When Christina Mellot told her husband, Randy, to bring her something nice back from the Delta Chicken Festival five years ago, imagine her surprise when he saw a greyhound adoption exhibit and called to ask, “How about a greyhound?”
Initially, she said no, but the more the Fayette couple thought about it and researched the breed, the more they warmed up to the idea.
Later that year, the Mellots contacted Team Greyhound, of Swanton, Ohio, and through them adopted two hounds, a wavy orange-and-white male called Danny, and Midge, a younger female of a sandy purple melange.
Topping out at about 45 miles per hour, greyhounds contend with the pronghorn antelope, the lion and the quarter horse for second fastest land mammal. Cheetahs, which can hit about 60-70 miles per hour at their fastest, are the undisputed land speed champions.
But unlike cheetahs, greyhounds are docile and quite trainable, and known famously for racing. There are around 45 greyhound tracks in the U.S. and numerous others dispersed about Ireland, the UK, Australia and parts of the second and third world.
When they reach about six months of age, greyhounds are sent to racing school, where they’re trained to chase a moving bag.
“Midge never caught on. Some litters are so big that the dogs that don’t–they’re euthanized using whatever method is cheapest,” says Christina.
At one time, over 20,000 greyhounds a year were euthanized. the number has come down recently, but exactly how much is hotly debated. Several thousand perfectly good dogs are still meeting inhumane fates every year, according to many greyhound adoption agencies.
This was a primary reason the Mellots explored the possibility of greyhound adoption.
The Mellots took in Danny in 2000 and also volunteered with Team Greyhound to provide foster care for other dogs. Midge, their first foster dog, was too precious to let go.
Danny was born in 1996 and spent four years on the track.
“Danny was a class A racer. He had lots of first, second and third place finishes,” says Christina.
Most dogs only race for one or two years, and are usually retired when an accumulation of minor injuries begins to affect their performance.
Since adopting their two resident hounds, the Mellots have fostered over 40 others.
“The main goal is to socialize them,” says Christina. “At the track they only see their trainer and the kennel help. They have a very high protein diet on the track. They have to get used to a more sedentary lifestyle.”
Adopted greyhounds need to get used to being turned out for exercise only two or three times a day, as compared to the four or five daily exercise sessions they had at the track.Also, elements of normal life we take for granted, such as stairwells, doorbells and the sound of passing traffic are completely foreign concepts to the dogs.
“When Danny first heard the coffee maker come on, he just about lost it,” said Christina.
But that’s one of the easiest transitions, according to Christina. She describes her hounds as 45 mile per hour couch potatoes.
“A lot of people think they’re a hyper animal, but they’re not,” says Christina.
The greyhound’s astonishing speed requires an extremely efficient metabolic system. They store hardly any fat and as a consequence have little energy saved for prolonged physical exertions.
“They’re so lean, that if you picked one up and threw him in a pool, he would sink right to the bottom.”
But then again, who would want to do that? Ancient Arab civilizations cherished the birth of a greyhound as if it were the birth of a boy, And the Mellots, they cherish Danny and Midge as indispensable members of the household.
“They’re the best breed I’ve ever had,” says Christina.
Greyhounds have a long history
• Because greyhounds don’t have undercoats, they are less likely to trigger people’s dog allergies.
• The name “greyhound” comes from the Old English grighund. “Hund” is a forerunner of our “hound,” but scholars are still debating the meaning of “grig.”
• Most greyhounds aren’t gray. In fact, a gray greyhound is considered bad luck at the track.
• Though recent studies of greyhounds have brought their genetic heritage into question, they are generally believed to be one of the oldest canine breeds. Statues and representations resembling greyhounds have been found among ancient Egyptian art and hieroglyphs, some dating back 4,000 years.
• The greyhound is the only breed of dog named in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31, though some translations vary).
• Though most canines are known for their exceptional sense of smell, greyhounds are sight hunters. Their ability to spot small game at long distances and chase it down made them valuable members of the post tenth century Medieval English economy. At some point in the 900s King Howell of Wales made killing a greyhound an offense punishable by death.
• In 1014, the English King Canute enacted the Forest Laws, which forbade commoners to hunt with their greyhounds on royal lands. This led to constant battles between commoners and nobility known as the Greyhound Wars.
• The greyhound is the first breed of dog mentioned in English literature. Geoffrey Chaucer described a monk training them in The Canterbury Tales. Greyhounds also appear in eight Shakespearian plays.