Sweet Cherry Pie becomes Sweety, a loving pet

My dog spends most of the day sprawled out on the lounge sleeping. She’s gentle, affectionate and tells me she loves me by burying her nose into my lap. Most people probably wouldn’t have guessed that I’m talking about a greyhound.

I adopted my tall, dark, elegant, and at times awkward, girl aptly known as “Sweety” from Greyhounds As Pets at Wyee on the Central Coast around six months ago.

I had wanted a greyhound since I was in my early teens when I got to know my neighbour’s quiet, sweet greyhound, Amy. Something about her zen nature made me instantly calm. I knew one day I would share my life with one of these beautiful creatures.

My family never had a specific interest in greyhounds.

My childhood pet Tessa was an energetic and loveable labrador. She was an important member of our family but she was strictly an outside dog. While I still adore labradors, the peaceful and loyal nature of greyhounds ultimately appealed more. Not to mention the immense need for so many to be re-homed after their racing careers.   

Upon adopting my seven-year-old retired racer, I carried the somewhat naive assumption that most people loved greyhounds as much as I did. When walking her around Newcastle I am showered with curious questions and comments “why isn’t she wearing a muzzle? Will she try and eat my dog? Was she blooded? Is she vicious? She must need a lot of exercise and wow that is amazing, she’s acting just like a normal dog!”  

These days, Sweety is enjoying the life of a ‘normal dog’ but I can never be truly sure of her past. Her previous owner and trainer both requested not to be contacted by Sweety’s new owner so her formative years remain a mystery. All I know is that during her life as ‘Sweet Cherry Pie’ the race dog she ran nine races, placing first in three and went on to give birth to three litters. She was sired by Brett Lee (out of Sweet Fancy), which won 30 races in 38 starts and earned more than $300,000.

Before she was put up for adoption she would have been through a re-training program to help her transition from life as a working dog, to a much slower pace of life as a pet. During this process she would have learned to socialise with other breeds of dogs, been introduced to the sights and sounds of a home environment and taught how to play. To be muzzle free, she also had to undergo a Greenhound Assessment to prove that she is not a danger in public spaces.

Most greyhound rescue organisations will carefully assess potential adoptees and their homes before considering them. Greyhounds As Pets at Wyee suggested several dogs which would suit my circumstances. As I was working full-time they suggested a handful of “easy dogs” that did not have significant anxiety issues and wouldn’t fret when left alone.

Most newly adopted greyhounds will be anxious to some extent. Even placid Sweety growled at dogs who approached her in the park for a couple of weeks after I adopted her. I was concerned it would be an ongoing problem but she has stopped it completely. It can be easy to forget that these dogs come from an entirely different world than other dogs. Greyhounds As Pets says it’s akin to a human stepping out of a plane and finding themselves in a foreign country. Patience and understanding are paramount when a rescue greyhound is transitioning to domestic life. Some behaviours which may be considered ‘naughty’ in other dogs, are  simply a result of the greyhound coming to terms with an entirely new set of living circumstances and expectations.

They will get the hang of things in good time. Sweety sure has.

It costs $250 to adopt a greyhound from GAP and all their hounds have had a recent vet check, been vaccinated, microchipped, de-sexed, worm treated and have a lifetime registration with council.

Often dubbed ‘70 kilometre per hour couch potatoes’, greyhounds enjoy a lazy life of comfort. With not much fat on them, they like the cushioning of a lounge or bed to sleep on. A human bed is always preferable.

It can be easy to forget that these dogs come from an entirely different world than other dogs. Greyhounds As Pets says it’s akin to a human stepping out of a plane and finding themselves in a totally foreign country.

They are generally a very low maintenance pet. Much to the surprise of most people, greyhounds do not need a lot of exercise. In fact, they can live very comfortably as apartment dogs. One or two twenty minute walks a day is all they need. Remember, they are built for speed, not stamina, and use up their energy very quickly. Unlike a lot of dog breeds they have very little odour and shed minimally. They also rarely bark. In fact, I’m not even sure Sweety knows how to bark.

Originally Sweety was going to sleep in the laundry and spend most of her time outside. That plan didn’t last long. Now she sleeps next to our bed on her own small, plush bed complete with a full sized pillow at one end. She often sleeps with her head on the pillow, stretched out like a human. Her begging eyes and gentle charm have even seen my parents allow her on their good leather lounge when she comes to visit. I call this phenomenon ‘the greyhound effect’.  

A typical day with Sweety involves her showering me with kisses as soon as I wake, whipping her tail about in anticipation for her morning walk. I generally let her run freely with the other dogs at an off leash park. Her morning outing involves ball chasing and a few ‘zoomies’, the name given to the super fast gallop that greyhounds do, usually in circles as if they’re on the race track. And yes, she comes back to me when called. I can’t promise that all greyhounds will. I know many rescue greyhound owners who don’t feel comfortable letting their dog off leash. There’s a strong level of trust you need to have with your animal, given their lightning speed. After Sweety’s morning walk she is zonked out until the evening. If I’m home during the day she might muster the energy to follow me around the house. She prefers that we are in the same room.

She loves the car and has been known to enthusiastically jump in my friends’ and family’s cars when they come to visit in hopes of being taken somewhere fun. She’s learning to love the beach. Originally she was scared of the waves and would jump in the air every time one crashed. I’m not sure she knows how to swim, but she loves lying down in the shallows and soaking her tummy. We do pretty much everything together, including our morning coffee ritual at a local cafe and even dinner dates on Darby Street.

Each Sunday at 4pm we take part in a ‘Happy Hounds Go Walkies’ group for Newcastle rescue greyhounds. We meet in a different place each week from Carrington to Speers Point and Redhead Beach. The greys don’t tend to play with each other but there is an unspoken camaraderie as they walk together in a pack.

Sweety has changed my life for the better. She is an intuitive, intelligent and deeply affectionate dog who is always by my side. The genuine and appreciative love that a rescue dog gives you is one of the most precious things you can experience. I know people will keep asking seemingly strange questions about her, but I am ok with that. I feel it is my duty to keep breaking stereotypes about greyhounds, because the more people I can educate, the more ex racers will find their forever homes.

Greyhounds As Pets gapnsw.com.au