Shades of greyhound that is. Hey, these sleek dogs are just as interesting and exciting as that book! Even better, greyhounds make wonderful family pets, and adopting a retired racing greyhound can be a rewarding experience. I’d like to introduce you today to Shawnelle Eliasen and her family, and their new addition, Sissy. With 5 busy boys in the family, I’d say they are all happy to have a canine sister! Today I’m interviewing Shawnelle about adopting a retired racing greyhound.
What are some of the typical personality qualities of a greyhound?
SE: They are sensitive, peaceful, calm, intelligent, compliant, gentle
Do greyhounds need a lot of exercise? Do they need room to run?
SE: Greys are bred to race, but they don’t need a large place to run or a great deal of exercise. They’re sprinters, not marathon runners, so they do very well with a walk or two a day. A small area to romp around in once in a while is good, too (they do need to be fenced when romping free).
Are greyhounds good for families?
SE: Yes – but I think it’s important to consider the nature of your family. Though we have a houseful of boys, our home is still peaceful and calm. Like with any breed, it’s important to find the right fit.
Do retired racing dogs have any specific health concerns?
SE: Some of the dogs we looked at had leg injuries. They’d been rehabilitated and some had limitations or needed special care. Greys also are known to have bad teeth (regular brushing helps with that).
What was your biggest challenge in adopting a greyhound?
SE: I think that because greys are bred to race and come with only experiences related to track and kennel life, introducing a grey to a home atmosphere can be a process. For us, it wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but it does take some time. Every sight, sound, aspect of family living is new and different for a grey. Ours didn’t know how to climb the stairs. Windows puzzled her. The hum of the vacuum or sounds from the television were alarming at first. But with time, patience, and lots of tlc, Sissy adapted in no time at all.
What advice do you have for others wishing to adopt a greyhound?
SE: Read up! Greys are such a special and distinct breed. They need help adjusting to the new track (their retirement life). It’s important to understand their stress responses, their nature, and how to help them adjust to home life. But the reward couldn’t be more rich or sweet.
Do you have any good books to recommend about greyhounds?
SE: Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingwell, Greyhounds (Breedlover’s Guide) by Cindy Victor
What is the best thing about having Sissy in your lives?
SE: I love that we were able to provide a home for sweet Sissy, and that after racing years, her retirement is peaceful. It’s precious to see her seek and accept affection. And watching my boys love her – that breaks me. They’re so tender with Sissy, and when she responds by resting her head on their laps or nudging them with her nose, my heart warms fast. We’re so grateful to have Sissy in our home.
Here is a story Shawnelle wrote for the greyhound adoption center:
SOLD ON SISSY
“We need a dog,” I said.
My husband Lonny and I were taking a walk. Three of our five sons bolted ahead, feet crunching winter frost.
Lonny looked at me with the expression. The strained expression he always wore when I mentioned a dog. “We’re too busy,” he said. “Too busy with the boys.”
“Oh, c’mon,” I said. “They’d love a dog.”
That was true. Well, three-fifths true. Our college boy wasn’t keen on house pets, and our four-year-old had had a frightening dog experience. But the three in the middle would be overjoyed.
Still Lonny was firm. Until the blustery day I pulled him to the adoption center to look at greys. “Just a peek,” I said. “An information-gathering thing.”
Lonny made the face. But he went anyway.
At the adoption center, he and I met three beautiful girls. One was especially loving. One sported a charming needle-nose grin. One panted a lot. But there was something about her eyes. Espresso brown. Kind. Deep.
“How will we ever choose?” I asked.
Lonny shook his head. The worried look was gone. The greys, with their grace, strength, and calm natures, had pressed into his heart.
A couple of weeks later, we returned with the gang. We were there to see the panting dog. We’d been unable to forget her eyes. Those stretch-into-your-soul eyes.
A volunteer named Karen had been working carefully with our family, to learn a little about us. To help with the right fit. When she came around the corner with tawny Sissy on a lead, I hoped this was the one. Three of my sons went to their knees with outstretched hands. Our big guy held back. The small one twisted around my leg.
Sissy proved to be a real lady. Her dog manners rocked. She was patient and kind, even when lost in a knot of excited young men. She began to pant a little harder, her long sides flicking fast. But when we took her outside to play, she settled. My little guy even pried from my legs. Four boys and Sissy ran and played. She tore, in great, fast loops, around the yard. Then she’d stop, spot-on, beside the boys. She never jumped. She respected her boundary. When the playing was over, our big guy knelt and stretched out his hand. Sissy came forward, with all kindness and grace.
Boy number one? He’d joined the pack, too.
Over the next few weeks, we visited Sissy at the adoption center. Karen watched Sissy closely, but she observed my boys, too. She noted Sissy’s gentleness with our youngest son. He was still nervous. But Sissy didn’t approach him. She knew to give him time and space.
And after a month, we signed on the line and brought our girl home.
The rest is sweet history. Sissy settled into our home like she was built to be here. We home teach, and during the day, Sissy is sprawled on our schoolroom floor. Recess means a walk. She bounds with joy at the jingle of her lead. When our oldest is home from college, Sissy is his sidekick. Their gentle natures meshed with ease. And the little guy? When he wakes in the morning, he first greets our grey. Then he lies down and curls into her. Guess what? Perfect fit.
Sissy, we’ve learned, is a little shy. The panting, which stopped early on, happens only when she’s out-of-her-zone. But teaching her to trust us, learning our way together, has been a beautiful thing. She’s taken the love in our home and has run with it. It’s deeper. Even more rich. With this girl, the goodness is multiplied.
Last week we were out for another family walk. This time the sun rested firm on our shoulders. Lonny held the lead, and Sissy pranced by his side. Well, sort of by his side. Three young boys flanked our dog, hands resting gently in her back.
“Well,” I said, “What do you think? About the dog?”
Lonny looked at me. His smile was broad and full. So was his heart for this little lady.