Sunday, October 07, 2001

Retired racing hounds need good home

Event today is for humans

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TOWNSHIP — Four years ago, Gary Berger wanted something fast for his 50th birthday present. And, not a car.

        During the summer, Alyssa Keefe, 8, was watching the Animal Planet channel and became engrossed with a breed of dog often euthanized or sold to laboratories before its fifth birthday.

[photo] Greyhounds make great pets, these owners say. From left: Jo Jean Geckler; Julie Keefe and her daughter, Alyssa, 8; and Pat Berger.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Gary and Pat Berger of Anderson Township now own four greyhounds. Alyssa and her parents, Dan and Julie, also of Anderson, recently adopted Fred, a 2-year-old greyhound who ran five races at an Arkansas dog track before being “retired.”

        The plight of the racing greyhound — 20,000 to 30,000 are put down every year in the United States — and the opportunity to make life-saving adoptions will be emphasized this afternoon at “The Greyt Greyhound Gathering” at Sharon Woods in Sharonville.

        Thanks to nationwide groups that promote adoptions, more and more of these sleek speed dogs are finding homes.

        Mrs. Berger said her husband, a marathon runner, “admires the athleticism of the greyhound. He admires their beauty and running ability. And he decided that's what he wanted for his birthday.”

        But Mr. Berger soon discovered greyhounds don't make good running partners.

        “First of all, he can't keep up with the dog. It's too fast. Second, a greyhound is a sprinter,” his wife said.

   • What: “The Greyt Greyhound Gathering,” a fund raiser to benefit Make Peace With Animals.
   • When: Noon-4 today.     • Where: Sharon Woods Hamilton County Park, Kemper Road entrance, Sharonville.
   • Admission: Free, donations accepted.
   • Information: 752-3636.
   • Adoption information: 752-3636 or 1-877-943-8364.
        “But, we still just fell in love with the breed,” Mrs. Berger said.

        The Bergers are active in the Cincinnati chapter of Louisville-based Greyhound Rescue and Adoption Inc. (GRA) which serves all of Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern Indiana,

        “Our local group has been doing adoptions for four years and last year we placed about 40 dogs” in Greater Cincinnati, said Mrs. Berger, who began working with GRA two years ago.

        Mrs. Keefe said that after watching the Animal Planet program, “I told my husband I thought it was a nice thing to do. He started looking into it.”

        Through friends of friends, they eventually met Pat Berger.

        “We found a dog that comes to the door to greet you; is happy to see you; and then they relax. They are content and quiet dogs — a disposition I have not seen in any other breed,” Mrs. Keefe said.

        Jo Jean Geckler of Union Township in Clermont County, spokeswoman for today's gathering said she expects about 170 dogs with their owners at Sharon Woods.

        “Anyone interested in adopting a greyhound should come and take a look. There will be no dogs there for adoption because we discourage impulse adoptions,” she said. All proceeds go to Make Peace With Animals, a non-profit organization dedicated to animal protection with a special mission to encourage greyhound adoption.

        Adopting a dog involves filing an application with a group such as GRA, an introductory visit followed by a home visit, and screening of people and dogs to match greyhound with owner. Besides the annual Greyt Greyhound Gathering, area Petsmart stores sponsor “Greyhound Meet and Greet” events throughout the year.

        “The reason so many dogs are put down every year is ... no other breed is bred in the numbers like a greyhound; and, it's for one intention — the dog racing industry,” Ms. Geckler said.

        “Once these dogs can no longer make their mark at racing, you have a surplus, and that's where rescue groups come in. But, there are not enough homes for dogs,” she said. There are 48 dog racing tracks in 15 states with a dozen of the tracks in Florida, Ms. Geckler said. There are greyhound adoption agencies in every continental state. Dogs received by GRA come from Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, Ark. and Tri-State Greyhound Park near Charleston, West Virginia.W.Va.

        “There are only five full adoption race tracks in the country including the two we receive dogs from,” Ms. Geckler said. All retired dogs from full adoption tracks are given to greyhound rescue groups.

        “The terrible flip side to dog racing is that once the dogs are finished racing, there is nothing to do with them unless homes can be found,” Ms. Geckler said.

        Greyhounds are not for everyone and should not be adopted simply out of pity.

        “You have to make an informed choice,” Mrs. Berger said. “These are not your typical, active family dogs. They are very inconspicuous. They are laid-back, easygoing and passive. ... But, you can't have them off lead and they need a fenced enclosure.”
       The dogs are bred for speed and can run at 40 mph in three strides.”


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