by Dennis McKeon
The more I think about this clever, one might say “cloying” expression, the more I feel the need to disavow it—to some degree, anyway. We’ve all used it to describe our Greyhounds. It says a lot about them. Or does it?
No doubt, Greyhounds are not in any way averse to taking their comfort in the most conspicuous of places. As former athletes who put an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm into their training and racing exploits, they were entitled to their rest, and required sufficient downtime in between training and racing sessions, to recharge their extra heavy duty batteries.
Being canines, they tend to sleep from 12-16 hours per day, as canines in the wild and in domestication have been widely observed to do.
However, it is a bit concerning, and more than a little revealing, as to why so many of the Greyhound’s adopters and admirers have chosen to embrace the “couch potato” part of the cliché, and not the “45 mile per hour” part.
Unfortunately, once again, we see that this is, in no small way, just more of the residue of the Greyhound’s popular mythology. This litany of misinformation and toxic propaganda, has convinced large segments of the Greyhound’s audience, that their Greyhound’s innate and deeply ingrained demands and desires to engage in expressions of their phenomenal speed and athleticism, such as racing or coursing, are an anathema, and are something in need of exorcism—or at the very least, something to be suppressed or avoided.
The media, and certain, self-styled “advocates”, have gone to great and extreme lengths to cast greyhounds as pathetic objects of pity, who need to be “rescued” from their own genetic demands and from engaging in healthy, natural behaviors, or any simulation thereof. This is, of course, a matter of ideology, and has nothing to do with the essence of the holistic Greyhound. Moreover, it is a denial of their essential nature.
Now, there are many people who take exception to the business of greyhound racing (or coursing), and the innate risks of injury to the greyhounds that all such athletic endeavors present, as well disclaiming the idea of using any animal for profit, entertainment or for gambling purposes. They are entitled to that ideology.
What they are not entitled to do, is to redefine the Greyhound. Now, no matter what you may have read or been told about Greyhounds, they are ultimately and exquisitely fulfilled by participation in athletic events which afford them the opportunity to engage in some form of precisely what it is that they have been bred to do for millennia—to run as fast as they can, for as long as they can, after prey—or in today’s racing and lure coursing models, a prey effigy.
One man’s “cruelty” is another Greyhound’s fondest desire.
Now, for the John and Jane Doe adopter, who have been bemused by the “couch potato” characterization, but who have been led to ignore or who have failed to come to grips with the “45 mile per hour” prefix, we have a situation.
Greyhounds, whether we wish to believe it or not, are used to having a great deal of mental and physical stimulation as hell-bent-for-leather, bold and daring racing athletes, and to being kept in peak physical form. Mental and physical stimulation, and being in a reasonably high state of fitness, are good things—irrespective of popular Greyhound mythology or of one’s ideology—or the fact that the greyhound is retired.
Allowing our precious, delicate, “furbabies” to become flaccid, overweight (or underweight) and under-stimulated sofa ornaments, is not necessarily providing the retired Greyhound with the “better quality of life” so many are convinced their adopted Greyhounds deserve.
Understand this. Your greyhound was bred and born to race, as nearly all Greyhounds have been, for the past century and often twenty-odd generations. They are intensely focused, supremely adapted, and furiously competitive creatures, by genetic design.
As much as they love luxuriating and basking in the comfort of your home and attentions, that is how much they require adequate physical and mental stimulation, and some outlet to express themselves in the most basic, natural, and healthy ways—which is not to say that you must immediately begin to prepare them for high speed performance. But it is just a reminder that there is a qualifier before “couch potato”. Try to wrap your mind around the “45 mile per hour” part, and what that means to the long term, best health and best interests of your beloved Greyhound.