Because there is life beyond the track

Winnie and Hope

Winnie and Hope

I wanted to sit down on the sofa this morning, maybe with a nice cup of tea, and tell you about my greyhounds. But, I don’t get to sit on the sofa anymore and I would go to make a cup of tea, but the only thing they get off the furniture for is to stalk me to the kitchen and stare expectantly at me – oh and Hope sticks her nose in my tea too, just in case its biscuits.

I hope I haven’t put you off. Honestly, greyhounds are better than tea and comfortable seating and here is why…

Two years ago my husband and I decided to adopt a rescue dog and, when he suggested a greyhound, I wasn’t that impressed. I’d never heard of greyhounds as pets or seen them walking in the park, chasing a ball or fetching a stick. I wanted a King Charles spaniel.
But he had done his research and he presented me with a robust argument; he explained that they are docile, gentle creatures who sleep the day away and love nothing more than a cuddle and the comforts of home ¬– the perfect dog to share our flat and one that wouldn’t mind the cosy living quarters and lack of a garden.

So, we went to a local greyhound kennel and spoke to the staff there. They told us we couldn’t have a greyhound without a garden and, although I hadn’t realised how much I’d come around to the idea of having one of these gangly, pointy-faced weirdos in my life, being told I couldn’t have one made me accept that I’d fallen in love with the breed.

After the false start, we stumbled upon Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, an organisation which we could instantly tell cared more about who we were and what we did have to offer than what we didn’t. We started walking their dogs and fell head-over-heels in love with every single one we met. A lovely volunteer came to our flat to asses our living space and I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. We completely forget to offer the poor lady a cup of tea or even a seat! Then waiting for the call to tell us whether we had a suitable home was even more nerve-wracking. The call came just an hour after the volunteer left and then, every weekend after, the staff at the kennels took time out of their busy schedule to talk to us and teach us how to care for our new arrival once we chose one. But how do you pick just one?

In our case, we just couldn’t and, in the end, we let the experts decide. We were introduced to Winnie, a scruffy, skinny little thing with a beautiful face and huge soulful eyes. She came to stay for a weekend and I don’t mind saying I cried all the way home when we had to take her back once the weekend was over. We were back to pick her up the next weekend and the next and every week until we had everything in place, ready to welcome her home for good.

If you’re meeting greyhounds with the hopes of homing, my advice would be to let the staff at the kennels be your guides. They know and love these dogs wholeheartedly and, whilst a quiet, shy dog may not show volunteer walkers their personalities, the team at the kennels have their trust and see their true colours in a way no-one else does.

Winnie was a nervous girl at the beginning and watching her slowly come out of her shell and show us more of who she was every day was so rewarding. She came to trust us and she thrived on her new routine, learning quickly and overcoming all of the challenges of transitioning from ex-racer and kennel hound to much-loved pet dog and member of the family.

A greyhound isn’t always an easy dog at the beginning. You may find you have essentially invited a 30kg puppy into your home. They may not know how to climb stairs or how to tell you they need to go outside, they might chew things and eat things they shouldn’t. Our houses are essentially alien environments with rules and expectations they have never experienced and cannot possibly comprehend. So, be patient, they’re smart and they want so much to get things right for you and to hear your praise. And, when it is difficult, the kennels are always there to offer their support and advice; there are walking groups and a dozen different greyhound groups on social media too with members all over the world that are always ready at any time of day or night to answer questions and share experience. You will not be alone and every one of us has been there!

The adjustment period is as different as every dog is an individual but, whether it takes weeks or months, you will start to see a change in your new friend; Winnie slowly started to play with us and to snuggle with us in the evenings, to recognise our friends and family as hers too and to communicate with us what she needed or wanted. Mostly that was sausages.

But, after a year we found out what she really needed and wanted was Hope, an overlooked, excitable greyhound girl living at Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. Hope is a bulldozer, a clutz and the most energetic greyhound I’ve met. Where Winnie is a lady, Hope is a scamp. As soon as she met her we knew there was something very special about their relationship – obviously opposites attract.

But we weren’t looking another dog. Absolutely no way! We had a trip to Australia planned and a wedding to organise – it was not a good time!

We were coerced by the greyhound community, egged on by the staff at the kennels and bullied by Winnie! But, to be honest, we had already fallen in love again and didn’t need that much convincing. We had so many conversations: Was the flat big enough? Could we afford another mouth to feed? Would my husband’s boss notice there were now two greyhounds under his desk? The answer to all of these was we don’t really care, we’ll make it work! Hope felt like family and on Winnie’s first gotcha day we bought her home for her first weekend visit.

Both of my gorgeous girls have taught me new things about life; the way that Hope lives so completely in the moment is refreshing and inspiring, her glee at every new thing is a joy to experience alongside her. And Winnie’s quiet but deep affection for the people who have won her heart is truly beautiful! I believe they have brought my husband and I closer together and that they have, undoubtedly, changed our lives for the better.
Today is Winnie’s second gotcha day and one year since Hope’s first visit to our home – we’ll be celebrating with a special doggie cake and new, comfy beds for them both. Since we wandered clueless into WGW two years ago we have never looked back or had any regrets and we will spend every moment we have with our girls trying to make them as happy as they make us.

I hope that if you are considering a greyhound and you have taken the time to read this that I have managed to convey what a privilege it is to share your life with one of these exceptional creatures. I wish you the best of luck with your adventure and Nick, Winnie, Hope and I look forward to hearing the news that your hound has found its forever home with you.