29 January 2007

Greyhound Love

If you've read my sidebar over there to the right, you know we have a dog. I've been planning to post about her for a while, and this past weekend marked six months since we brought her home, so it seemed like the right time to do it.
In late July we adopted London*, a retired racing greyhound from Greyhound Welfare, an organization based in the DC area that also has a New England chapter. They hold "open house" events every few weeks at various pet stores around the area where prospective owners can meet several dogs informally and get information about the adoption program. We went to three of these before and during our application and screening process. It was at the second one that we first met London, who had just come into the program and was nervous and shy. But by the next open house a couple of weeks later, she was wagging her tail and generally making herself irresistible.
(*We didn't choose her name; at the time, they were naming the dogs after cities and, though they assured us we could change her name to anything we wanted, we thought it was a good name and saw no reason to change it.)

As part of the adoption process, Greyhound Welfare places dogs with foster families to help them make a successful transition to post-racing life. For example, a racing dog typically does not know how to go up and down stairs, because racing kennels are on one floor. It's easy for the dog to learn, but it requires a little effort, so having the foster family do this lets the adoptive family focus on helping their new friend get comfortable in its new surroundings.

GW is very thorough: their process includes a written application, with required references from people who know you; a phone interview; a visit to your home with an adoptable dog to evaluate safety and general dog-worthiness; and a visit with the dog you are considering adopting at its foster home. They make a concerted effort to match the right dog with the right family.

A greyhound is a good choice for people who work, because they are generally content to spend the day sleeping, and they rarely bark. Contrary to what some think, they don't require a great deal of exercise, but some attention and activity time is necessary for any dog. When I get home from work, I take London outside and she runs a few laps around the yard to release that pent-up energy. But within an hour or so, she's back to lying down on her living-room bed next to us as we watch TV. Of course, some dogs are naturally more energetic than others; London's brother was up for adoption at the same time she was, and it was clear when we met him that he would need much more activity to be content.
Growing up, we had at least one dog in the house from the time I was about three, but as an adult I had never owned a pet until now, so it felt like a big deal. The Mrs. loves all animals, and her mother even raised German shepherds for a while, but this was her first time as a pet owner as well. As a couple who have chosen to be child-free, it still feels a little weird to have something that we are responsible for, that is dependent on us for its care, but it has been a tremendously rewarding experience. And as far as we're concerned, she's earned the right to be lazy. She's retired, after all.

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