League of Extraordinary Greyhounds matches racers, human friends
When the Houston Ballet brought its production of Giselle to Montreal’s Place des Arts in 2006, they asked the West Island’s Greyhound Rescue Quebec to loan them greyhounds to appear onstage with the dancers, to add their natural elegance and a note of canine period authenticity to the performance.
Group volunteer Donna Deskin viewed the invitation as a golden opportunity to educate the public about greyhounds, and headed to the theatre with her two rescued hounds.
“The audience just loved the greyhounds and the dancers couldn’t get over how well-behaved they were,” Deskin recalls. Theatre management supplied a table where she could meet audience members during intermission with her dogs, and the happy result was she found four new homes for retired racers that evening.
The experience encouraged Deskin to realize her dream of starting her own N.D.G.-based greyhound rescue, and she soon became creator of The League of Extraordinary Greyhounds, or T-Legs.
Groups like Deskin’s work proactively with the racetracks, racing kennels and adoption kennels, forming a vital link between potential adopters and the thousands of retired racers in need of homes annually worldwide. T-Legs has found homes for 286 retired racers so far.
Deskin and her team of volunteers hold regular public meet-and-greets with their dogs, called Greyhound Gatherings, where they try to dispel some persistent myths about the breed, such as that greyhounds as pets need vast amounts of exercise. It is the retired racers’ frequent fondness for curling up on the sofa to nap or snuggle beside their favourite humans that has earned them the nickname “45 mph couch potatoes.” Because they are sprinters and not long distance runners, they require no more exercise than the average dog, but must always be walked on a leash to prevent them from taking off at top speed into unfamiliar hazards such as city traffic.
Some mistake the greyhound’s reserved nature for aloofness, but it is indicative of their natural politeness, which makes them an excellent choice for first-time dog owners.
A veteran T-Legs organizer learned something new about greyhounds when he was faced with a major health crisis last year. Lenny Berlin was recuperating at home following triple-bypass heart surgery when his family’s four greyhounds decided to keep a constant watch at his bedside.
“That’s when I learned how empathic these dogs are. I didn’t look that different, but they knew something important was happening with me. I used to kid them, ‘How can I get well with your four long sad faces looking at me all day?’ I call greyhounds ‘love sponges’.”
T-Legs screening and adoption services continue year round, with Deskin bringing new adopters to the kennel at Northern Greyhound Adoptions in Vermont.
“Don’t just pick out a dog from our website based on colour or weight or the look of the dog,” she advises. “When you come to the kennel, take the time to get to know the personality of the individual greyhound you’re interested in, because each one is unique, just like us.”
The League of Extraordinary Greyhounds: t-legs.com, 514-239-2513.