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Saving a gentle, fleet-footed spirit

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image Kelley Weaver, founder of Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, Inc., poses with her daughter Jenna and adopted greyhound BeeBee (in brown) and foster greyhound Jellybean. Mitch Traphagen photo

"The greyhound is a perfect dog for a senior because they're not hyper, they don't pull..."

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

Jellybean gave me a shy look with her big brown eyes and then buried her long snoot between my arm and chest. I would not have expected a dog that can exceed the speed limit of most streets and even some highways to be shy and loving.But Jellybean, like most of her breed, has a gentle spirit. She can run 45 miles per hour for short distances but prefers to spend most of her hours sleeping — sometimes on her back with her paws up in the air; sometimes in a bed with her head on a pillow.

Kelley Weaver is the founder of Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, Inc., a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to rescuing greyhounds and finding them forever homes.

“We get them from kennels — some of them don’t make it on the track or they may get injured,” she said. Financially, people have been having hard times, too, and can’t take care of them. We find homes for them.”

Tall and lean with long noses, greyhounds have been bred for millennia to chase. Among the oldest of purebred dogs, they first appear in ancient Egyptian records dating back 8,000 years. They are the only breed of dog mentioned in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version). But despite their well-earned reputation for speed, they tend to be calm dogs who take to napping as much as they do sprinting.

“People are often surprised at how laid back they are,” Weaver continued. “They’ll see them sleeping and ask if they are OK and we’ll just say, ‘Yeah, it’s nap time.’”

Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions receives the dogs from kennels as retired or injured racers. Perhaps they weren’t fast enough for the track, perhaps they have merely reached retirement age but almost all are still relatively young and loving dogs in need of either a foster or adoptive home. The Weaver family and volunteers foster all of the rescued dogs prior to adoption in order to learn the temperament and personality of each dog and to help the dogs adjust to life in a home environment.

“Many of them have never had the chance to be a puppy, so we try to teach them,” Weaver said. “Their characters are all very different. They are happy and they play. Some of them are thieves — a few of my daughter’s toys have gone missing.”

Her organization makes frequent appearances in South Hillsborough, as she did last weekend with Jellybean, a foster dog, and Bee Bee, a dog she adopted, at the Century 21 Beggins Enterprises Easter Seals benefit garage sale in Apollo Beach.

“There are so many misconceptions out there. A lot of people don’t think about greyhounds, but if anyone wants to contact us to come to see the dogs, please do. A lot of people don’t even think about greyhounds but they’ll meet our dogs.”

And they will steal your heart—thieves, indeed.

“I was born and raised in Clearwater and I used to go to the track when I was a kid just to watch them run,” Weaver said. “Back in those days, there were a couple of tracks that weren’t very nice to them. There are still a number of those tracks, but not in our area. I felt bad for them; I always wanted to have one. The greyhound has always been in my heart.”

Today she is saving them.

“We usually get them at around 18 months and up,” she continued. “And they live to be 12 or more years old. They generally have good health. They don’t have joint problems or hip dysplasia or anything like that. They are also universal blood donors. Most all of our dogs are good with cats and children. And most of them have only ever known crates, so they can be adopted by people living in small homes or apartments.”

According to Weaver, they also make the perfect companions for older people.

“A greyhound is a perfect dog for a senior because they’re not hyper, they don’t pull,” she said.

Prior to placing a dog, potential adoptive families are screened by Weaver’s organization. Although they tend to be adaptable and good with both children and other animals, she wants to make certain there is a good fit between the dog and a new family. She wants to ensure that it really is a forever home. A $250 adoption fee is applied to defray the costs associated with ensuring the health of the dog.

“When they come off the track, they usually have had nothing done,” Weaver said. “We spay or neuter them, get all of their shots up to date, clean their teeth and give them a full check, with worming and any medications.”

Area veterinarians provide discounts in an effort to keep the adoption fee as low as possible. The organization also takes donations, either through the mail or via a link on their website at www.bayareagreyhounds.org.

Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions also seeks foster families to help introduce the dogs to life beyond the racetrack. Foster parents introduce the dogs to things that are new to them: stairs, pools, sliding glass doors and even toys. Most greyhounds retired from racing have never seen or interacted with a child, but they are very tolerant, with the need for respect accorded to any other house pet. According to Weaver, they are wonderful houseguests who are mild mannered and easily potty-trained. Foster families are critical to the organization, as the number of available foster homes dictates the number of dogs that can be taken in to be placed into permanent homes.

With short fur and very little body fat to protect them from extremes in weather, they are indoor dogs that need only a fenced yard to play a little in, or to take a walk once or twice a day. On a walk, with the ability to hit 45 miles per hour, they generally need to be on a leash and they are trained to walk on a leash during their foster care.

Jellybean (Mitch Traphagen Photo)As people begin pouring into the parking lot of Beggins Enterprises looking for bargains at the Easter Seals benefit, Jellybean curled her lean body into a ball on a blanket and settled in for a nap. She wasn’t nervous, nor was she yapping or harassing people as they walked by. But she missed nothing. Greyhounds have eyesight so sharp that they can see a small, moving object from a half mile away.

“They can sleep almost 20 hours a day,” Weaver said. “They are very, very laid back. You just need to be able to walk them a couple of times a day. Dr. Ott’s dog park is also a great place.”

With fur as soft as silk and big, sensitive-looking brown eyes, Jellybean was already well on her way to stealing my heart. Just petting her as she shyly hugged her body against me was a calming experience. She is beautiful, both in appearance and in spirit. Kelley said that the dogs usually pick the people they want. I wanted to take Jellybean home.

“This is very rewarding,” Weaver said. “To find a dog a good home, to know that it will make a difference in their lives (both the dogs and the people). It is beautiful and very rewarding. My biggest thing is I would like people to look into adopting a greyhound because a lot of people don’t realize what wonderful companions they can be.”

For more information about Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, Inc., visit www.bayareagreyhounds.org, email baga@tampabay.rr.com, call 813-272-2332, or write to Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, P.O. Box 21641, Tampa, FL, 33622.

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