Santa’s Little Helper, who was adopted by television’s Homer Simpson in a 1987 Christmas Special upon being abandoned by his owner after running last from box eight, is by far the best known greyhound in the world. Absolutely useless as a racing dog, albeit fictional, he was, but indeed loveable.
And it seems Victor Harbor has its own little helpers when it comes to walking greyhounds, and they must think it’s Christmas.
It is part of a growing trend by genuine dog lovers to save the lives of tens of thousands of greyhounds retired from racing every year who were destined to be shot. It is a cruel money game, and sadly forgotten by many is that greyhounds make a wonderful pet – they’re incredibly gentle, clean, hardly leave any fur around the household, and they’re amazingly loyal.
Scottish-born Hazel Douglas, of Victor Harbor, feels so strongly for the plight of retired greyhounds that she is encouraging people in the region to adopt a greyhound and walk one when a group meets at the Yilki Store on Franklin Parade on the last Saturday morning of the month.
The passion stems from Hazel’s work with the RSPCA in Cheshire, England, and helping animals in Africa.
Taking the chase out of the greyhounds is not as simple as it sounds, according to Hazel, but the assistance by those at the Greyhound Adoption Program at Angle Park is wonderful. “They do a marvellous job,” she said. “They send the greyhounds to foster homes for six to eight weeks, and are then tested with things like safety with a hand in their food bowl, not being food or toy protective, and making sure they are okay with children.
“The greyhounds during their racing days are told fiercely this is what you will do with the first three years of their life, and to encourage that out of them is not always easy. Some greyhounds are just not suitable for a house; you will never train them, so they are put down.
“When people adopt a greyhound one of the first things they notice is that it has a bare bum. It’s from sleeping on concrete in kennels. The means of cruelty varies.
“Most are not good with small fury creatures, but some are cat friendly. They get tested walking, and how they react to living at a house because they have always been in a kennel. Ultimately, they get adopted, and people discover they are the sookiest dogs in the world.”
Hazel gathered a few greyhound owners in the area to start a walking group about three months ago, and she said it was often interesting to see people’s reactions.
“Their perception is that a greyhound is big, and with a long snout it makes the jaw look a bit threatening,” Hazel said. “Unfortunately, with some being in muzzles you can see mothers pulling the children away and saying that’s a dangerous dog.
“I have never heard of a greyhound attacking a person. A cat? Yes. Anything small and fury? Yes, but never people. We are just hoping people get greyhounds out in the community more so people can see them more often and take notice of their kindness.”
Hazel, who settled in Victor Harbor last year, said the unwanted greyhounds were usually under five years old when they were put down. “There are between 17,000 and 20,000 put down in this country every year, and in the UK it is 30,000,” she said.
Among those on death row was Hazel’s Binky, at only three years old. She was racing at Angle Park earlier this year, but her trainer and owners said she was no good.
The reality was that Binky made Santa’s Little Helper look a champion as Hazel’s loveable greyhound with black freckles won a miserable $80 throughout her whole racing career. A dud as a racing greyhound she was, but to Hazel, Binky is priceless when you peer into her big eyes.
For more information on the Greyhound Adoption Program call 8243 7124 or visit: www.gapsa.org.au