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The Community Spirit Behind Fostering Greyhounds

June marks National Foster A Pet Month: a time to celebrate and acknowledge the incredible behind-the-scenes work of Australian foster coordinators and foster volunteers, who dedicate their time to the welfare of both Greyhounds and the volunteers who care for them.

Fostering Greyhounds: “There’s a beautiful community spirit behind it.”

Almost all rescued Greyhounds are cared for by foster volunteers in their own homes while awaiting the right permanent home with an adopter. Foster carers are vital because they give ex-racing dogs the chance to get used to living in a household.

Foster coordinators are volunteers who in turn guide and manage foster care volunteers. They are usually experienced foster carers themselves.

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) spoke with several volunteer foster coordinators and foster carers from various community-based charities to shed light on the tireless work they do.

Kit Nikora from Gumtree Greys with her Greyhound Sid

“There’s a beautiful community spirit behind it,” says Kit Nikora, who attends monthly meetups as a Foster Coordinator for Gumtree Greys in Melbourne.

After moving to Melbourne, Kit fostered and then adopted her first Greyhound Sid, who she described as her loveable “chaos goblin”. As Sid opened up over the years in Kit’s loving home, he eventually became a helper-dog, or a “snooter-visor” as the Gumtree Greys community call it.

“Sid would end up doing the heavy lifting. He’d be brought on walks with other Greys as they got used to their new environments, and would even teach the other hounds how to use the stairs,” said Kit.

Eileen Schofield with Greys Nipper & Martina
Eileen Schofield is a foster coordinator at Friends of the Hound, just north of Brisbane. 

She told us about the in-and-outs of caring for Greys as a foster coordinator: “I can go from having seven dogs in the morning to two at night,” she said.

Tasks for Eileen on an average week may involve: matching a hound to the right carer, booking the dog in for de-sexing and vaccination, checking his or her teeth, picking up and dropping hounds off to their foster carers, as well as checking on new volunteers from time to time.

A critical moment in fostering and rehoming Greyhounds is introducing them to new environments. Eileen stays connected online to give advice to fellow volunteers who may be handling distressed dogs.

“Especially with reactive dogs, often they pick up on their environment. If you are stressed, then the dog will be stressed. Perhaps you might assume they’re aggressive, but maybe they’re just unsure,” said Elaine.

“Maybe they’ve never seen another dog before and they’re scared. Another thing I’ve noticed is the more you pull the lead, the more it can cause problems. If you get tense, the first thing is that the lead gets tighter and they get tense. They’re certainly clever animals.”

Supporting everyday volunteers is vital, especially for Sophie Firth from Western Australia, who still makes time in between raising two young kids to foster.

Greyhound Adoptions WA's Sophie Firth with Greyhounds

Over the backdrop of lively children during our phone conversation, Sophie talked about how Greyhound Adoptions WA (GAWA) supported her from the get-go in fostering and eventually adopting Cheesel, her first Grey.

“I was given a collar, lead, muzzle, parasite treatment, dog food, and supported via some crucial check-ins by other volunteers to see how everything was going,” said Sophie.

While many community Greyhound rescues provide this level of thorough support, it’s to their credit, as these community-based organisations have to rely on donations and volunteering to stay afloat.

The guidance provided is vital for those who are thinking of volunteering as a greyhound foster carer or coordinator. It can sometimes be challenging, depending on an individual’s experience with dogs needing extra care and training.

Nevertheless, many of those in the Greyhound foster community we spoke to, such as Christine Cooper, President of Homeward Bound Hounds (HBH) in NSW, are here to help every step of the way.

Homeward Bound Hounds' Christine Cooper with 9-year old Greyhound Lucy

“We involve foster carers in the adoption process. We want our carers, who know their foster Greys best, to feel confident that their dog is going to a home where they can thrive. Many form ongoing friendships with adopters and enjoy occasional reunions,” she said.

After retiring, Christine began rehoming Greyhounds for a rescue group and then fell in love with the breed. This led to her founding HBH back in 2017. True to the homegrown spirit of fostering, Christine began small and it eventually took off.

“ I would take one Greyhound, find a home and then take another. I had some support and I homed 18 Greys in that first year. We coined the Homeward Bound Hounds name and started a Facebook page,” she said.

