Greyhound racing seems to be racing into obscurity. In November, Florida residents voted to end the sport in their state, effectively shutting down 11 of the 17 greyhound racetracks in the United States by the end of 2020.
That means 6,000-some retiring dogs will need to find forever homes.
Since these long-limbed athletes are most famous for their time on the track, it’s easy to overlook them as the perfect house pet. But despite the fact that they can reach speeds of 45 mph in just six strides, these gentle and naturally reserved pups are also the ultimate couch potatoes. They sleep about 18 hours a day, require less exercise than many other breeds and will happily lounge around alone for hours on end.
Kim Hensley and Chris Barker knew they wanted to add a canine family member in the fall of 2018. After a lot of research and meeting a handful of potential dogs, they met Assassin, a retired racing greyhound from Des Moines, Iowa.
After competing for several years and breeding a handful more, Assassin was ready to settle down into a life of walks around the neighborhood and couch cuddles.
I asked Hensley for a peek into life as a rescued greyhound parent.
How did you decide a greyhound was the best fit for your family?
Kim Hensley: I had never had a dog before. So while I was excited, I was a little nervous about the life change.
A friend had recommended we consider looking into adopting a greyhound because of their calm personalities. As I did some research it became clear that this would be a good fit. While greyhounds like to run, they only need to do so a couple times a week in short bursts, otherwise they are not high-energy dogs. … She made the adjustment to being a dog parent very easy.
Was rescuing a dog important to you?
KH: For us, it was a no-brainer to find a dog that needed a home. We both believe that all dogs deserve to have people that love them and it’s heartbreaking to think of dogs waiting around for a family.
There is also (this) perk of adoption: getting adult dogs is actually awesome. I know puppies are cute, but adult dogs are so underrated. Assassin can be really playful but she can also turn it off really easily. She has never chewed up any of my things and never has accidents in the house. Many adult dogs don’t get adopted because people just prefer the cuteness of puppies, but there are so many great dogs in their middle age years that are truly the best to actually be around.
How would you describe Assassin’s personality?
KH: Shy at first, but fiercely loyal. Once she knows that you’re going to be there for her, she opens up into this quirky, confident dog. She’s so sneaky and smart and will try to eat any food she can snatch.
Assassin is also wonderfully curious, wanting to smell and explore new places. I love taking her to new parks and just letting her lead us around with her nose. She’s very sweet and cuddly with her inner circle. At the end of the day, she is an individual. She likes her independence and she’s not a people pleaser.
What are some of your favorite moments to share with her?
KH: One of the biggest highlights is watching her run! She is so fierce and impressive.
Coming home from work and being greeted at the door with huge tail wags. When she’s feeling cuddly, she comes up to me and just leans and rubs her face on my legs. It’s this really sweet gesture that is subtle and so darling, it warms my heart at the end of a day.
Chris loves to wrestle with her. They have great moments playing together and that’s something she pretty much only does with him.
What are some things you’d like others considering a greyhound to know?
KH: Our experience with our greyhound has been wonderful, but it is worth noting that she is not like most dogs. She doesn’t like to do tricks or play fetch. She isn’t a lap dog and she isn’t going to lick your face a ton out of love.
If you are going to get a greyhound, be prepared for a dog that appreciates its personal space and gives love on its own terms. They are more reserved but that just makes their affection that much more rewarding.
Also, there are so many great resources and communities out there for people adopting greys and I highly recommend getting involved ahead of time. If you love animals and just want to make a home, greyhounds are really sweet dogs that will appreciate the new life you are giving them.
Dana Halferty is a lifestyle and adventure photojournalist who can most often be found in a hot spring or writing music when she isn’t telling stories through photographs. Invite her on a roadtrip, offer up a negroni or talk to her about the ocean and you might be her next best friend. You can follow her on instagram @danahalferty.