On Sunday, Finals Day at Clonmel, a bucket collection will be taken up for Retired Coursing Greyhounds. All attending are asked to give as generously as possible. In advance of the collection Paul Cooney has written this lovely piece.
Supporting your retired coursing dogs at the National Meeting
When penning articles for the Sporting Press or any other outlet, it is a conscious imposition of mine that my respect for your, and all, greyhounds comes through in my writing. They are the stars of my kennel at whatever level they compete and falling in love with them as I do, I know that you as owners want them accurately represented and respected as much here as they are at home with you.
I have yet to meet a greyhound I didn’t like and yet to care for one I didn’t love. Of course, many have left our kennels over the years following a sale as a pup or raced dog but that in itself is exciting when following their career thereafter. However, my coursing bitch pup for this year sustained an injury that curtailed her career to a single outing but amidst the increasing numbers of greyhounds now being retired as pets, she is currently in her foster home awaiting her new life as a fully-fledged pet where I have no doubt that she will be adored as much as she was here at home.
I have a three-year-old coursing dog also who didn’t course this year and I have no inhibition in telling all that he is without question, my best friend in the world. I pledged long ago that he would live his entire life with me but this complicated season we have endured looks likely to leave the home kennels short on space when looking ahead to next season and a gut-wrenching decision to re-home my Paddy is becoming a question that must be asked.
The saving grace for me and Paddy however, is that if I must surrender custodianship of his existence, all the channels are in place to ensure a full and happy life as a pet, for the opportunity, infrastructure and personnel to re-home our coursing dogs is growing year on year.
It would require digests to in any way detail the brilliant people and wonderful efforts being made all over Ireland to both market for and physically secure new homes for our heroes when finished their racing careers.
However, this weekend at the National Meeting one of our greatest champions for retired greyhounds, the 2009 Oaks winning owner of the brilliant Fortuna, Bridget Frank, will head a team of fundraisers, in association with the ICC, while enlisting your support to continue their rehoming of our retired coursing greyhounds.
This coming Sunday, Bridget and her team will be visible throughout Powerstown Park, shaking buckets as part of their continuous fundraising drive to facilitate the rehoming of coursing dogs, support that is increasingly essential.
Bridget explains; “The fact that so many people want to re-home their coursing dogs is a wonderful thing but of course it does put our infrastructure and facilities under pressure.
“However, there is a huge appetite for coursing dogs as pets from all around the world. Canadians, Germans and Italians especially want them because they are such a pleasant and easy dog to make the transition from racing.
“They are aware of their more placid temperament which of course is testament to the ways in which they are cared for by the coursing community and prospective new owners are literally begging for them.
“However, there are costs involved and the logistics can be very different from one country to the next with some much more difficult or costly than others. So, we do need to continue fundraising if we are to match the demand.”
One of Bridget’s team on Sunday will be Karen Geoghegan who she describes as “fanatical about greyhounds” and as well as rehoming to Boston, Karen has accompanied Bridget on rehoming trips to Canada, along with fundraising at many venues in Ireland from Galway to Dublin.
Based at her home in Kilcolgan Castle from where she manages her Air B&B, guests are greeted by retired greyhounds at every turn and an attraction for many visitors, the dogs in Karen’s home are literally part of the family, with one in particular being a celebrity in his own right.
Karen explains; “I have seven in the house at the moment but at times there could be more. The guests love them and they can take them off for walks or play outside. For some, the fact that I have the dogs is the main attraction when booking.
“I would even take guests to the track if I had a runner and many have gone home and decided that they want a greyhound as a pet having stayed here.
“I would have had people maybe from cities that didn’t have pets and the kids could be a bit afraid of the dogs, being so big but that’s where the greyhounds are so brilliant because their nature is so soft, they are perfect with kids.
“I have a special needs daughter, Linda, who doesn’t talk or speak and they are so good with her, especially Rocket. He was Razldazl Rocket and a very talented race dog who was third in an Irish Grand National but Delores Ruth actually picked him from the litter for me, knowing that I would love his gentle nature.
“When Linda lays down on the floor with the dogs, he will get between her and the fireplace to protect her or if she is on her swing outside, he will sit under the swing. I trust him to mind Linda, probably more than any person.
“She goes to a special needs school in Galway, Rosedale. I bring the dogs in once a week to meet the kids. They are all in wheelchairs of course but it is amazing how well they take to the dogs. There is one girl who grabs him by the head for a hug and really squeezes but Rocket never flinches.
“I take the dogs into Galway track as often as I can and while we get donations from the casual race goer, it is mostly from the trainers and owners. They know the funding is essential for us and that the work we do is essential for them.
“But you would have people with the wrong perception and you have to educate them that much of what they see in the media is simply not true and that the vast majority have a great life, especially the ones of mine that they are actually petting at the time!
“Still, the word is getting out there. We have to continue to raise awareness and raising funds. It’s hard work flying over to these countries with all the logistics involved, it’s not a holiday! It is very rewarding though and you meet a lot of nice people through dogs.”
I could fill the paper with stories from Karen about some of her rehomed dogs, including one in South Carolina whose owners actually bought a boat, specially to take the dog out on the water! From her beautiful castle and grounds in Kilcolgan, Karen is one of many tireless workers for our hounds and a shining example of how well our donations are put to use.
Striving to further enhance opportunities for rehoming around the world, all donations will be gratefully received but more importantly will be used to find your greyhound an ideal home following a coursing career by people who are already, and will continue, to display the respect for all dogs under their care, that same respect that you want to see shown to them every day. So please, find a bucket and dig deep on Sunday.