Hounds of the Heartland
Photo courtesy of Amanda Watson Photography.
Animals can be just as much a part of the family as children are, and nobody understands this more than Edmond resident Emily Adler. She is on the board of directors for Hounds of the Heartland (HOH), an Oklahoma-based organization that seeks good homes for retired racing greyhounds. Founded in 2000 by a group of greyhound enthusiasts, HOH sits under the umbrella of Greyhound Pets of America which has various chapters around the country.
Adler came upon the group while researching pet options. She wanted to adopt a second dog into her family and after learning more about greyhounds, she decided that the breed would be the perfect match. After applying for adoption through HOH, she was matched with Cami, a beautiful brindle female. To learn more about her new family member Adler read the books suggested by Hounds of the Heartland and she started going to the weekend question-and-answer sessions that the HOH regularly hosts. “The show-and-tell events were a great way to meet the other volunteers and learn more about the breed and how everything works,” Adler said. “The book about greyhounds was helpful, but I learned almost everything I know from just listening to Q&A sessions from other volunteers.”
Fellow Edmond resident Jami Vrbenec agrees. She and her husband had decided to look into getting a second dog and were originally planning on spending $1,000 or more on a registered miniature Schnauzer puppy. But, Vrbenec says, “I’ve always thought greyhounds were such a beautiful, elegant breed, so we decided to pursue them as an option. [While] attending a couple of Hounds of the Heartland show-and-tells, we were able to actually spend time with the dogs in person, and see how they interacted with our two young children.”
One of the goals of HOH is to dispel various myths surrounding greyhounds. “People commonly assume greyhounds need a ton of exercise and a huge yard to run around in, and that’s totally not true,” Adler explains. “In fact, greyhounds make wonderful apartment pets as long as the owner is committed to walking them short distances on a leash a few times a day.” She adds, “Another misconception is that greyhounds are abused on the track and that really couldn’t be further from the truth. Racing greyhounds may not be raised in the typical pet environment but they are the healthiest dogs you can find.”
Aside from that, Adler says there are many reasons greyhounds make great pets. “The greyhound is a clean dog. Due to their thin sleek hair, they shed very little and have little to no body odor.” She adds, “They are raised with hundreds of other dogs so they are generally very good with other dogs and especially with humans, as they are well-socialized. Most of them are crate-trained when they come to us, therefore they are very easy to housetrain.”
The story ended happily for the Vrbenec family. “We adopted Stella in August and absolutely fell in love with her. Wanting Stella to have a greyhound friend, we just adopted Gina a week ago. Both greyhounds love our kids, and get along very well with our mini schnauzer,” she says.
It's easy to tell that Adler's passion lies with getting these dogs adopted. There are hundreds of dogs waiting for homes, but Hounds of the Heartland can only foster six to eight at a time. What that means, she explains, is that the more dogs HOH can adopt out, the less time other dogs have to wait for a home.
Typically, the dogs are from 18 months to 6 years old by the time they are retired. Occasionally, Hounds of the Heartland gets a younger or older dog, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. A greyhound's life expectancy is 12 to 15 years, which, Adler points out, is a long life for a large dog.
When asked if there's anything vital a new greyhound owner should be aware of, she cautions, “The most important thing to know about owning a greyhound is that it is a sight-hound, which means they can see clearly up to a half-mile away. They will chase on instinct, no matter how much you train them, so under no circumstance should you ever allow a greyhound to be off-leash unless in a fully fenced-in area.”
Adler suggests that “If anyone is interested in adopting a greyhound, the first step is to read one of our suggested books: Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood, or Adopting the Racing Greyhound by Cynthia Branagan.” Once convinced that a greyhound is the right breed, an application is available online at greyhoundpetsok.org. HOH will begin the process of finding the right dog for the new owners. “We are a very hands-on group and pour a lot of time and effort into placing dogs with the right family.”
For more information about Hounds of the Heartland, visit greyhoundpetsok.org.To report a lost or found greyhound, call 405-613-3138.
They make wonderful pets, and are very low maintenance. I currently have 5 of them. Anyone interested in adopting one should contact their local adoption group. There are so many needing homes!
And it's o sad that greyhound racing is still legal and so many of them are abused.