Rescuing Baci: A Retired Greyhound Racer Gets a New Life
New York City-resident Kristin Fernholz knew from the beginning she wanted to rescue a greyhound, she just wasn’t sure how she’d find one. “Out of all of the breeds of dogs, I was drawn to the graceful nature of the greyhound,” Fernholz says. “They are nicknamed the 45-mph couch potato because they sleep most of the day and are quiet, gentle dogs.”
This was important to Fernholz who, like all big-city dwellers, has space limitations. “I wanted a dog that would not disturb neighbors with barking or noise if I was away for work or had visitors over,” Fernholz says. “Greyhounds are known to be quiet and gentle; while large, mine thinks he’s a lapdog and is perfectly fine receiving attention while standing still.”
Finding the Right Dog at the Right Time
Fernholz initially had two concerns. First, she needed a dog who would get along with her cat. While some greyhounds are not interested in cats and don’t pay much attention to other animals, others might have more of a chase instinct (often connected to the way they were trained for racing). In addition, Fernholz needed to make sure the dog would do well in the chaos of Manhattan life.
When researching greyhound adoptions, Fernholz stumbled upon an adoption agency (that preferred not to be named in this article so that they can continue their efforts) that works with greyhound racing tracks to foster retired racers and place them with appropriate owners.
“I had a foster family come to my home with their greyhound to discuss greyhound ownership, tell me about the breed, the adoption process, and to allow me to get a feel for the temperament and size of a greyhound in my space,” Fernholz says. “After that, I waited to hear when they had a foster greyhound that matched with my requirements.”
And then, the right dog appeared. Baci – which means “kisses” in Italian because Fernholz says he always puts his nose on people’s noses but he never licks them – was almost five when she adopted him three years ago. “He was born on Christmas, like The Simpson‘s dog (also a greyhound), Santa’s Little Helper,” Fernholz says. It only took one visit to meet him in his foster home before Fernholz made the decision to adopt him.
Shadows of Baci’s Former Life
While greyhound racing is declining and illegal in many states, there are few rules surrounding the treatment of the animals. As a result, the living conditions and treatment the greyhounds receive at a particular track vary widely. While Baci showed no signs of physical abuse or fear from any type of neglect, Fernholz says some greyhounds are not as lucky and break legs or have injuries.
The rescue group that handled Baci’s adoption had taken care of of his basic medical needs, including deworming treatment, dental care and shots. Still, Baci was underweight by about 10 to 15 pounds and needed several additional deworming treatments. “Baci never had a broken leg while racing, and aside from a mark on his nose from the muzzle worn while racing, he has not had medical issues aside from dietary adjustments,” Fernholz says.
Baci has, however, had a number of gastrointestinal issues, likely due to the diet he was fed while racing. “He’s on a prescription diet that is fiber responsive and he has done well on it,” Fernholz says. As with every breed of dog, some require prescription diets and others don’t; Baci is more sensitive to food than other dogs.”
Learning How to Be a Dog
Like all greyhounds who are former racers, Baci had took some time to adjust after his adoption.
“Baci had never seen another breed of dog, had never seen his reflection in a mirror or on the windows of the sidewalks on Park Avenue, didn’t know how to go up and down stairs, had not slept outside of a dog crate, hadn’t walked on a leash, had not seen a swimming pool or expected that it was not solid ground he was walking into—and learned quite quickly with the help of three friends that he wasn’t the best swimmer,” Fernholz says.
Baci also does not bark or “roo” (a breed-specific howl). “When other dogs bark at him, he seemingly wonders what archaic thing would make that sound and continues on his way,” says Fernholz. “At dog parks, he walks around to sniff the perimeter and then seeks affection from the humans instead of paying attention to the dogs.”
“Baci had never seen another breed of dog, had never seen his reflection in a mirror or on the windows of the sidewalks on Park Avenue, didn’t know how to go up and down stairs [and] hadn’t walked on a leash”
Adjustments aside, Fernholz says bringing Baci into her life changed everything. “People always call Baci a rescue, but I like to say that he retired from racing and rescued me.” And who can blame her when you share your life with one of the world’s goofiest dogs?
“He does not realize how tall he is, so often blocks the view of movies by standing in front of the couch to receive affection,” Fernholz says. “Sometimes he will refuse to go to his bed on command, which is a red flag that something is on his bed, so I will go to the bed and discover a receipt or a stuffed animal is sitting on the bed and he will reject the bed until the object is removed, like an uninvited guest has taken his territory.”
He also sometimes refuses to eat breakfast from his raised dog bowl unless Fernholz is also eating breakfast. “It’s really strange, but I think he thinks we should eat together as if we are a team,” Fernholz says. “And he doesn’t chew on anything like bones (or my shoe collection), but he has a bunch of stuffed animals people have given him over the years; he arranges them around the apartment throughout the day.”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.