“In early 2017, I began to recruit foster carers and our numbers grew to 40 rehomings that year. As the group expanded, and with some coordination assistance, we were able to increase our annual rehomings to 60 plus, then more than 100 annually during the COVID years. Today, HBH is a recognised rescue in NSW and registered as a charity.“

At the end of the day, volunteers pour their time and effort into rescuing and fostering Greyhounds because of the immense joy they bring. Witnessing a shy, frightened dog transform into a playful, trusting companion is incredibly rewarding.

Allyson Mutch from Animals-in-Need-Brisbane Inc. said, “It’s the most fabulous and wonderful experience to see a dog open up and trust you, feel safe, and zoom around, and be silly. It’s just bliss."

 Animals in Needs (L-R) Greyhound Franklin, Allyson Mutch (also lead photo) & Greyhound Jasper
Allyson first became involved in 2018 with Animals In Need, and then quickly shifted into a foster coordinator role for the Greyhounds coming through. 

She found that bringing along other hounds (or ‘foster siblings’) helps settle foster dogs into their new environments. The group also uses dog trainers who can help with transitions.

One of Allyson’s proudest moments happened when her foster Tully was accepted into the Delta Therapy Dogs Program, which is a leading provider of animal assisted services in Australia.

“I used to take Tully to Ipswich Hospice and she would work with people who were residents and family members. Just watching the ways in which she was just so gentle and responsive to people was amazing. They are the most incredible dogs,” Allyson said.

Across every interview, one thing became abundantly clear - Greyhounds are not just pets, they’re big personalities. Once these dogs open up post-rescue, volunteers affectionately describe these gentle giants as: quirky, couch-potatoes, sock-thieves, kings and queens of zoomies, and more.

Greyhound Rehoming Association Northern Territory's Kerin Bolton with Greyhound Barney

Kerin Bolton, a volunteer with GRANT (Greyhound Rehoming Association Northern Territory), often finds her gardening gloves mysteriously missing. Her first instinct is to check foster Greyhound Barney's dog bed. Sure enough, there they are, delicately placed atop the bed, devoid of any chew marks, while Barney looks on from a distance with a cheeky twinkle in his eye.

As someone who loved dogs growing up, but couldn’t commit long-term to owning one just yet, Kerin began foster caring in 2017.

“I could’ve kept all of those 35 dogs I’d fostered. They’ve all been delightful. They’re funny, quirky, gentle, playful, and are pretty low maintenance. They can be totally whacky, and then be asleep all day,” said Kerin.

The online community of Greyhound foster volunteers celebrate these endearing quirks with a unique camaraderie. Popular Instagram pages are often adorned with a similarly peculiar vocabulary with intriguing nicknames for hounds such as Handsome Hugo and The SS Banksy.

Kit Nikora from Gumtree Greys also recalls how her online community helped grieve the loss of her own Greyhound Sid, who had garnered an online following for a charming ritual known as ‘pickle dips’.

“Anytime there was a body of water, Sid would dip his butt in it. It very quickly became known online as pickle dips,” Kit said.

“When he passed, people were reposting photos of their favourite pickle dips, or sending through photos of their own dog’s pickle dips. It was such a beautiful thing while we were going through our grief to have shared that with people, and to share that part of his personality.”

Kit said one of the best things that Greyhounds bring to the foster experience is their big, weird personalities with which people really connect.

It's not all smiles for the Greyhound community unfortunately. Greyhounds are currently facing a rehoming crisis due to chronic overbreeding, as well as a shortage of homes for them. With a large number of Greyhounds in need of homes, rescue organisations are struggling to keep up with the demand.

The lack of available foster homes means that many Greyhounds are left waiting in kennels without the love and comfort of a home environment. The ongoing crisis underscores the urgent need for more volunteers to step forward and open their hearts and homes to these deserving animals.

Volunteer organisations dedicated to Greyhound rescue and adoption offer various opportunities for individuals to get involved, from fostering and socialisation to fundraising and outreach.

If you believe that you have the means to care for Greyhounds, all of the volunteer organisations mentioned above would love to have you join their community.

written by Mitch Parker, CPG volunteer, May 2024 for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved).

About Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds

CPG is a dedicated group of people across Australia who work together to inform the public about the cruelties of Greyhound racing. 
Learn more by following their channels on: FacebookWebsiteInstagrammedia coverage.

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