By Christine Fernando
Greyhounds Stella and Clyde spent most of their lives on a race track, but when it came time to retire, they found a home with Carmel resident Debbie Leyndyke and her husband, Steve.
But 4-year-old Stella and 5-year-old Clyde have not always been the well-adjusted family pets they are today. Just two years ago, they didn’t know how to walk on wood floors, climb stairs or even avoid walking into windows.
“They didn’t know how to act like normal dogs,” Leyndyke said. “They lived their lives in kennels and on race tracks. A house was a new world to them.”
That’s where Prison Greyhounds came in.
The program, founded by president Mary Louden, brings greyhounds from the Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club to the Putnamville Correctional Facility in Greencastle. There, each dog is paired with two nonviolent inmates who help them transition from the race track to a home before they’re put up for adoption.
Louden, who has four greyhounds herself, said her organization provides curriculum, volunteers to coach inmates and the supplies needed to keep the dogs happy and healthy.
“They leave racing, and their lives are on hold waiting for a foster home, so we make sure they learn what they need to and can move on to a permanent home as soon as possible,” she said.
Leyndyke said it’s not uncommon for a greyhound to have nowhere to go after retiring. As a result, they may face an uncertain and sometimes dangerous future—one she said can be avoided if more people adopt.
But Prison Greyhounds doesn’t only help greyhounds, she said. It also helps the prisoners that care for them. While the dogs learn how to be pets, the inmates learn job skills and gain teamwork experience.
In addition to learning usable skills, the arrangement gives each inmate a furry friend to help him through a difficult time.
“It helps the dogs adjust and find homes, and it gives the men something to love and care for and hold onto when they’re in prison,” Leyndyke said.
While greyhounds are typically gentle, friendly and calm dogs, Louden said they are not for everyone. They have specific dietary and veterinary needs. Their digestive system operates differently from other breeds. And they can run fast, sometimes bolting away and getting lost if not kept on a leash.
“You have to do your research,” she said. “You have to read about the breed, get to know them before you get one.”
For Leyndyke, it’s been fun watching her greyhounds interact and adapt to their new home. As the two got used to house life, their personalities also began to shine through, Leyndyke said.
Stella, nicknamed “Cowabunga,” is the more outgoing pet. She’s the “prom queen” who captured Leyndyke’s heart when they first met. She said Clyde, on the other hand, is cute, docile and lets Stella rule the house.
“He’s like a big gentle teddy bear,” Leyndyke said.
Together, Clyde and Stella have posed for photos as the new mascots of Carmel High School’s football team. They howl duets to the tune of the 11 a.m. tornado sirens that sound on Fridays. And they relish car rides, trips to the park and treats from neighbors.
Leyndyke said she hopes more retired greyhounds will be able to find families just like Stella and Clyde did.
“They found their forever homes here with us,” she said. “It was a great thing to see.”
Learn more at prisongreyhounds.org.
WANT TO ADOPT?
Prison Greyhounds recommends the following steps to adopt a dog through its program:
1. Research the breed.
2. Read the book “Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies” by Lee Livingood.
3. Decide if a greyhound is the breed for you.
4. Fill out written application.
5. Have a brief interview over the phone or at a meet-and-greet.
6. Read the program’s adoption handbook “Bringing Your Retired Racer Home.”
7. Have a home visit to help match a greyhound with a suitable home.
8. Attend a “New Dog Day” near you to meet the available greyhounds.
9. Choose a dog that is best for you, your family and your home.
10. Wait about six weeks for the greyhounds to go through the prison foster program. If you are pre-approved, you may take your greyhound home immediately to house train yourself.
11. Take your greyhound home.
12. Allow the program’s adoption team to follow up with you after two days, two weeks and two months to ensure a smooth transition.
THE LIFE OF A RACING DOG
- 8 weeks – Greyhounds begin regular running to develop muscle.
- 5 months – The dogs begin formal training in using leashes and muzzles, listening to formal commands and becoming race-ready
- 15 months – The greyhounds start racing, typically twice a week.
- 3 to 4 years old – Greyhounds typically retire at this age.
- The next six weeks – If they find a foster home, the dogs typically spend six weeks learning to be family dogs through programs like Prison Greyhounds before being formally adopted.
(Source: Mary Louden and ngap.org)