I've lived with dogs most of my life and absolutely love their company. But I never really 'got' greyhounds. I never understood why people would want them or why greyhound owners would become fanatical about them. I would see large groups going for walks together and would be even more confused. They would all be walking next to their human, always on leads and looking serene but not really engaged with their surroundings.
This all changed over the course of 2014 -2016. Firstly I adopted a bull lurcher called Eva whom I had been walking and spending time with at the National Animal Welfare Trust centre in Watford. Little Eva was not coping well in kennels and I was giving her some time away from that setting when she made me fall in love with her. Eva is a Greyhound, Whippet, Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix - but I regularly get asked if she ever raced. To me, she really doesn't look like a greyhound, I think she looks more like a Staffie 'estate'.
Adopting Eva helped me with my career change. She helped me throughout the two year Clinical Canine Massage practitioner training I had enrolled on. The course teachers were greyhound owners and greyhounds were present in all our practical sessions.
Then, in early 2016, during a full practical training day at a small Greyhound Rescue centre near Birmingham Airport I finally understood. I had become a fan!
I can't yet adopt a greyhound as my Eva really doesn't seem happy around them. Owning my first greyhound will have to wait. But my love affair with this incredible breed continues and being able to reduce the pain caused by their racing injuries and the traumas associated with their past makes my heart sing.
I will own greyhounds one day and I know I will be one of those fanatics, champing at the bit to tell anyone that will listen that these dogs make the perfect companion.
So what is it about greyhounds then?
they are incredibly gentle and extremely sensitive
they are content to chill out most of the day
they are quiet, thoughtful dogs most of the time so don't get your hopes up that they will alert you if they have heard something
they are playful, mischievous, and loyal
they love being with humans - but the ones I have spent time with haven't needed to be 'on you', just with you
they don't need a lot of exercise but sometimes like to zoom at high speed for short periods of time
they don't require lots of space, just a comfy bed or sofa to sprawl out on
they have a unique physiology with a larger heart and lungs, a higher body temperature and even a different composition to their blood
they absolutely love massage making them a joy to treat
they are a joy to walk, most will walk beside you without pulling and just take in the world
they are a calming, restful influence in a chaotic and stressful world
they are elegant and yet can be goofy and clumsy too
they have gorgeous soulful eyes
training them is hilarious, challenging, and really possible as they do love to learn
they are often kennelled in pairs when racing and so most are well socialised - at least with other greyhounds
they don't moult - much
If you want to know more about Greyhound racing as an industry you can check out the official industry information here. However, there are many other sites to check out if you want to learn about the real impact of racing on these amazing dogs. Here are just a few:
The RSPCA produced a report on the animal welfare issues with the sport in 2019
The Campaign Against Greyhound Exploitation and Death (CAGED) monitors, but is not affiliated to, the Greyhound Industry. It provides some really heart breaking information on the fate of these beautiful dogs.
The Dogs Trust has produced an interesting document on the industry in response to Government inaction over years.
There are so many more articles if you want to delve deeper. For me though this was more than enough to help me make my mind up about the sport.
Rehomed greyhounds may have experienced significant injury and mistreatment before being discarded by the racing industry. But these beautiful dogs make ideal pets no matter where you live. They are perfect urban or rural dogs and can live in any type of home from a flat to a mansion.
If you want to find out more about the injuries your greyhound may be carrying and if massage could help them the Canine Massage Guild has a great blog. Most love a massage and the therapy can really help them with their injuries and to process any historic trauma they are living with.
Many greyhounds have had limited experience of different surfaces and will have been trained to run very fast anti-clockwise. They will be asymmetric, with the left and right side being out of balance. They may appear clumsy and unstable on uneven surfaces. They may also have significant back injuries and restricted lateral movement which can be checked by seeing if they can easily reach their bum in both directions? Despite being extremely muscly, a greyhound will often benefit significantly from a Body Conditioning programme to address some of the issues mentioned above.
Someday I will live with greyhounds. But for now, I am content with my 'Staffie Estate' as long as I can continue to provide pain relief and mobility support through massage and body conditioning to any greyhound that can get their owner to contact me.
If you are lucky enough to live with a greyhound I would love to hear about your experiences of this incredibly versatile, gentle and unique breed.