"They're basically a bunch of lovable couch potatoes," said Denise Davis about her five greyhounds, who sported colorful bandanas around their long, sinewy necks.
"People can train the dogs any way they want, but I figure they had such a strict life before at the race track, they deserve a little spoiling. We even let them sleep in our beds," said Davis.
Sleeping in the Davis' beds is a far cry from the permanent sleepthat awaits hundreds of greyhounds put to death each year when theirracing careers end. Some are too old, some have minor injuries, and some are simply slow-pokes.
After adopting her first greyhound, Stacey, four years ago, the 29-year-old Elkridge homemaker became hooked on the breed and joined a friend who ran the Greyhound Rescue service.
On one occasion, the women rescued several dogs from a Floridatrack that had closed and was transporting 150 greyhounds by truck up and down the East Coast.
Davis and her husband, John, 35, took over the business in April when the friend moved out of state.
Until that point, Davis had tagged along on the trips to the Tri-State race track in Charleston, W.Va., and had often fostered some of the dogs at her home until owners were found.
The couple has found homes for about a dozen dogs.
The majority of Davis' customers learned of her efforts through previous buyers. Fliers also are posted in a few veterinarians' offices.
Davis interviews prospective owners to make sure they understand the responsibilities of caring for a dog before she agrees to part with it.
Once each month, Davis and her husband make the 16-hour round trip in their truck to West Virginia, where they pick up about six dogs.
Since adopting Stacey, she has added four more to her own menagerie: Sabella, Beast, Thor and Mr. Ed.
She jokingly calls her sixth dog, Igor, a Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd mix, the "family mascot."
"They're big dogs, but theyare so friendly and have excellent dispositions. They hardly ever bark and they come to you already house-trained," said Davis.
"They love running . . . but they won't terrorize the neighborhood."
Davis says that her 3/4-acre yard is huge compared with the environmentthe greyhounds grew up in.
"They lived in cramped cages and wouldonly be let outside a couple times a day to race, exercise or go to the bathroom," she said.
Once in her care, Davis arranges for any necessary shots. She sells the dogs for between $60 and $100 each.
If a dog and its new owner turn out to be incompatible, Davis says, she will take the dog back.
"Just like humans, dogs have differentpersonalities. And sometimes things don't click," she said.
But, she adds, the dogs are very good with children.
She should know. In addition to her 11-year-old daughter, Roxanne, and 9-year-old son, John III, the dogs get companionship from six other children at Davis' home-based day care center.
"The children love the dogs. They'renot afraid of them at all," Davis said.
"If anything, the dogs try to stay out of the kids' way so not to be bothered. They're very mellow creatures."
Dogs who have been toppled by toddlers at the Davis day care center simply "get out of the way" when they see babies coming now. With others, they have a cozier relationship.
"The dogsare fun to lay next to and watch TV with," said Roxanne, who just finished fifth grade at Deep Run Elementary.
"It's the best feeling,watching a new owner come and pick up their dog," Davis said.
"The dogs have never gotten the love and attention they deserve because it's hard for the trainers to single any one out. To the trainers, they're really just part of the business.
"No matter how wild thingsbecome, I never regret having adopted all these beautiful dogs," Davis said.
"Because it's horrible to think about the alternative."