Anecdotes and advice from a greyhound owner, with over 18 years of experience. The Good, the bad, and the ugly.

As a professional journalist (nervous laughter), my first inclination is to start pulling out dusty books and surf the net for interesting facts. My second inclination is to envision that someone is sitting across from me with a cold beer, as we chat about greyhounds.

Pun alert; I’m gonna just run with it . . .

The Good

Right now Feidhlim (Irish for “good luck’) is curled up on a nice couch, his brindle tiger stripes complementing a matching floral pattern. Isadora (Izzy) is back on our bed with her great frame spread out over the mattress like a long, lean lioness, black muzzle twitching in dream-response.

They really do love to chill, and are very much like a pride of lions, lolling around all day and going for the bed if you don’t mind. Their heads will often find a soft pillow, and sometimes they lay flat on their backs with long, thin legs bent upward in various positions.

They also love to play, and if you have any acreage, they will race each other at very high speeds, cutting and dodging for several minutes. They have outstanding endurance.

Our two hounds are extremely gentle, loving, and intelligent; not in a “sit – stay!” kind of way, but more like big cats slinking around, curling beside us on the couch, and loving our eight-year-old daughter. They adapt well and put up with an obnoxious little Jack Russell, refusing to eat her during tug-of-wars with dog toys, or “You-be-the-rabbit” chase games out in the yard. Note: The terrier’s sprint is a greyhound’s trot.

Some retired racers will have problems with cats and even small kids, but they can learn very quickly, and I have seen hard cases rehabilitated. Large, fenced yards are ideal, and they really should have an area to run wild.

They are very low rent, have minimal shedding, and are very clean. They will almost always go number two in an area furthest from the house. Most greyhounds are also very quiet and not big barkers.

There are many greyhound rescue agencies and groups that only require fees for shots, etc., plus a donation. Some agencies also require an interview and even a visit to make sure you have ample room and understand the breed, which really requires quality outdoor time, whether it is a daily walk or large fenced yard for running and playing.

The Bad

The traits I mentioned are some of the most common, but greyhounds can vary greatly among individuals, and I recommend learning about your potential hound before exposing it to other pets, children, or certain environments. If there is another dog, you will want to bring it to the initial meeting and see how they react together.

Feidhlim is unique. He came from a gypsy caravan in Ireland, and was used on small game. The animal rescue league grabbed him after Feidhlim was hit by a car, and he lost a toe but otherwise survived with only a few psychotic quirks.

Like cats.

I heard a horrific noise one night and came outside to find Feidhlim pinning the neighbor’s cat for a final bite. I yanked him off and saved the poor feline, but now we know.

This brings us to . . .

The Ugly

Greyhounds go way back in history as the only dog mentioned in the bible ((Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version). They were adored by Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, and even General Custer, who would run them on game. Origins and breeding are often debated, and it has been said that they are Asian wolves who came in from the wild. Their dentition tends to support this, as greyhounds sport a frightening display of long fangs and ripping-sharp teeth for molars. People used to hunt deer with packs of greyhounds, and English royalty installed an ordinance that would not allow “commoners” to own them, as game became quickly depleted.

I can vouch for that, and the following report may not be suitable for the squeamish:

Delilah and Cleopatra were adopted in 1992, while my wife and I lived at the University of Rhode Island. I would take them to a large sprawl of athletic playing fields and woods near the football stadium, and allow them to run off-leash until experience taught otherwise.

Little did I know that the university was suffering from an overabundance of woodchucks, and the groundskeepers had tried everything to get rid of them, short of hiring an exterminator. The woodchucks were making fields hazardous by digging huge holes for their underground burrows, and athletes were in danger of twisting an ankle or even worse.

In one month, the greyhounds eliminated thirty-six woodchucks, a skunk, two raccoons, three rabbits, two snakes, and two crows who were a little slow during take-off.

As woodchucks became more wary and scarce, the greyhounds quickly adapted.

Delilah would walk out to where a grazing woodchuck could see her, and Cleo would slowly work her way around to the burrow.

The woodchuck would notice Delilah and stop chewing grass, sometimes rising up like a prairie dog spotting a coyote. When Cleo was in position, Delilah would suddenly rush the woodchuck, and it was over in a matter of seconds. The teamwork and timing was amazing, with Cleo carrying the dead victim until we left, and Delilah back on the hunt.

So these are some of the traits to think about when considering a greyhound for adoption. There are a lot of owners and a lot of information out there, with stories about their dogs that will no doubt outlast the campfire or bring you right up to last call.

I tried to cover all of the angles in a short space, and hope this was a good start. I have to go move a big hound so there’s room to sleep!