When Craig and Kim Shide decided to adopt their first greyhound four years ago, they looked forward to bringing their dog home and integrating him into the family. They never imagined the impact this first dog would have on their lives, or how involved they would become in the greyhound community.
The Andreas couple now owns two greyhounds, Zoe and Jakey, and has fostered more than 20 additional dogs in the past two years. They are currently fostering Chinook, fondly known as "Schnooker."
Craig and Kim are just one of many foster families involved with Pocono Greyhound Adoption, a non-profit organization that works to educate the community about retired greyhound adoptions and matches foster dogs with "forever homes."
"We are the primary agents for this area," said Craig, noting that Pocono Greyhound Adoption serves nine counties in the region, including Carbon.
Before adopting their first dog, Zoe, Craig worked on an Allentown delivery route for Longacre's Dairy. This route led him past a man walking his greyhound each day. He eventually stopped and asked the owner about his dog.
"I had the chance to pet the dog, and she was always very friendly," he said. After doing research into the breed and attending a "meet and greet" with First State Greyhounds at Country Junction, "I began to realize how pleasant these dogs are," he added. "We have been involved with greyhounds ever since."
"Meet and greets" are a popular event for most greyhound groups, including Pocono Greyhound Adoption. They allow foster parents and dogs to get out into the community and raise awareness about greyhound adoption. These events also let potential "parents" meet dogs who are available for adoption.
Pocono Greyhound began as an education group but quickly grew to become a foster and adoption agency for retired greyhounds. All dogs are fostered in homes, not kennels, and learn to become family dogs.
For the Shides and other members of Pocono Greyhound Adoption, the fact that these dogs are raised in kennels for track racing isn't a factor in their love for greyhounds.
"You can watch shows and see the downside of dog racing but that wasn't the reason we wanted to adopt. Pocono Greyhound has a very neutral stand on racing," he said. Instead, they focus on the benefits of owning greyhounds, encouraging potential dog owners to help a retired greyhound find a forever home.
"The groups that are around the tracks are making great strides in greyhound adoption," he said. "They're starting to come around, and greyhound owners are becoming more interested in adoption. There has been a lot of public influence."
Owners interested in lineage information can trace their greyhound's parentage with the dog's racing name or number. The Shides have traced Jakey's parentage back to the 1800s.
Both adopted and foster dogs make frequent appearances in their own community, attending 4H presentations and school and nursing home events. The Shides frequently visit Tractor Supply in Lehighton and attend other "meet and greet" sessions in Carbon County. While out in the community, they educate the public about the benefits of greyhound adoption and the need for forever homes.
"Every dog has his own personality, and each greyhound is different," said Craig. "Jakey was just so laid back."
Greyhounds tend to be a less active breed, but they do have an instinctive need to run. Because racetrack greyhounds are kept in kennels until race day, they have a tendency to sleep a lot and then release great bursts of energy during exercise and play.
Each animal is different, and foster parents take the time to get to know each dog and find a good match for its new home. Their current foster, Chinook, has a strong personality and will require a home where she has the company of a person or animal throughout the day.
"Chinook will make someone a good pet," predicted Kim. "A good house for Chinook is where there is a strong male presence. She's an alpha, and she needs a strong home."
All greyhounds, even the most calm and obedient, must be kept on a leash or within a fenced area at all times. Greyhounds are sight hounds and will focus on and chase fast-moving objects. This can lead to tragic results when dogs chase a rabbit or small animal onto a busy road.
Apart from their desire to chase, the unique atmosphere in which greyhounds are raised can make them great pets, said Kim.
"They bond very quickly to their new owners," she said. "It comes from the way they were trained, and the way they are raised." Retired greyhounds are accustomed to being handled and are typically mellow around new people, but quickly become attached to family members once adopted.
In addition to matching foster dogs with forever homes, Pocono Greyhound also does several fundraisers each year to sponsor medical costs of dogs at Florida racetracks. Donations are also used to transport foster dogs from Florida and pay for new fosters' first vet visits. The group relies heavily on volunteers and donations to continue sponsoring new dogs and bringing fosters to the area. The adoption fee for a greyhound is $240, which covers only part of the cost of transporting and fostering the dog.
"For this fee, you get a spayed or neutered dog," said Craig, noting that these dogs have also been to a local veterinarian and are current on their shots. Most fostered greyhounds are also housebroken, stair trained, and fully prepared to live a happy retirement in the average home.
"A lot of people do not want to go through the process of training a puppy," he added, noting that most fostered greyhounds are between two and three years of age and are well past the high-energy puppy stage. "When you adopt a greyhound, it comes to you ready for a home life."
Like other adoption networks in the area, Pocono Greyhound also offers a lifetime of support for adoptive parents.
"It's one big family," said Kim. "Most greyhound groups work together. It's really all about the dogs."