At picnic, greyhounds are top dog

Reunion event offers friendship, contests, pets up for adoption

June 05, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

The world's fastest couch potatoes. Well-behaved, elderly gentlemen that peacefully lounge about a home. Soulful creatures that hint at a past life when you peer into their Egyptian-like eyes.

That's how a few greyhound enthusiasts described their beloved pets yesterday at the 16th annual Greyhound Reunion Picnic at Oregon Ridge Park in Hunt Valley. And some of the approximately 300 dogs there were available for adoption - former racing greyhounds brought in from Florida, the state that boasts the most greyhound race tracks.

"They're overbred just for racing," said Rosedale resident Judy Shaw, accompanied by Tabatha, 3, who has a downy charcoal coat. "They're unique in that they've never seen a window before and don't do stairs. They're not exposed to that in the kennel."

About 500 humans came to the park for camaraderie with the canines, to shop and to bid on greyhound products (such as the slide collars designed to fit the dogs' narrow heads). Popular games included musical bones (instead of chairs), a "my dog will eat that" contest and a kissing booth where folks could pay $1 for a smooch with a pooch.

What song blared from the speakers? "Who Let the Dogs Out," of course.

During the eating contest, the hounds sampled hot dogs, pretzels, carrots and pimento-stuffed olives - with nary a kibble in the mix.

"My dog will eat anything if it's wrapped in meat," said Susan Hall of Owings Mills, who helped run the event. "They've never had any of these foods at the track. Some are a little finicky."

After several years of racing, unless the retired greyhounds are adopted, they face euthanization.

"Most owners are not opposed to racing," said Dee Lockett of Lutherville, walking with her three greyhounds. "We're just opposed to the conditions they're kept in. They're totally underfed to keep their racing weight."

Adoptive owners were reluctant to speculate on the number of greyhounds put to death each year, preferring to focus on how many dogs find families.

Dennis Tyler of Central Florida's Greyhound Pets of America, who brought about half a dozen prospective adoptees to the reunion picnic, said his organization has placed 4,800 dogs along the East Coast as far as Canada.

"No one really knows how many are euthanized," Tyler said. "We focus on how many are saved. Less are racing every year. At some point, we hope to get the breeding down to have a home for every dog."

For all the dogs, the picnic was strangely serene - the sleek and lanky greyhounds rarely barked. They sported coats of many colors: the classic gray, tan-and-black brindle patterns, and red-and-white patches.

"Kids always say she looks like a tiger," Lockett's husband, Terry Lockett, said of China, a 6-year-old brindle.

After living without greyhounds for a year, Ernest and Mary Kay Gray of Cub Hill came to the park eager to adopt again. They got their first greyhounds 15 years ago. Their last two dogs died within six days of each other.

"You miss their companionship," Mary Kay Gray said. "It was very sad. You'd wake up every morning, thinking you were hearing them, and then you don't."

They went home with a new dog yesterday - a white-and-fawn brindle-spotted 2-year-old male that raced under the name Randy Handy.

"We'll get the kids in the neighborhood, our grandchildren to rename him," Ernest Gray said.

Mary Kay Gray embraced old friends from the greyhound community and embraced being a new mother.

"We're taking our baby home now," she said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

For information on greyhound adoption, contact Greyhound Pets of America/MD Inc. at 800-600-8607 or visit www.gpa-md.com.

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