Shortly after adopting a retired greyhound racing dog, a Kokomo Engine Plant employee found herself with a unique hobby: fostering the quick-sprinting canines.
Devon Rehm adopted a greyhound after graduating from college in 2016, and in getting to know his personality and more about greyhound racing, she wanted to do more. She got involved with a group based out of Indianapolis and since has been fostering the animals and serving as an ambassador for the breed.
“I was looking at the breed as a whole, and I think there are a lot of misconceptions about greyhounds, like they’re high-energy and are going to run around like crazy all the time,” Rehm said. “They like to exercise, and they need to exercise. But they’re fairly low-energy … They have a nickname of being 45 mile per hour couch potatoes.”
The dogs are bred to race, and the litters stay together and grow up with each other and alongside other dogs, she said, making them very well socialized. The dogs she’s fostered are former racing dogs from tracks in Florida, Alabama, and West Virginia.
The tracks, she said, generally have adoption kennels on-site or near the facilities that find homes for the dogs once they retire, but there also are several groups throughout the U.S. that bring dogs more locally, such as the one she works with, Prison Greyhounds, to find them homes.
The dogs typically retire between age 1-and-a-half and 5. Her first dog, Lunar, never found his footing as a race dog and retired early on, around age 2. He raced in Alabama at the track in Birmingham. Some dogs like racing more, she said, and go on to race much longer.
Rehm now has fostered 24 greyhounds. Last year, she had a “foster fail” and ended up adopting one of her fosters, her 20th one, Zellie. Due to COVID, a lot of the tracks closed, which escalated the need for foster homes for dogs.
“There were a lot of dogs that needed to go somewhere in a short period of time, and just during normal fostering, she was a foster in my home. She and my dog got along really well, and I decided that it was time to bring a second dog permanently in. So she stayed,” she said.
Zellie raced 12 races in Florida and, like Lunar, retired at age 2, though Rehm said Zellie was much better at it. Zellie received comments such as “good effort,” “came from behind,” “out like a rocket,” and “determined,” while Lunar’s comments read “went halfway through” and “leading the pack and then stopped.”
Lunar much prefers being a pet, Rehm said, laughing.
Rehm said she enjoys playing a role in helping dogs transition from track life to pet life.
“I think it’s just a nice way to give back and make a difference, and each one has their own personality and teaches you kind of a lesson in their own way,” she said. “They all have a different impact, but I think it’s just a nice way to give back and make a difference.”
While she said it’s sometimes hard to let them go, she knows it’s part of the process.
“I think you know that they’re going from point A to point B, and by fostering them and then letting them go, you’re opening up space for another dog to be fostered,” Rehm said. “So it’s sometimes hard, but for the most part, you know it’s necessary so you can continue to help other dogs.”