When my mom adopted her first retired racing Greyhound, Champ, from Golden State Greyhound Adoption (GSGA) nearly four years ago, she became part of a supportive community with other adopters. Not long after, she started volunteering at GSGA events and as a foster mom for other retired Greyhounds, helping them adjust to life off the track before they are placed in their forever homes. Her third foster dog was a “fail,” and Isis became part of the family last year.
I take care of Isis and Champ when my mom and her husband travel. During a recent trip they took to Hawaii, I became acquainted with GSGA’s community under the worst of circumstances.
When Champ and Isis are in my care, I usually bring them to the Dogster office with me, but on this particular day, I left them at home because I was planning to leave early. As soon as I arrived at work, I received a panicked-sounding phone call from my mom. She was crying hysterically and said that Champ and Isis were running loose in San Francisco.
“What are you talking about?” I said. “I just left them at home less than an hour ago! And you’re in Hawaii — how do you know where they are?”
For thousands of years, Greyhounds have been bred and trained to hunt by outrunning their prey. They are the fastest breed of dog, and can reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour. Most rescue groups recommend that you keep your Greyhound on leash, except in fully enclosed areas. While they can be trained to come when called, it is just too easy for them to become distracted and take off in a flash.
When Champ and Isis are at home with my mom, they always wear reflective, personalized collars with her phone number printed boldly on them. When she travels, the dogs wear collars bearing GSGA’s telephone number.
Stu, who founded GSGA in 2002 with his wife, Barbra, had called my mom. He told her that a woman who was waiting for the bus not far from my house had seen the dogs running down the street unattended. As they ran past her, she yelled, “PUPPY!” and Champ stopped and walked right over to her. She held on to Champ and called the number on his collar. Isis, on the other hand, kept running.
A couple of minutes later I got a call from Stu, telling me that the GSGA community had been alerted via e-mail that Isis was loose somewhere in my neighborhood, and that volunteers living nearby were already out searching for her.
I immediately left the office and flagged down a cab. On the way home, all I could think was that Isis was running down 19th Avenue, one of the heaviest-trafficked streets in San Francisco. I was terrified that we would cross that street in the cab and find her lying in the intersection, injured or worse. I had to “cancel-cancel” (one of my obsessive-compulsive behaviors to prevent something I’m thinking from really happening) this thought more than once. I felt sick to my stomach.
Before we reached my house, I received another call, this one from Barbra. Isis had been spotted briefly near the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park, about a mile from my house, but she was still on the run.
I got home and found my front door wide open. There was no explanation, save for the fact that I had obviously been careless and hadn’t checked the door when I’d left that morning.
The next call came from Shelley, a long-time GSGA supporter and coordinator of the search effort. She gave me some very specific instructions to join the search for Isis. “First of all,” she said, “do you have the Squawker?”
A Squawker is a wild-animal call that is used to call a Greyhound to you. When you squeeze or swing the gadget, it makes a sound that attracts them. My mom always packs the Squawker in Champ and Isis’ overnight bag when they come to stay with me.
“If you see Isis, do not approach her,” Shelley warned. “Sound the Squawker, and then walk away from her in the opposite direction.” Greyhounds can cover many miles very quickly, and you don’t want to chase the dog out of the area you’ve found her in.
Squawker in hand, I made my way through Golden Gate Park toward the Polo Fields. I couldn’t believe the effort that was being put toward locating my mom’s dogs; I half-expected to look up and see a GSGA search-and-rescue helicopter hovering over the park! Within minutes, I received a call from Dustin, a volunteer member from the search team. “We have retrieved Champ from the woman that held him at the bus stop and we’re on our way to pick up Isis.”
He went on to tell me that Isis had walked up to a man in the park walking his two dogs. She was panting and shaking, and he recognized pretty quickly that she must be lost. He reached down and took the leash off one of his own dogs, put it on Isis, and called the number on her collar. The man stayed with Isis until Dustin and his girlfriend, Katie, came to retrieve her and bring them both back to me.
Most people who lose a pet post signs, call their local shelters, place on online ad, and spend countless days searching in and around their neighborhood. Hundreds of thousands of pets go missing every year, and according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, only 15 to 20 percent of lost dogs are ever returned to their guardians.
It took the volunteers of the GSGA community only a little more than an hour from the time I received the panicked call from my mom to get Champ and Isis back home with me, unscathed!
GSGA’s motto is “Let their last race be into your heart.” And I promise my mom, Stu, Barbara, Shelley, and the wonderful GSGA community that Champ and Isis’ next race will not be out of my house.
What about you? What would you do if your dog got out? Do you share your home, couch, or bed with a Greyhound?
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