For more than a year, members of the West Olathe Greyhound Walking Club have been getting together for a monthly stroll around some of Olathe’s finest parks.
Their canine companions, all former racing dogs, are now living a life of leisure. A lifestyle of rest and walking (not running), is best suited for this breed. Retired from the rigorous track world, they have each found their forever homes through Kansas City Retired Greyhounds as Pets, a non-profit organization that finds homes for this well-loved breed.
Leslie Grimes, greyhound owner and founder of the West Olathe Greyhound Walking Club, started the club with four families, then posted their activity on Facebook. Now 20 greyhounds walk each month.
“Greyhounds love to walk and they love people, so it leads to a great event,” Grimes said. “They’re a perfect breed. They’re so sweet and gentle, and they have these beautiful, soulful eyes. They all come from the racing industry, and so we greyhound owners want to love and spoil them all of the time.”
The sun shines brightly on retirement for these greyhounds — and is a far cry from the days of their former racing lives.
Most dog racing is affiliated with the gambling industry. Greyhound racing is an organized sport in which the dogs are bred to race competitively.
Currently, six states legally permit the racing and have operational tracks.
When they reach between 1 and 2 years of age, young greyhounds who appear to have racing potential are introduced to breeder/owners.
From that moment, life takes a grim turn for many of these dogs, where most of each day is viewed from the inside of a crate.
Animal rights activists point out that racing greyhounds often spend up to 22 of every 24 hours muzzled and confined. Many have no bedding and are fed in their crates. They receive minimal, if any, love and affection — something greyhounds, like most all canines, thrive on. Greyhounds that do not exhibit an interest in racing, or are injured on the track (which occurs frequently), are often euthanized.
For more than two decades, Julie Morrison, Lenexa, has been on a passionate mission to rescue these dogs. Her first experience with the breed was at a Kansas City Retired Greyhounds as Pets meet-and-greet event in 1995.
“I’m a dog lover and I’d never known or seen a breed like them,” she said. “I’ll never forget that day. It was love at first sight.”
Shortly after that life-changing introduction, Morrison and her husband, Chris, began fostering Kansas City Retired Greyhounds as Pets dogs. Since that time, they have fostered and found adoptive homes for more than 100 greyhounds.
“In no uncertain terms, from what I’ve experienced as a caretaker, I’m 100 percent anti-racing,” Julie said. “Every medical need I’ve seen and helped to find remedy for, as far as the Greyhounds’ illnesses and their broken bodies, has been associated with racetrack experience.
“More than 30 percent of the dogs I’ve fostered have had broken limbs. Many have been confined for so long, they were forced to urinate in their crates.”
Like Morrison, many greyhound owners in Olathe, across the metro and beyond adopt or foster greyhounds with special needs that have resulted from race-track related conditions.
Grimes, the greyhound club’s coordinator, has both fostered and adopted greyhounds with long-term medical issues. She adopted her current greyhound, Kaci Blue, just a few months after the Royals won the World Series.
Initially, Grimes fostered Kaci Blue. She came to Grimes’s home with a broken leg and other medical issues, and she would have been euthanized if Grimes had not fostered her.
“Kaci Blue is the last greyhound I fostered. However I ‘foster-failed’ because I fell in love with her and adopted her,” Grimes said. “Shortly after she arrived and I saw how beautiful and sweet she was, even after suffering the pain of a broken leg, I knew I had to keep her.”
Though some greyhounds struggle with medical issues, like Kaci Blue, they retain their loving temperaments. West Olathe Greyhound Club members get a lot of attention when they walk the dogs.
“When they see our group walking around the community center or shopping at the farmers market, they stop us and ask about our greyhounds,” Grimes said of the community. “We have an opportunity to tell them how great these dogs are. They’re ambassadors for the breed.”
“There still needs to be a lot of education around the lives of racing greyhounds. At the walking events, people can meet and learn about these beautiful creatures.”