When I think back, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly got me interested in the breed. I neither had greyhounds growing up nor knew anyone who did. The only thing that really stands out in my memory is in 2011 when I saw the movie 50/50. The main character’s girlfriend surprises him with a greyhound named Skeletor. At first, the main character, who is overcoming cancer, doesn’t want to keep Skeletor, who just stares back at him like greyhounds do. For some reason, the scene was kind of random and funny and it just stuck in my memory. I think that may have been what planted the seed.
Fast forward to 2016 and Hilary and I are thinking of getting a dog. We don’t have a specific breed in mind, but I want to get a bigger dog, partly because I always had smaller dogs growing up. I start joking around that I want to get a greyhound thinking that it seems extreme (I assume that they are high-energy dogs that need acres of land to run around on). However, at some point, we entertain the idea enough to start Googling around a bit.
A common misconception is that greyhounds are high-strung and even aggressive dogs. People often think this because they see them wearing muzzles at the race track. However, this is simply to prevent accidentally knicking another greyhound with their teeth. They like to run with their mouths open and have very thin skin and fur, so when going around the race track at 40 mph nose-to-nose, even the slightest knick may puncture their skin.
We learn that greyhounds, in fact, are one of the most zen and calm house pets out there. On average, they like to sleep 16-18 hours per day and only need about 30 minutes total of walking. They absolutely love to couch surf and there’s a reason they have earned the nickname “45 mph couch potatoes.” You know they are comfortable when they do this special thing called roaching. Combined with the fact their snouts are so long, you’ll often find them in this hilarious pose with their tongues hanging out. They are not known to be barkers and as part of the sighthounds family, you generally won’t find them exercising their vocal cords. But sometimes you can get them to start singing, which has a special name known as rooing.
Intrigued yet cautious, Hilary and I locate a greyhound rescue 40 minutes outside of Boston (where we were living at the time). The dogs are ex-racers from other states that allow racing like Florida and New Hampshire. They are anywhere from 2-5 years old depending on the success of their racing career. We also learn that some of them are not purebred greyhounds, but a mix between a greyhound and another dog referred to as lurchers. One by one, we take several of them out for a walk behind the facility in an open field. I immediately am impressed by how calm and majestic they are. While some of the pull a bit, they are all great walkers on a leash sticking by our side.
Unfortunately, on our first visit, we don’t come home with a greyhound. Many of them are already adopted and we are only looking to see what the breed was like in person. I have to admit, at this point, I am pretty worried about the size after seeing how big they are in person. They are very lean, but tall. I have a hard time picturing one in our 1 BR apartment after growing up with a miniature pinscher chihuahua in a 4 BR house.
We mull it over and end up going back 2-3 more times each time a new batch of dogs arrives. On one particular visit, there’s a greyhound that looks like a deer (officially known as “red-fawn” color). We take him out for a walk and immediately sense a connection with him. He is very sweet and calm. He’s 4 years old, so on the older side but not too old. I ask Hilary if she thinks he’s the one, and she says “yes.” So we filled out the adoption paperwork, pay the $350 adoption fee, and “Act of Valor” comes home with us. We later shorten his name to just “Val” 🙂
In a lot of ways, the first 3 weeks is like having a puppy. Even though Val is 4 years old, he still has a lot of puppy tendencies. He’s not yet housebroken, can’t do stairs, and is not used to being left alone. This makes sense given greyhounds grow up always around other greyhounds, usually on a farm or kennel type of environment. Like most greyhounds, Val adapts quickly and by a month or so in his goofy personality starts to really shine through, roaching and all.
Greyhounds, I think, truly are one of the best dog breeds out there. They are super underrated as house pets because they are so well known for their racing abilities. There are tens of thousands of greyhounds per year that can’t find a home after their racing career is over, which is really unfortunate. So if you’re thinking of getting a dog, I strongly encourage you to consider a greyhound. He or she might just be exactly the companion you’re looking for.