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Bellingham couple makes new life for retired racing greyhound

I'm not the kind of guy who believes that dogs should wear clothes. I also do not believe that one can be related to a dog, e.g. I cannot be a dog's "papa." I also do not identify myself as a purebred dog person. One can find plenty of puppies for free in the Sunday paper without paying an exorbitant amount of money for an animal that expects to sleep on a silk pillow.

My fiancé shares none of these views, so when she suggested we get an Italian greyhound, I saw the trap closing in. I imagined a fragile, shivering creature that would be impossible to house train and afraid of its own shadow. My off-the-cuff counter measure was to say "I'd rather have a real greyhound" and that was the best I could do.

After a little preliminary research into greyhound rescue, I warmed to the idea. Without knowing anything about it, I had thought that rescue dogs came from a background of abuse or neglect and might have behavioral problems that I don't feel qualified to deal with. Fortunately, that is not the case with greyhounds. Our dog, Freya, doesn't even engage in most of the normal things one expects from a dog: getting into the garbage, chewing things up, barking or pulling on the leash. On our nightly walks, she is a ghost gliding silently at my side. Freya is just a sweet, gentle dog.

There was also plenty to appeal to my practical side. We would not have to deal with a puppy and puppy messes but she would be young enough to have most of her life ahead of her. She would be spayed, have a clean bill of health and all her shots -- all for a very reasonable fee. Greyhound Pets Incorporated is a first-class operation and invests significant energy into educating you on what to expect and how to care for your dog. Above all, we would be adopting a dog that would otherwise be euthanized, which is reason enough by itself.

When they call them "retired racers," the emphasis certainly ought to be on the "retired" part. We take her to a fenced yard and enjoy watching her race around, but after five minutes, she trots up with tongue lolling and is ready to leave. It's not surprising, considering the typical greyhound race doesn't last much longer than 30 seconds. Aside from the occasional run and a few walks a day, she is happy to lie around most of the time.

Another aspect that people might not realize about adopting a greyhound is that they usually haven't bonded with anyone. They are usually well cared for, but cared for in the way you would care for a car and not a dog. They have plenty of human contact but little affection. Our Freya was uncertain about affection and playing in the beginning and would just lie in her bed and observe. Even now she watches me very carefully to see what I am going to do and what she should be doing. The constant eye contact is a sign of someone who is paying attention and waiting for instructions, which is something I am unaccustomed to in my job as a teacher.

It's very rewarding to see her learn how to play and be affectionate. Now she'll flop down on the bed with her back against me, gangly legs splayed out, push her long nose into my armpit and fall asleep. She has taken to following me around our small condo and lying down directly behind me wherever I happen to stop walking. I get boxed into the kitchen and bathroom in this manner on a daily basis, but I think it is just a tactic to get me to pet her every time I turn around. We now play a low-key version of tug-of-war and I can get her to gallop up and down the hallway. She's starting to act like a dog and it is a heartwarming thing to witness.

So if you're in Fairhaven and you see a guy walking a black and white greyhound in a red raincoat?

That's not me.

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