“You can either get me a really nice wedding ring, or you can get me a greyhound—and I’d kinda prefer the greyhound!” Bride-to-be Ellen Ganopoulos’ thoughts were far from frilly white dresses and flower bouquets. Instead, all she could think about was the shocking fact revealed in the documentary she had just finished: thousands of greyhounds are simply killed when they are no longer able to race.
“I realized the plight of the greyhound and the need—the absolute need—for people to adopt them,” she recalls. Now, years later, Ellen is not only the owner of multiple greyhounds including Orville and Wilbur, but a member of the Board of Directors for the organization Greyhound Friends of New Jersey (GFNJ) and the volunteer coordinator for most of their events.
Surrounded by three easy-going greyhounds and their owners, it was hard to believe that these dogs are nearly the fastest animals on earth, second only to the cheetah. “They’re actually kind of couch potatoes, and very low-maintenance,” said Jackie Nuttall, owner of , in reference to her dog Penny. “They don’t need any grooming and all you really have to do is trim their nails.”
Her husband Eric and Ellen’s husband Bill added, “They’re calm, quiet, and don’t bark much . . . and they love the water, but when they’re wet they don’t smell,” and, “They live most of their lives (13 or 14 years) with almost no health problems.”
Ellen agreed that while most people have a mental picture of greyhounds at the racetrack with their muzzles on, that’s only one side of this creature’s character.
“They are docile, gentle, quiet dogs, and absolutely wonderful companions,” she explained. “They bond very closely to you and are very loyal and loving and a lot of fun to take on a walk—you can’t go a block without people saying, ‘Is that a greyhound?!’”
Jackie noted that greyhounds even have therapy and homeland security certification due to their easy temperament.
After three or four years racing, greyhounds have never really had a ‘puppyhood.’ At GFNJ, members’ missions are to allow them to have a different kind of life.
“We need to introduce them to living in a house with people,” explained Ellen. “We slowly let them adjust to new sights and sounds in a home—stairs, mirrors, children, doorbells, knocking, etc. It could take a week, or it could take a few months depending on their individual personalities.”
“When you compare a greyhound to any other dog, it’s almost like they’ve never been a ‘dog’ so it’s exciting to watch them become a dog!” added Jackie. “Like when they look in a mirror for the first time and they think it’s another dog, or when you throw a stuffed animal across the living room and they chase after it . . . if you’re looking for a guard dog, a greyhound is not the one!”
“And it’s interesting to learn about all of their little quirks,” Eric continued. “They have no territorial instinct because they’re used to living in cages with other dogs—”
“Like hippies!” exclaimed Ellen.
“—And since they’re bred really only for speed, they have all kinds of ears and different shaped noses. That’s kind of a unique thing about them that other breeds don’t have. We’re kind of in the minority; we only have one, but most people have two or three or four!”
One of Ellen’s friend loved her greyhound so much, she even bought it a Mercedes SUV! “She said ‘Rudy, if you like it we’ll get it!’”
As I sat petting these friendly animals, I was struck by their extremely soft fur, and asked if they shed a lot.
“Nope!” Ellen answered cheerfully. “In fact, a lot of people who are allergic to dogs do very well with greyhounds. I’m not saying they’re hypoallergenic or anything, they just have less of an undercoat.”
Those interested in adopting a greyhound or learning more about GFNJ should visit the website, http://www.greyhoundfriendsnj.org to learn about the dogs and decide if it’s right for them. They should also fill out GFNJ’s online application about their living situation so as to be matched with the right dog, and visit one of the many meet-and-greets hosted by the organization to interact with them in person.
“People are very generous to us,” Ellen acknowledged. “They appreciate and support what we’re doing.”
Since their launch in 1986, GFNJ has added over 6,000 furry members to happy families all over the state. “We’re very dedicated to what we do and the support feels good. We always feel welcome and that makes it worth the hard work.”
The next fundraiser will be at the from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18. It will consist of a variety of vendors, entertainment and a raffle. There will also be opportunities to adopt and donate to GFNJ, as well as the “Grey Café” where owners can stop and have a snack with their pooch—all dogs welcome, not just greyhounds!
But even after talking to this group of enthusiastic greyhound-aholics, I still have one final question: where’s mine?!