SOUTHINGTON — Wagging tails outnumbered the dozens of dog owners at Camp Sloper for Connecticut Greyhound Adoption’s annual reunion picnic on Sunday.
“I love this,” said Kathy Lane, surrounded by dogs she’s fostered through the group over the years. “I love the greyhounds, they’re beautiful dogs. I love to see them interact with the other greyhounds.”
The picnic reunites dogs and their owners with the members of the group who fostered them through their transition from racing hounds to family pets. The group works with greyhound racetracks across the southern and midwestern United States to find homes for dogs at the end of their racing career.
Free collars were handed out for a number of prizes, including longest tail, smallest greyhound or being able to handshake and members know everyone’s dogs so well that they can often tell when they’ve arrived before they’ve seen them walk over from the parking lot just by the sound of their bark.
Lane said greyhounds are a unique breed that’s known for being laid back, quiet, comfortable with people and having lots of personality.
“They’re so docile (and) laid back,” she said. “They love people. I haven’t met one greyhound that didn’t love people.”
The group usually sees around 50 adoption applications a year, which is approximately in line with how many greyhounds they have available, however, Fran Arpin, the group’s event coordinator, said they’ve seen a surge in applications this year. Those looking to receive a greyhound from the group must undergo a reference, home and veterinarian check before the adoption is approved.
The number of dogs available for adoption has also declined as breeders raise fewer greyhounds in the wake of Florida banning dog racing by referendum in 2018 over concerns about possible mistreatment, which Arpin said is not the case.
The dogs are fostered for a few months by the group’s members to get them used to being in a home setting, teaching them housetraining and identifying what each dog is comfortable with in terms of other pets and home settings.
“The hardest part for someone adopting them is these dogs are always looking (to) us to direction … they’re not mistreated, but they’re always looking for us to tell them to do something,” Arpin said.
Some of the greyhounds are fostered by prison inmates at the York Correctional Institution in East Lyme or the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire through Connecticut Prison Greyhounds Inc. After around six to eight weeks, the dogs have been trained well enough to enter a home setting and are given homes by Connecticut Greyhound Adoption.
Lane said inmates teach dogs basics like how to sit, stay and leave it, as well as learning how to clean their teeth and trim their nails. Though the volunteers haven’t been able to go into the institutions during the Coronavirus pandemic, the dogs are still there and the program is being run by staff.
“It definitely has fostered a lot of change with both the dogs and the handlers,” said Rick Lukas, the nonprofit’s president. At his side was Bolt, a greyhound that’s been adopted by one of the inmates that Lukas is fostering until the new owner finishes their sentence.