Rescuing greyhounds has its rewards

Alice O’Hearn walked into the physical therapy center on a mission: visit her injured mother.

She left with another mission: adopt a greyhound. ASAP.

Twelve years and five dogs later, that mission has changed into an ongoing cause. Now, O’Hearn volunteers her time to groups that rescue greyhounds from racetracks and places them in homes.

“I had never seen that breed of dog before,” O’Hearn says of the day she watched a greyhound therapy dog put his head on a patient’s chest. “I said, ‘Oh my god, they’re beautiful.’ “

She and husband Larry own two greyhounds, Bailey and Kennedy, named after the law firm where O’Hearn works. Both of them were rescued from a racetrack in Guam.

Their regal appearance, quiet presence and sweet natures made her a convert, O’Hearn says. Combine that with the stories of how the dogs are treated at racetracks, and it’s hard not to be a little obsessed.

“Greyhounds get under your skin,” says Dana Provost, the local adoption coordinator for the San Diego-based Greyhound Adoption Center. She also works for Bailey Kennedy law firm, a fact that O’Hearn took as a sign, solidifying her devotion to the dogs. It was Provost’s therapy dog that she saw at the physical therapy center 12 years ago.

The two women both volunteer their time to Celebrating Greyhounds, a national greyhound publication, as well.

There are no dog tracks in Las Vegas but there’s always a need for greyhound activists here, the women say. Often, the local shelters receive greyhounds that need rescuing and sometimes, owners return their dogs. There have been a few bounce backs because of the economy, but that has occurred with all pets, Provost says. Since she started working with the Greyhound Adoption Center 16 years ago, she has placed about 100 dogs in Las Vegas homes.

Although there are American Kennel Club greyhounds, the majority of greyhounds are bred for racing, says Roberta Diakun, spokeswoman for the Greyhound Adoption Center.

Potential adoptees must meet certain criteria before they are approved, Provost says, so she does a thorough screening of any potential owners, including a visit to the adoptive home.

The center’s adoption fee is $240, which defrays the medical costs of preparing the dogs for adoption. Provost also makes herself available to adopting families who have questions or concerns after their dog comes to live with them.

Ex-racing dogs often have issues that other dogs might not, Provost says.

As puppies, they are sent to racing school, where they learn to chase the rabbit that serves as bait at dog tracks. When the dogs are rescued, they often are not socialized to humans or other animals because they spent all of their time on the track or in a kennel, Provost says. They have seen very little outside of the track and their kennel so they must be introduced to walking on slick floors or stairs and riding in cars. The adoption center trains the dogs and profiles their personalities so that they can make the best matches, she notes.

The adoption center requires that the dogs be indoor pets and on a leash when outside because they have been trained to run when their chasing instinct is triggered. A yard is needed but they can live in condominiums, O’Hearn says.

For more information on adopting greyhounds, visit houndsavers.org or vegasgreyhoundrescue.com.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.

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