Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why We Chose Greyhounds

We always knew that we would eventually get a dog.  We really were only waiting until we owned our own home.  We never really thought about breed all that much either: it was just assumed that we would get a dog, and that we would love him or her no matter what breed, or mix we wound up with.

The seed of an idea was planted back in 1997.  Jeff and I had been conducting a long-distance relationship (He, in Boston, Massachusetts, and I, in Northwestern Missouri.)  We had decided to end this long-distance nonsense, and I made preparations to move out to Boston to be with him.  I'd gotten rid of most of my worldly goods, as I didn't have much anyway, and much of what I had just duplicated something that was already up in the apartment in Boston.  We were out at my aunt's house for a family send-off, and Jeff and I showed up a little early.  I remember that we opened the front door to enter the house, and a huge river of whippets streamed down the hall towards us, leaping over one another, cavorting, rejoicing that new people had come.  (My aunt bred whippets.)  Behind the wild pack of whippets, walked two greyhounds, quiet, self-assured, patiently waiting for us to give them some attention.

We both kept getting drawn to those two greyhounds, as much fun as playing with the lively whippets was.  My aunt explained that they were rescues, and that was the first that I had ever heard of rescuing greyhounds from the racetrack.  That information got filed.  Since we were in no position to even consider getting a dog at the time, neither of us even stopped to think about whether we would do a greyhound rescue ourselves.

Fast-forward through our years in Boston, our wedding, a move to Pittsburgh, several years of apartment living, to finally getting our own home.  Many of you have read the story of how we got our cats, so you know that we adopted all three of them within a week of moving in.  A dog, we put on hold.  Jeff was the first one to mention that he wouldn't mind having a greyhound, when the time came, and I agreed that it would be awesome.  We both could just picture a greyhound walking down our hallway.  I started to do a little research, and unfortunately was immediately dissuaded by someone saying that greyhounds were not capable of peaceful coexistence with cats.  I didn't read any more about them.  Disheartened, I shared the information with Jeff, and we regretfully decided that having a greyhound was just not for us. Even though this might have been the time to start researching other breeds, I just didn't have the heart for it.  I figured that I'd get around to it eventually.

I was back in Kansas City, visiting family one Easter, and my aunt dropped in to visit at my parents' house.  She brought one of her greyhounds with her.  As I was petting him and paying him  much attention, I mentioned my concerns about greyhounds and cats to her.  She quickly reassured me that not all greyhounds were incapable of living with cats - that some didn't have much natural prey drive, and could be taught to leave them alone.  A spark of hope!

I went home, and Jeff and I started researching in earnest.  Cat safe greyhounds did exist!  We found three different rescue groups in the general Pittsburgh area, and decided that we would give Steel City Greyhounds a try.  We went to a Petco Meet & Greet right before Christmas two years ago, and interrogated the two volunteers there for a solid hour, while petting and fussing over their two greyhound "ambassadogs" the entire time.  We were convinced.

We went back home, and right after the New Year holidays, I submitted our application to adopt a greyhound.  They called me the very next day for a phone interview, and must have liked what they heard, because we were invited to drop in that weekend to meet a big red fawn male that they had, named Willie.

And from there, we were gonners.  They led a great big, skinny dog out to meet us.  He looked at me with his enormous brown deer eyes and wagged his tail at me uncertainly, and in that one moment frozen forever in my memory, stole my heart.  It didn't hurt that we brought him home for a "test run" and he didn't even seem to realize that our cats existed.  He sniffed EVERYTHING in the house, except for the cats.  They'd hiss and follow him around, and he just never even looked at them.

The typical adopter seems to bring the dog back and then goes home to think about it for a couple of days, or to at least prepare.  We couldn't do that...  we took him back, but only to sign the adoption paperwork and to hand over the adoption fee.  We didn't have bowls, bedding, a crate, anything...  so took him on his very first outing to Petco that very day and outfitted him with the basics.

And as you all know, Willie became Argos.

Argos, still at track weight, about a month after we adopted him.
Meeting a greyhound "in the flesh" is definitely what won us over.  And that is why I volunteer to help out with Meet & Greets and similar activities whenever possible, and why I am patient to stop and answer questions when we're out walking...  I don't think that adopting a greyhound is something that a lot of people think about doing UNLESS they've met one, or know someone who has one.

