by Martha Michael
Most of us know what greyhounds look like. After all, we’ve seen buses with their sleek, silvery bodies stretched across them for about 100 years. (Greyhound Lines was established in 1914, though it didn’t take the Greyhound name until 1930.)
The animals themselves are natural sprinters and a greyhound is a “gentle, noble and sweet-tempered companion with an independent spirit,” according to the American Kennel Club website. “For thousands of years these graceful hounds have been an object of fascination for artists, poets, and kings.”
But a fascination for the breed is not limited in scope. There are many local residents who have their own greyhounds, including Deb Ward of Canyon Country, who has also been an adoption representative for nearly 20 years.
“I adopted my first greyhound and they needed volunteers,” she said. “I started by washing off dogs when they got them off the (race) track.”
Ward is active with GreySave, an adoption organization for the dogs, which means she takes care of and re-homes greyhounds when they arrive in the area.
“I usually house them about two months or so – some of them go within the first 30 days,” she explained. “We have to spay or neuter them and have their teeth done. We try to give them a week to settle in and catch their breath.”
Many of the greyhounds brought to Santa Clarita come from a pet kennel set up at the race track in Tijuana, Mexico, where dogs that finish their race careers are taken, followed by notification of several local adoption groups. GreySave is a racing-neutral non-profit that simply acts as a conduit for adoption. “It’s a very cooperative effort between the track and the different adoption groups,” Ward said.
Whatever their past, greyhounds lead very “busy lives” in their prime, according to Ward, which is what makes them great adoption animals.
“Like hunting dogs, they’re very purpose-bred,” she explained. “From the time they’re puppies they’re kept with their littermates. They have really busy lives and they’re used to human interaction.”
Groups of greyhounds get along very well, and they sleep about 20 hours a day like most dogs, Ward said, speaking for her own greyhounds, as well as the foster dogs she takes in.
“I don’t have fights,” she said. “I don’t have conquests.”
She was introduced to the breed by a friend who owned one, and began reading about them before adopting one herself. She almost didn’t go through with it when she found out how adamant adoption groups are that greyhounds cannot be off-leash unless they’re in an enclosed area. That was not the case with previous dogs she owned, which were various breeds.
“I had done dog obedience, and (I didn’t like) the fact I couldn’t bring the dog to the car without a leash,” she said. “The adoption rep came to my house and talked to me about the breed and I thought, ‘If it’s not the right breed, then 10 years down the road I can get another breed.’”
As an adoption rep, Ward said it’s difficult to have hard conversations with prospective adopters. “I’d say the hardest thing is liking somebody, but having to tell them ‘no,’” she said, “if for some reason they don’t have what they need. Some people don’t have the time, they don’t have the wherewithal. I’m not going to risk my dogs. My job is to find the right environment for this dog.”
It’s also a greater sacrifice when Ward has a dog that’s difficult to place.
“A few years ago, I had a female greyhound, and her littermate came a month or so later,” she said. “They were adorably bonded, and I wanted them to stay together. So, I had her for about a year.”
There are typically close to two dozen greyhounds waiting for forever homes, and of course, there’s a range of issues Ward encounters.
“There’s one who has some sleep issues, and we really just want him to be adopted as an only,” she said. “And we have one that has misdirected aggression. … We’re not going to put him in a situation where a dog is going to be harmed.”
An 18-year resident of Santa Clarita, Ward’s love of greyhounds has grown with time.
“I have always been interested in dogs, but not to the point that they were my passion, like now,” Ward said. “Now that I’m retired, this is my reason for getting up. This is what I do all day. … There’s not another dog on earth like them.”
GreySave is based in Pasadena and operates through volunteerism. The non-profit is funded through donations and fundraising efforts. For more information, visit GreySave.org.