Debut Column: Four Legged Friends

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The Canton Citizen is pleased to announce the debut of Four Legged Friends, a new animal column by Canton resident Susan Scheide. The column will appear monthly in print and in our new e-edition.

My dog has more exciting dreams than I do, of that I am sure. After all, as a professional athlete, he has heard the roar of the crowd and felt the thrill of victory. When his paws twitch as he lies sleeping, I wonder if he’s back on the track, making his first turn, edging out one of his competitors — or did he just dream that he found a stale potato chip under the couch?

George, who passed away in August, was a great friend and pet.

George, who passed away in August, was a great friend and pet.

When you open your home to a retired racing greyhound, you don’t just get a fabulous companion animal — you get a retired athlete to share your home. A superstar of the dog world. A glamorous animal with a pedigree and racing history you can look up on the internet. A dog with tattoos! Face it, greyhounds are cool.

Greyhounds make terrific pets. Contrary to popular myth, they are neither hyper nor in need of tons of exercise. A racer in top form can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, but once they are retired, greyhounds typically sleep up to 20 hours a day, preferring to lounge on a couch all day to fetching or jogging with you.

I adopted my first greyhound after sharing my home for 12 years with a fabulous shelter mutt. I called him George. George’s registered name was Driven by Chile. He raced at Raynham Park for three years.

George was a beautiful dog, and like most greyhounds, he had deep, soulful eyes. Greyhounds are an ancient breed, and when you look into the eyes of a greyhound, you can sense that they know things most dogs do not.

When you adopt a greyhound, you don’t just get a dog. You become part of a worldwide community — if you want to. Greyhound owners are passionate about the breed because once you’ve loved a greyhound, other dogs seem so … well, I hate to say it, but ordinary.

You can’t go anywhere with a greyhound without meeting people who want to ask you about your dog. If you’re sociable, this is a good thing. If you’re shy, it’s a bit of a blessing to have the chance to talk with strangers on a regular basis.

Greyhounds have extremely short fur, and rather dry skin. They do not smell “doggy” because they do not have oily fur like most breeds. Most greyhounds consider barking to be a waste of energy (unless they’re with their own kind, and then all bets are off). The most dangerous thing about most greyhounds is their whip-like tail, which, when they’re excited, tends to rotate like a helicopter blade and not whip back and forth.

While greyhounds are tall, and males can reach up to and over 80 pounds, a greyhound takes up shockingly little space, making them ideal for apartments. It’s a bit of a mystery how a dog you can pet without bending over can scrunch himself into a recliner seat, but they do it with ease. When you combine their virtually silent nature, their love of sleeping long hours, and their ability to rest in the smallest of spaces, it is easy to see why so many people who like cats also love greyhounds.

Because they are sighthounds bred to hunt, some greyhounds cannot live safely with small dogs, cats, or other small animals. However, most greyhounds learn that any small animal that lives in the house with them is family and not food.

George passed away in August. I wasn’t going to get another dog, but the greyhound spell hadn’t worn off, and before I knew it, I was drawn to the Greyhound Pets of Massachusetts website (www.gpamass.com). I had a Facebook friend who was involved with that group, and I told him what I was looking for in terms of disposition. He told me he thought he had a match, and we set up an appointment.

I went to meet this fellow, and once I saw him I knew he had to be mine. His amber eyes drew me in. His bunny soft ears were impossible to stop petting. He left with me that day. He walked up my 21 stairs (most greyhounds have never had to walk up stairs before) and made himself at home. Within a few days, he was absolutely silent all day while I work outside the home. He housebroke himself — and he lets the cat give him massages! I call him Buck.

Everywhere I go with Buck, people stare. Usually they ask, “Ohhhh, did you rescue him?” and I know what they mean — did you adopt him, or is that a racing dog? Yes, I adopted him. Virtually every greyhound you will ever see is going to be a retired racer, or a racing school dropout, and it will have been adopted by the person walking it.

“Rescue” is a hot topic; a dog who is in dire need of being saved — such as one at a public shelter that has to euthanize dogs due to overcrowding — is rescued when you bring it home. A retired racer is safe, cared for, and perfectly content waiting for a new home at an adoption kennel, or in some cases even at the track where he raced.

If you’ve ever wondered about these noble-looking dogs, feel free to attend a “meet and greet” event held by an adoption group. Check out Facebook for the pages of all the local groups, or use your favorite internet search engine.

Susan Scheide has been an animal lover and pet owner for more than 50 years. She lives in Canton with her retired racing greyhound, Buck, and her Siamese cat, Ming.

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avatar Posted by on Jan 22 2015. Filed under Featured Content, Opinion.
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