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The other day I was speaking on the phone with a woman who had adopted one of our retired greyhounds. I found myself defending the greyhound industry and for something we not only love but is our life and livelihood. That became very uncomfortable. I realized there is nothing wrong in what my husband I do for a living, so I said my piece, and she thanked me for an insight into our industry she had not heard before. Our conversation set me thinking.
It occurred to me that we, the breeders of these fine animals, seem to be on the defensive a great deal of the time - be it in a grocery store overhearing the conversations of animal rights people, seeing yet another slanted story on T.V., or hearing waiting room talk at the vet's office. One of the biggest issues seems to be the greyhounds' "life after racing". Frequently, the word "rescue" is used, and this reflects directly onto the breeders. I decided it was time for a greyhound breeder and farm operator to put her two cents in. Just maybe my message will be heard by someone out there who might take a different stance toward our industry.
My husband started out in college studying political science and soon decided it was not for him. His pull was toward training horses, and later, dogs. This is his gift and his passion. Animals became our life. We love, care for, and train these wonderful dogs. But it has not been easy for many, many years. We've had to put almost all income back into caring, feeding and training, into equipment and land, and giving our four-legged friends the best of veterinarian care. We have made constant sacrifices for our business because it is our life, not just a job.
Here are some facts. Greyhounds are superb athletes who are the fastest sprinting dogs in the world and are revered for their natural abilities. The National Greyhound Association is one of the best at policing and weeding out undesirables from participating on any level. As in any industry, there have been "bad apples". Once discovered, these people are dealt with by barring them for life from registering or racing a greyhound and other members are not allowed to do business with them.
For those of you unaware, here is an example of the life of a breeder and farm operator. Before we breed we research the bloodlines of both the intended female and sire so that the pups will have the best qualities for what we are looking to produce. We spend top dollar in stud fees. The female has the best of care, food and necessary worming, vaccines and dental cleaning. The pups, once weaned, are given the highest priced puppy food as well as an even more extensive vaccination program than is normally recommended and a lot of T.L.C. and socialization. They grow up together on the farm enjoying the company of their playful littermates. Before weaning they and their mom are housed in indoor-outdoor runs with air conditioning then they are moved to outside 75'X75' puppy pens with an insulted house and a kiddy pool in the summer.
At tattoo age they are moved into long runs to be like the big kids. The long runs provide great exercise for their continued physical development. We take a lot of pleasure watching them run up and down the runs chasing each other to the end and back. They are then introduced to the training program and an oval track where their natural instincts continue to blossom and they do what they love to do - chase and run fast. When matured and ready they go on to the regular race track where they also receive the best of care
These animals are athletes who must have the best food and medical attention or they will not perform well. In fact, they are well respected in the veterinarian community as "structurally correct and of superior confirmation". Their careers, barring injuries, which can happen in any athletes life, can run a few years. Taking them up to age four or five.
When they are no longer performing as well against the youngsters, they are ready to go to a loving home or back to the farm where they are pampered and get to have babies of their own.
Another fact not widely reported on is that there are numerous adoption agencies as well as programs at some of the tracks themselves, that are notified when a greyhound needs to be adopted out. The dog is spayed or neutered and potential pet owners are carefully screened. If, for some reason, the nearest agency is unable to place the dog, we the owners are responsible. The greyhound is shipped back to us and we work through our local adoption agency. The National Greyhound Association has put through a grant program to subsidize certain adoption agencies to help in the care of the greyhounds while they await adoption.
I can not think of any other industry that looks after the well being of the animals quite like the breeders and owners of greyhounds. The animals are bred to be the best they can be, and the pet industry gets a well-mannered, pure-bred, house-trained, and loving animal who can be registered by the adoptive owner. I have a scrapbook of pictures from new owners of our "guys" living a "dogs life", which are wonderful and heartwarming. The pet industry is fortunate to have these well-rounded wonderful dogs available.
Once again, I fail to see what is wrong with the way of life we have chosen, i.e., to raise animals we love, care for them, work with them, earn a living, and then provide people with a pet that receives nothing but rave reviews from proud new owners - we all win.
If you are an adoption agency, thanks so much for your help to date. If you are an owner of a retired greyhound, thanks so much and give your four-legged friend a pat for us. And if you are someone out there who isn't quite sure about it all - come on by and I'll show you around - I'm proud of our farm and the work we do.