Could we have been happy with another breed of dog?  A happy, grinning pit bull?  A peppy, energetic Jack Russell?  A protective and gorgeous German Shephard?  A big mixed breed of indeterminate lineage?  Absolutely.  We're animal-lovers, and would have loved whichever breed that we adopted.  But I'm so glad that we got to know greyhounds.  I love them.  And not just ours - the breed is one that simply delights me.  Their elegance.  Their reserve (though it should be said that greyhounds, like everyone else, are individuals.  Some are more reserved than others!)  Their beauty.  And yes, I'll admit it, their strong desire to sleep on the couch all day.  The fact that yes, they do need exercise, but not hours and hours of it.  The fact that they are largely quiet.

I love my dogs.  I cannot imagine a time that we will not decide to have a greyhound.  I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, but adopting greyhounds is NOT one of them.


  1. I love it! I will definitely own a Greyhound one day. When I worked at the shelter I seriously considered a beautiful female, but she took Parker's rabbit-like appearance a little too seriously. Still, I recommend them to many people looking to get a mellow house dog!

  2. What a fantastic story! So glad everything worked out with Argo and the cats, that is really awesome, especially since you had heard otherwise. Isn't it interesting how we are drawn to a particular breed or another whether we realize it or not and that somehow, someway, they find us? Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. We know that Argo and Maera are happy you never gave up in your heart. :)

  3. Here Here! Great tale. Of course we have two ourselves so you are preaching to the choir :). But I totally agree. When you meet a hound you fall in love.

  4. Great post - and one I could have written myself! We waited to get a dog until we had a house with a decent garden (and until our younger, dog phobic son was over his fears) and we went to an animal shelter and we saw a run FULL of greyhounds. And it wasn't until then that I remembered that when I'd worked at the vets we all loved the two or three ex-racers who came in because they were so gentle and well-behaved.

    And I too do Meet & Greets with Sid for much the same reasons. People need to actually meet these dogs and talk with people who own and live with them.

    Long live the greyhound!

  5. The more I go to lure coursing and see all of the hounds, the more I think my next dog will be a greyhound. But, my requirements are for not just a pet, but a sporting dog, so while I am sure a flyball greyhound may be out there for me to find, I would probably have a good bit of a wait in for me.

  6. What a lovely story (all the more lovely because it is true!). How cool that some can get along with cats (we never knew). All the greyhounds I've met have been so gentle and calm. What amazing and beautiful dogs.

  7. Very interesting post. Thank you for the info

  8. Saw some hounds at our local Pet-thingy(smart or co) and fell hard. Do you not think they might be beings from another world? Ghostly gorgeously soulful. Like from Atlantis or something. Adore! And so thrilling that all the misinformation did was delay you on your quest of the heart | soul. Melanie, I am so happy every time I read what you write -- happy like this, or otherwise sad or mad. Don't care. Bring it on. Whatever you write, I want to read.

  9. Such a great story!! When I lived in Cambridge, I used to love seeing the Wonderdogs at all the fairs and festivals over the summer. So cool and laid back. (When we got Lucy, the vet wasn't sure if she was pit/greyhound or pit/whippet, and it only took a couple of days and some brief research on their differences in temperament to realize that yep, she was definitely the crazy, neurotic whippet. Your description of the whippet greeting is spot-on - mix that with pibble greeting and... well... never has there ever been a dog happier to see you! ;)

  10. Such a lovely story of how your dogs came to be with you. I've always loved greyhounds and even volunteered for a greyhound rescue for awhile, but somehow haven't adopted one yet myself.

  11. Hi Y'all,

    What a beauty Argos is laying there. They are the most beautiful animal in the world when they run.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  12. Greyhounds are such lovely calm dogs. If I can find a cat safe one I may be interested in one some day. I agree Id only bring hte dog back to sign the paper work, once in my home in my home forever

  13. That is so wonderful how you discovered Greyhounds, and then rediscovered that they were indeed the perfect fit for your family. I've met many wonderful greys in training classes. Some are doing agility, rally, and many are doing therapy work...they seem perfect for the job.

  14. The process you described is what is so hard to explain to someone who has never been around greys. I adopted my first about 20 years ago. I have never had more than one at a time, but can't imagine being without one in my life...and some day...when we have more room, we'll have more than one ruling the roost at a time! I believe that we act as ambassadors (and ambassadogs! -must borrow that-) wherever we go.