Monica’s Heart: Finding forever homes for retired racing greyhounds
The long-legged, sleek body of a greyhound dog can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, which is why they are the choice breed for racing. Tracks across not only North America, but also the world, place bets on these speed machines every year.
The dogs usually start racing at 18 months and have to be retired by their sixth birthday.
If they aren’t fast enough, become injured or slow down during their career, those greyhounds are forced to find a home to live out the rest of their lives. Many times, these dogs face an uncertain future and are usually euthanized.
That is where rescue organizations like Monica’s Heart Inc., comes in.
This non-profit organization based in Altoona has been dedicated since 1996 to placing retired racing greyhounds into loving homes, and has had more than 1,200 dogs adopted through their span.
Linda Bauman, of Shamokin, is a volunteer who represents the local and surrounding areas for the group.
She spoke on the phone while snowed in recently, as her two greyhounds and her foster greyhound for the group named Desperate Trail, laid about the house asleep.
“As soon as they are done racing or can’t make their race … their future is unknown. Top racers are often kept for breeding and are not released for retirement till 7 to 9 years old and face even more uncertainty because of their age,” Bauman said.
The dogs rescued by Monica’s Heart, Inc. come from several tracks, but most from West Virginia. The group works with tracks and rescues as many as they can.
“We take them from any place we can,” Nauman said, some have even come from Florida.
When a greyhound is picked up from a track by Monica’s Heart Inc., it then goes into a foster program and has to go through an extensive veterinary check – spay or neuter, immunizations, heartworm test, flea and heart worm treatment, dental along with other essential medical treatments.
If dogs are injured, the group helps to pay for their treatment back to health.
Currently, the group has 13 dogs in their system waiting for adoption. Those dogs are being fostered by group volunteers because, Bauman said, there are no kennels for the dogs to stay.
“There are always greyhounds waiting. We can’t take all the dogs – like any rescue – but we take what we can,” Bauman said.
The volunteers are the backbone of the organization.
Group members or volunteers foster the dogs once they are brought from retirement and also the members help perform adoption services including house checks.
Once a dog is adopted out, Monica’s Heart finds another retired greyhound to take to a foster home and then begins a campaign to find the dog a home.
Often volunteers and dogs can be found at meet and greets in the area. Bauman said Monica’s Heart volunteers and fosters bring their dogs and any fosters so people can get to know a greyhound and possibly adopt one.
These meet and greets are scheduled throughout the year at the Petco in Muncy and Bloomsburg and Tractor Supply in Bloomsburg, among other places throughout the region.
This often is where people get to learn about what this breed is really like.
“A laid back coach potato,” Bauman describes them. “If you take them out on a nice walk once or twice a week … people think they run crazy because they are racing dogs and that is not the case. The reason they race them is because they can run fast.”
“Right now every one of them is laying down and sleeping,” she said of the three greyhounds in her home. “
They don’t bark much and, she said, only seem to get excited when its time to eat, go somewhere or when company calls.
Even though it seems their favorite activity is resting, Bauman said you have to be careful what you feed them.
“They are an athlete and you don’t see that many fat athletes,” she said.
Weight can be hard on their bodies, and she notes not many of the breed come with inherited diseases like hips dysplasia and others commonly found in large-framed pure breeds.
Potential adopters fill out an application and can often request color, temperament, sex and age. Sometimes adopters can get a dog within a week, if everything goes well and requests aren’t specific, Bauman said.
Most greyhounds get along with children and other animals, but each dog in Moncia’s Heart is profiled and potential adopters are informed of their temperaments.
“Once we clear (applications) we do a home visit we talk to them about the greyhound. Things like make sure they don’t get loose. They have a high play drive and if they see a rabbit or wild animal they might take off after it,” she said.
Greyhounds are sight hounds – which means they rely on their eyes and not nose – and if they run off, can have a hard time finding their way back.
“We try to fit the dog to the home,” Bauman said.
Moncia’s Heart Inc.’s website has listing of times and places of meet and greets and other events the group participates in at www.monicasheart.com.