By Jennifer Poff Cooper
“If you want a laid back dog that enjoys hanging on the couch watching TV, a retired racer fits the bill. All a greyhound wants is to be with its family,” says Sara Orrick, director of Star City Greyhound Adoption, Inc., in Roanoke. Its mission is to find greyhounds loving, quality, forever homes.
After meeting greyhounds in her job with PetSmart, then fostering some, Orrick fell in love with the breed. There was not a local rescue group so she started one in 1999 and achieved non-profit status a couple of years later. The organization’s funding is all adoption fees and donations. Most of its retired racers come from the track in West Virginia outside Charleston. Most people think that greyhounds are treated cruelly while racing. “Some handlers are better than others, but if your dog isn’t well-cared for, mentally as well as physically, it isn’t going to run well and make the money,” says Orrick.
Her primary duty as director is to educate the public on what great dogs retired racers are. They are raised differently and treated differently than other breeds. “It can be part of their charm, but it can also make them a little difficult to get used to living as single dogs in a home atmosphere. Greyhounds have never been alone in their lives,” she explains. For families, greyhounds are ideal because they are tolerant of children.
New River Valley Magazine publisher Phillip Vaught is a proud greyhound owner. They are “super sweet but they can be quirky.” He shares that one of his two “refuses to walk on anything but carpet. [They have never seen slick hardwood floors.] Our whole place is hardwood, so she makes her way by a trail of scattered rugs throughout the house.”
A frequent question Orrick gets is: Why are greyhounds so skinny? “I explain that retired racers are built for speed.” Because greyhounds have thin coats and very little body fat, they prefer temperature-controlled environments and soft beds.
Star City greyhounds reside in a kennel facility where they are kept crated to feel safe. “We rented this facility for nine years until the owner passed away in January, and he left the property to the greyhounds,” says Orrick. The organization adopts out between 75 and 100 dogs per year. It has several websites and its Facebook page where it lists adoptable dogs. In the New River Valley, it takes adoptable dogs to festivals in Blacksburg plus the PetSmart in Christiansburg the second Saturday of each month.
Orrick reports that several of her greyhounds have become therapy dogs to assist autistic children and post-traumatic stress disorder victims. As she says: “Sometimes the dog you save returns the favor!” www.starcitygreyhounds.org
• Most greyhound males stand 26 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 65 and 85 pounds. Females stand 23 to 26 inches and weigh 50 to 65 pounds.
• The average greyhound consumes up to 2 pounds of meat per day.
• All registered racers have tattoos, and there are websites where you can enter either their racing name or tattoo and pull up their racing records.
• Greyhounds can go from 0 to 40 miles per hour in about three jumps.
• With proper care, greyhounds live 12 years or more.
Jennifer Poff Cooper is a local, freelance writer who contributes regularly to New River Valley Magazine.