Greyhound," by Cynthia A. Branigan.

Additional information about greyhound adoption is available at www.virginiagreyhoundadoption.

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