‘45 mph couch potatoes’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2012

Carl Doby remembers the first time he became aware of greyhounds. He was in the heating and air business and was introduced to the breed at a client’s house.
There was just something about that dog that spoke to Carl.
Eventually, Carl adopted his own greyhound, a dog that had come to the end of its racing life. That was about 15 years ago, and the decision changed his life.
“I immediately fell in love with the breed,” he says.
“Once I got one, that was it.”
Now, Carl and his wife, Sheila, have eight greyhounds of their own, which have pretty much taken over the basement of the High Rock Lake home they share with their two daughters, Katie and Alex.
“This is Carl’s and the dogs’ house,” Sheila says of the lower level of their home, which is not nearly as chaotic as one might imagine. Besides the greyhounds, there are a couple of Salukis thrown in for good measure.
Most of the greyhounds have come from Darcy Kennel at Derby Lane, which is a track in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Dobys are actively involved through Greyhound Crossroads in helping place greyhounds they foster. Carl is the Charlotte area representative for the organization, which works closely with racetracks and breeders to ensure that retired racing dogs find loving, comfortable homes. That means Carl and Sheila travel frequently to Florida to pick up dogs, a 1,400-mile round trip.
“I bet we’ve placed 100 or more,” Sheila says.
“This year we’ve placed 10,” Carl adds.
Greyhound adoption began in the 1970s, and in 1987 Greyhound Pets of America (GPA) was established to find homes for ex-racing greyhounds, a mission that involved educating the public about the nature of the breed. Since then, numerous adoption groups — like Greyhound Crossroads — have sprung up around the country as the breed has gained converts.
Thanks to such groups, greyhounds are no longer summarily disposed of after their racing days are over.
They have a few people locally who foster greyhounds for them, Carl says, but what often happens is that people fall in love with the dog they’re fostering and then adopt it themselves.
Racing greyhounds adjust quickly to being pets, Carl says, partly because they get used to a lot of human interaction as racing dogs.
Greyhounds are typically retired from racing at about 4 years of age. Dogs that are adopted are generally quite healthy, Carl says.
People used to believe that greyhounds didn’t make good pets — but nothing could be further from the truth, Carl says.
Although greyhounds are known for the astounding bursts of energy that allow them to tear around racetracks at speeds of 45-50 miles an hour, they “do their thing and are ready to lie down,” Carl says. He notes that they sleep about 20 hours a day and are sensitive and sweet. They make excellent dogs for apartment-dwellers, he says.
“They’re 45 mile-per-hour couch potatoes,” he says. They typically don’t bark much, although they tend to go crazy over squirrels, Carl says. They are typically cat-safe and small dog-safe, Carl says, and are well-socialized to other dogs.
He admits that they’re somewhat destructive as puppies, and Sheila agrees, noting that Hydro chewed up an antique bedroom suite. The Dobys’ basement, which is mainly the dogs’ space, is remarkably drama-free. As dogs are let out of their crates, they are friendly and curious, approaching the strangers in the room but not barking or jumping.
“They’re people dogs,” Sheila says. “As long as they’ve got a person, they’re happy.”
Doby says that they don’t eat a lot either—about three cups of food a day.
The dogs include 13-year-old Nitro, who came to the Dobys when he was a 10-week old puppy. Then there’s Hydro — officially Flying Hydrogen — who is a pretty big deal as greyhounds go. He came out on top in 15 of 27 races he competed in. Retired from the racetrack because of a broken leg, he then became one of the top stud dogs in the country, siring more than 1,000 puppies.
When Doby heard from a friend that Hydro was coming up for adoption, he jumped at the chance.
Reclined on a dog bed is Jessie, the 15-year-old grand dame of the basement. She dozes contentedly most of the day. Her daughter, Diamond, 8, is also part of the Doby pack. Her granddaughter, Pretty, lived with them for a while before she was adopted out.
Casey is a relatively new addition, and Vanna, a female Carl has tried to adopt out twice, is back again — probably for good— because she has separation anxiety.
Carl lets Vanna out in their fenced-in back yard, and she begins to tear around the yard, running in impossibly tight circles.
Recently, Carl and Sheila ventured beyond their role as adopters and bought two racing dogs.
In the beginning, he and Sheila were opposed to dog-racing, Carl says, but as they visited farms and tracks, they realized that the sport was much different than what they’d seen portrayed by some anti-racing groups.
“We love to see our dogs race,” Carl says. They like to visit their dogs when they can. Eventually, after they’re retired from racing, they’ll bring the dogs to live with them.
As online gambling has increased in popularity, interest in greyhound racing has declined, although Florida still has a dozen or so tracks, Carl says.
As part of Greyhound Crossroads, the Dobys bring any dogs they are trying to adopt out to PetSmart in Salisbury from about 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month.
For more information about either fostering or adopting a greyhound, go to www.greyhoundcrossroads.com.
You can also email Carl at retiredracedogs@gmail.com.