Last week I had the pleasure of speaking about acupuncture at the 12th annual Mountain Hounds event in Gatlinburg, TN. Mountain Hounds is sponsored each year by the Greyhound Friends of North Carolina to promote goodwill and the sharing of ideas between adoption groups, to raise money to support adoption efforts, and - most importantly - to have fun.
I have some previous exposure to greyhounds. They were kept at my veterinary school as blood donors and teaching dogs. Don’t worry - they had great lives. They were obsessively cared for by the students and eventually adopted into permanent homes. And I had several greyhound patients while in general practice. But those experiences did not prepare me for the wonder of seeing hundreds of these beautiful dogs together, enjoying activities in a park, and quietly following their owners through the hotel lobby and out onto the main drag of Gatlinburg. I cried during the crowning of the king and queen (always the oldest dogs in attendance), I cheered through the Hustle (an opportunity for dogs to run all out and to have their speeds timed), and I laughed as the Cookie Monster entry in the costume contest won despite losing most of her furry blue getup on the catwalk.
I also learned a lot about the breed and the people who love them.
Greyhounds have been used for hunting and other sports for thousands of years. Racing as a spectator sport and betting opportunity became common in America in the 1930s. It reached its peak in the 1980s. Since then, public awareness of the ethical concerns of racing have decreased its popularity significantly. Forty states have made dog racing illegal, and five of the states in which it is still legal do not have tracks in opperation.
In the states that allow racing, most dogs race until they are 3-5 years old. When they are no longer good for running, many are used for breeding. During all of this time, they are kept in kennels and do not experience any of the social interactions and enrichment activities that other dogs enjoy. When they are retired and taken by one of the many rescue/adoption groups throughout the country, they are often anxious and afraid. They need to learn how to relax and how to be pets.
Fortunately, the breed has captured the hearts of some of the most generous and dedicated dog lovers I have ever met. Greyhound Friends of North Carolina is one organization representing these advocates. GFNC has been taking in retired racers since 1993. Their mission is to provide adoption services, ensure the health and welfare of the dogs they save, and educate the public about the breed. They are doing a pretty good job. So far, they have placed over 5,400 dogs into loving homes!
I am telling you all of this because I am inspired by the dogs and people I met last week. I think it is important to increase awareness of the realities of greyhound racing and the lives of the dogs involved. And I hope that, if you have the opportunity to adopt a greyhound or contribute to an organization that protects them in the future, the sweet faces faces below will inspire you too!