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After a life racing, retired greyhounds find new families through a Central Oklahoma nonprofit



Hounds of the Heartland is in the 45 mph couch-potato business.

Retired racing greyhounds, as they're more commonly known, are sent to this organization for a chance to find a family. There are similar groups in the state, but HOH is the only one that serves the metro Oklahoma City area.

Although there are actually no greyhound tracks in Oklahoma, there are many breeders in the state, making for more than enough eligible candidates for loving homes.

"In 2009, we adopted out 39 greyhounds. There's an endless supply of them coming off the tracks," said Emily Hummel, HOH vice president. "We usually have about eight dogs up for adoption at any given time, and as soon as we find a home for one, we'll bring another one in from the farm."

The group takes a neutral stance on racing " an often controversial topic " to keep a positive working relationship with the greyhound farms. All dogs typically arrive in excellent health and average weight.

Because HOH doesn't operate a kennel, all of the available dogs are fostered. Many of the foster homes end up keeping the dog, but some give them up to be adopted by another family.

"We operate a 'try before you adopt' program," said Brad Whitley, the group's adoption and foster coordinator. "When a potential adopter has applied and met some basic requirements, then a dog we have mutually selected is placed with them for a trial period. We want each family and dog to be comfortable with their new loved ones before we finalize the adoption. It is critical that both are happy and content with the decision."

Medical attention and other expenses are taken care of " all the family needs to provide is a home.

"The foster home is typically the first house these dogs have ever been in," Hummel said. "The good thing about greyhounds is that they're really disciplined and well-trained because they were raised with a lot of structure on the farm. They're such great house pets because they pretty much just lay around all the time."

Even so, the organization notes, greyhounds continuously fall prey to a major misconception.

"I've been doing this for eight years, and I still notice how many people don't know much about these dogs," said Candee Scott, HOH secretary. "Everyone thinks they're (hyper) because they were racing dogs. But upon seeing them for the first time, people realize how calm and sweet and gentle the greyhounds are."

Public appearances, called "Show and Tells," are scheduled frequently to advertise the mellow nature of the breed. These are also opportunities for the general public to see the dogs and learn more about the mission of the group.

In a time when the financial security of racing tracks is uncertain, Show and Tells are critical in finding homes for retired greyhounds.

"We're calling this year the 'greyhound tsunami,'" Hummel said. "Due to the economy and the fact that people aren't betting on racing dogs, there's a chance that many tracks will be closing. If we do have a big rush of dogs, we can only take in as many as we have places for. What we're in desperate need of right now is an abundance of foster homes."

For more information, visit "Emily Hopkins

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