Greyhound Trust still backs winners

Sonia Graham with Badger and Moira, greyhounds at kennels run by Sonia and her family in Reston.
Sonia Graham with Badger and Moira, greyhounds at kennels run by Sonia and her family in Reston.

They are a man’s best friend, the only dog mentioned by breed in the Bible and millions of pounds is gambled on them every day.

But even greyhounds sometimes need a little help, and that’s where the Borders Retired Greyhound Trust comes in.

The trust is based on Newmains farm near Reston where Sonia Graham and her helpers look after around 30 dogs at any one time.

The William Hill Organisation, at the heart of greyhound racing in Newcastle, make a donation of £25,000 every year towards the running costs of Newmains, and all the greyhounds taken in are retirees from Newcastle Greyhound Stadium and its attached trainers.

But Sonia doesn’t want people to think that because they are retired from racing, that means the dogs are in anything but top condition.

“It’s true, most retirements are due to injuries,” she says, “but that usually means small muscle inuries, leg pulls, sore toes, and things like that.

“You’ve got to remember, as well, that the racing career of theses dogs is very short. It’s not unusual for a retired dog to be three or even two years old. They still have a lot of living to do.”

Hylton Marrs, sales manager at Newcastle Greyhound Stadium, is confident that the Retired Greyhound Trust offers the best possible retirement once racing is no longer part of a dog’s life.

“Racing greyhounds are used to the best environments around them,” he says, “so it’s important that when they retire, they are offered homes with a loving and caring family”

Sonia and Hylton are keen to put paid to some of the myths that have attached themselves to greyhounds.

Firstly, and most importantly, Sonia stresses that they are not a violent or aggressive breed, despite originally being bred to hunt ground game like rabbits and hares.

“People have these misconceptions,” says Sonia. “They see greyhounds at the racing track with their muzzles on, and assume that they are aggressive, but they really aren’t.

“They are a great dog to have in a home with children, and we’ve housed greyhounds alongside other dogs, cats, even ferrets, in the past. They really are very docile.”

Sonia lives by what she preaches: the dogs under her care live side by side with her family and a flock of ducks.

If you’re still unconvinced, consider this: greyhounds on the Borders Trust’s premises are so calm that they can even be relied on to give blood.

They lap up the attention lavished on them by the vets, and, just like their human counterparts, they get rewarded with a pretty bandage and a biscuit as a reward and to help raise their blood sugar levels.

Greyhounds are universal donors, which means that their blood can be used for almost any other breed of dog.

People who have adopted greyhounds have often had very grateful letters from other pet owners whose dogs have needed blood.

Another peeve of Sonia’s is the fixation people can have on the exercising of their greyhounds - the cliche that they will have to be trudging up hill and down dale with them on a lead in order for the dogs to be happy.

It’s just not true, she says, and greyhounds can be just as happy in a small flat with 20 minutes walk as they would on a farm with fields to run around in and rabbits to chase.

Hylton agrees, and knows that despite their athletic pasts on the track circuit, ex-racing dogs love nothing more than curling up in the sun for a snooze.

“It’s a misconception, that ex-racing greyhounds need relentless hours of exercise,” he says. “They are sprinters by their nature, which means short fast bursts of energy. To be brutally frank, 20 minutes a day walking, will satisfy even the fastest of champions.”

One dog in particular is proving that greyhounds are not only relaxed, but relaxing.

King, a blue and white greyhound used to race under the name Kingfisher Move.

He was rehomed from the kennels to a Catholic charity, Salt and Light, in Glasggow.

Salt and Light provides support and guidance to street-dwellers and prostitutes in Glasgow.

They make outreach visits at night, offering help and hot food, in a converted double decker bus.

King has become an unofficial Salt and Light mascot, and he even rides shotgun at the front of the bus.

The people being helped love to pet and stroke him, which he loves too. Sonia is sure that such a calm creature is a soothing influence.

“They are very calming to be around, when they’re not running full pelt,” she says.

She points out that, like any other adoption, it is important to match the right dog to the right home.

“They all have very different and distinct personalities, after all,” she says. “It’s very rare that I give up a dog to someone after just the one meeting. It can be a very gradual processs, and you want to know that the new owners are sure in what they are taking on.”

Looking to the future, Sonia says that she just wants to continue homing greyhounds as well as she can.

“I’d like more people to know that we’re here, so that we can keep finding homes for these beautiful dogs.”