by Mike Knaak
Trish and Ted Blonigen would like to introduce you to some retired athletes – four-legged athletes that is.
The Sartell couple shares their home with two greyhounds that were once racers but now, like most retirees, just want some love and a soft place to lie down.
Trish shares her love of the breed by doing meet-and-greet sessions at PetSmart and other locations to help introduce prospective pet owners to the gentle, affectionate dogs.
In addition to two greyhounds, Lily and Lucy, the Blonigen’s household includes sons Tanner, 16, and Cole, 15, and two cats.
When greyhounds’ racing days are over, they are usually 2 to 5 years old. But they still have many years ahead with the dogs living to age 12 to 15.
“They have a lot of life in them, but if they slow down a fraction of a second they are retired for being too slow,” Trish said.
Trish’s meet-and-greet sessions focus on teaching about the breed and dispelling misconceptions.
“People don’t think about adopting greyhounds because they don’t know about them,” she said. “They don’t see them at the humane society or pet shop.”
People think greyhounds take a lot of time, need exercising and they are a huge undertaking, Trish said. But actually, greyhounds are docile, calm indoor dogs. Trish described her dogs like “big cats.” They are calm and don’t bark, she said.
Greyhounds are short-haired dogs with a low percentage of body fat; they do require a coat and boots for extended time outdoors in the winter.
Although greyhounds accelerate quickly to speeds as fast as 45 mph, they are sprinters, not distance runners. And that sprinter instinct can get them into trouble.
If left outside off a leash, a greyhound will take off. Because it’s used to running on the track, it will just keep running and end up far from home.
Greyhounds don’t make good watchdogs. They will bark at strangers but that’s because they are excited, not threatened.
The family learned about greyhounds when they visited a booth featuring the breed at the Renaissance Festival 12 years ago. They had a Dalmatian, but that dog turned out to be a bad fit for the family. When their sons were old enough, the family adopted its first greyhounds.
To insure a smooth adoption, Trish recommends working with a group such as Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption in Coon Rapids. Northern Lights currently charges $375 for an adoption, according to its website.
The adoption process takes about six weeks and the greyhound meets the entire family, including other family pets. The greyhound is “cat tested” to make sure it will get along with the family cat(s). The family’s children must be at least 5 years old so they are safe around the rather large dogs, which stand more than 2 feet tall and so the children know how to treat an animal.
Greyhounds spend their racing lives in the company of other dogs and they are sociable by nature.
Before the animal is placed, the ex-racers are neutered or spayed, have their shots updated, get a computer chip and a veterinarian checkup.
At the track, trainers let greyhounds go outside their kennels to relieve themselves. So they have been trained to go outside and keep their kennels clean. At their new home, the dog learns the house is its kennel and outside it goes to relieve itself.
There are sometimes unexpected transition issues though.
They don’t know how to climb stairs and they aren’t familiar with glass doors such as patio doors.
“You have to put stickers on the doors,” Ted said.