Aging greyhounds too slow for track finding homes with people who care

OLD RACERS LED AWAY FROM DEATH

August 15, 1993|By Adriane B. Miller | Adriane B. Miller,Contributing Writer

In another life, Abby was a racing greyhound, careening around a circular track chasing a robotic rabbit.

She lived in a wire cage and if she were ever stroked and given affection, it was only because she had just run well enough to bring some money to her owner.

But at age 3, Abby was deemed too slow to win at the track. The greyhound's owner carted her off to a facility where she waited, with scores of other so-called retired racers, for the lethal injection that would kill her.

This is the modern dog racing era, where animals are destroyed when they can no longer make their owners a winner at the track.

Enter Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), a nonprofit, all-volunteer group based in Massachusetts that seeks homes for racing greyhounds whose track days are over.

The Maryland chapter of the organization heard about Abby. It then went to work.

The group matched Abby's habits and mannerisms with those that a Forest Hill family said it was looking for in a dog.

Within a few weeks, an animal destined to die soon wound up in the home of the Harford County family, which wanted to adopt a greyhound.

Abby has a new life as a fawned-over, well-loved and pampered pet in the home of Steve and Nancy Albers.

In fact, the Alberses were so happy with Abby's gentle nature that they adopted another greyhound, and another. And another. And yet another.

"Just like potato chips," Mr. Albers said last week. "You can't stop at just one."

Now they have five of the dogs, all former racers, all of which would

have been killed.

The Alberses are among scores of Harford families who have adopted retired greyhounds from GPA's Maryland chapter. Judy Leyse, a Clarksville resident and local GPA representative, said the group hasn't kept close track of the number of dogs it has placed.

But she estimates that more than 1,600 greyhounds have been adopted by families in Maryland and neighboring states.

"We've been placing greyhounds in Maryland for eight years now, averaging about 150 a year," Ms. Leyse said.

"We've placed about 225 up to now this year already. That's wonderful for the greyhounds."

She said the placement figure is far higher this year because more people are hearing about the dog-racing industry's practice of killing the dogs when they no longer race well.

GPA has chapters throughout the country. Maryland's chapter is among the largest and has one of the most active group of volunteers, according to GPA events coordinator Mary Garver of Baldwin.

Mrs. Garver said that the annual GPA Greyhound Reunion held this year attracted about 800 people and 400 greyhounds.

Most of the greyhounds GPA sponsors are clean, good-natured and gentle, and get along well with children and other animals, according to GPA.

Adopting a greyhound isn't always easy, however.

Ms. Leyse said that the organization will consider only "people who will give a greyhound a loving, responsible home."

"It's somebody a lot more sophisticated than the person who wants to tie up the dog in the backyard," she said.

"They [greyhounds] are much happier lying around your house than spending all their time out doors."

Mr. Albers, the Forest Hill resident, said his five full-grown greyhounds are easy to manage.

Each has its favorite place in the house in which to curl up, and all relish attention. He takes them out for walks frequently, all at once.

"I've gotten to where I can handle all five of them on leashes and still smoke a cigarette at the same time," he said.

Sue and Harry Quinn of Bel Air have one greyhound, a big male named Sabot. The Quinns named him after an anti-tank missile -- slim and fast. (Mr. Quinn is a major in the Army stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground.)

"Sabot ran under the name Thunder Mugsy as he raced, but we couldn't quite see calling him that," Ms. Quinn said.

The Quinns had been looking for a dog through the humane society when they saw a GPA booth and a few greyhounds at a 4-H fair in Bel Air two years ago.

"The dogs were so gentle, our son went right up to them, sat among them and started petting them. That decided us," she said.

They filled out an application, and the GPA screened them to find out if they were good candidates to adopt a greyhound.

They were committed to giving their dog a loving home. They agreed that taking in a greyhound would be almost as much of a responsibility as having a child in the house. They also agreed to have their dog spayed or neutered within 60 days.

When GPA found a male greyhound that fit the age and size that the Quinns wanted, they drove him from his New England kennel a veterinary clinic in Lutherville.

There, he got his shots and was wormed, examined, bathed and dipped. The Quinns paid a $100 fee to GPA for transportation and veterinary services.

A few weeks after his racing career was over, Thunder Mugsy, a.k.a. Sabot, had a new home.

"He really never had a puppyhood," Ms. Quinn said of the dog who was 3 at the time. "When we got him, he was just like a full-grown, 75-pound puppy."

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