'Bred to run, born to love': Retired racers find new homes with Greyhound Pets NL

Aaron Natsheh remembers stopping at the Village Mall in St. John's as a kid to see the greyhounds. The former racing dogs were there regularly for meet and greets with the public to raise awareness about adoption.

Now, he has one of his own, and is the treasurer of a group dedicated to finding homes for what its website calls "one of the world's most charming, affectionate, loving and overlooked dogs."

"I've always loved them," said Natsheh, who has been volunteering with Greyhound Pets NL for four years. 

The group promotes the breed as terrific pets because of their friendly, laid back nature, and Natsheh's own dog Wylie is no exception.

Chilled out

"Every dog is different, but in general greyhounds tend to have little bit more chill, relaxed attitude, they tend not to bark too much, and really like to sleep 16 hours a day," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Dog racing is still legal in the southern U.S., and Wylie started his career on a track in Orlando, Florida. 

But with only five wins in 55 races, he was retired. 

"He wasn't the best, he wasn't the fastest, so that's why he got out. He was about three-and-a-half when he came up. His last race was in November 2013 and I got him in January 2014."

Wylie was sent to an organization in Nova Scotia that has helped find homes in the Atlantic provinces — through partnerships with groups like Greyhound Pets NL — for about 4,000 dogs over the past 30 years.

Adjusting to retirement

"They live most of their life in a kennel, so they're really not used to home life at all," said Natsheh.

"Some of them have a little bit of trouble with stairs. They've never seen stairs before, that can be a challenge."

Hardwood floors can be a bit of an issue as well.

"Sometimes they can look like Bambi on ice," Natsheh said.

"They usually take to it pretty well, and it doesn't take long for them to get used to retired life and then they're really just sleeping on the couch all day."

Greyhounds don't have much fat or fur, and that's why you'll usually see them dressed up when they're out for a winter walk.

"We say they're as sensitive as humans to the cold, so if a human needs to wear a jacket, you should probably put one on your greyhound also," said Natsheh.

"A lot of greyhounds around town have a bigger wardrobe than their owners."

'Nice problem to have' 

"Back in the 90s there weren't enough homes, and there were dogs that were euthanized," said Natsheh.

"Right now, we're getting to a tipping point where relatively there's more adopters than there are greyhounds, so it's a nice problem to have." 

Still, with about 25 dogs being sent from the U.S. to Nova Scotia every six weeks or so, the group has to keep raising awareness — and money.

It has planned a meet and greet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Pet Smart on Stavanger Drive in St. John's.

"People can come meet a greyhound, ask any questions they want and start the application process." 

Natsheh said every dog is tested, so the group can match people with the appropriate dog for them. 

Greyhound Pets NL is also hosting a Races to Riches dinner and dance gala in St. John's May 5.