New Dog Day Is New Again

Written by: Erin

The Saturday before last was Prison Greyhounds’ latest New Dog Day.  This is the day where a hauler picks up greyhounds from the kennel in Florida, drives the long ten or more hours, and delivers the dogs to us.  It has always been a very exciting day. Everyone gets up very early and anxiously awaits the new arrivals.  Some of the participants are assigned volunteers, like ourselves.  Every volunteer has a job – adoption coordination, dog walker, administer medication, fit dog collars, etc.  However, our group also allows previous and potential adopters to join as well.  The potential adopters are there to meet the dogs and potentially decide on who will be the newest member of the family.  Previous adopters will bring their own greyhounds.  This is actually a welcome addition, as the adopted greyhounds give the new arrivals a calming effect.  The new dogs aren’t so scared when they see “friends” like them who are relaxed and not so stressed.

Previously adopted greyhound Kotia, along with her adopter Alex, is always a welcome sight for new arrivals. She brings with her a very calm, confident attitude. Many times you will see her sitting in the grass (or in this case, dirt) on New Dog Day.

Over the years, though, many things have changed with New Dog Day.  Two major factors that contributed to the change were the Florida legislation that banned greyhound racing, and the COVID-19 pandemic.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the end of greyhound racing in Florida and a worldwide pandemic would both affect greyhound adoption so much as it did.  However, that is exactly what happened.  The end of racing signaled an almost inevitable end to our adoption group, while the pandemic hastened it.  So much of what we do now is solely attributable to these two very different, but very connected things.

Ryan is the assigned dog walker from our home. He is the one in charge of our foster dog on New Dog Day.

In the past, on New Dog Day, specific volunteers would take the assigned dogs and drive them to a men’s correctional facility (thus our name Prison Greyhounds).  The dogs would live with their inmate handlers for approximately two months learning basic house manners.  This is no longer the case.  We simply cannot support placing our dogs into the prison.  This has nothing to do with the actual prison – the staff and inmate handlers have been wonderful partners.  The fact is, in order to support a program like this, you need a steady supply of dogs that have the correct temperament for a correctional facility with hundreds of men.  We no longer have this.  The supply of greyhounds is not enough to guarantee 4 – 8 “bomb-proof” greyhounds every two months.  Without this guarantee, both sides agree that the prison program cannot survive.  Therefore, our prison partnership has ended on mutual terms.  Should something change, our partners are ready to welcome us back.  However, we have informed the staff that we do not foresee this happening.

A new arrival eats the soft food we offer on New Dog Day. The dogs have been fasting on the hauler, so many are very hungry when they arrive.

Another interesting change that has occurred is the ages and personalities of the dogs themselves.  Historically, we would request the oldest dogs in the kennel.  This meant that most of our dogs were in the 3 – 5 year age range.  Occasionally we would get dogs that were older or younger, but this age range seemed to be the majority of our dogs.  While we still request the oldest dogs in the kennel, the age range we are getting now is significantly younger.  Most our dogs are 2 – 3 years old.  The younger dogs can be very different in personality.  Many of these greyhounds have never raced, so they are not accustomed to the racing lifestyle – kennels, constant change, and a sense of space.  Therefore, the new dogs typically hate crates, whereas the older dogs find security and their own “space” in the crate.  On the flip side, however, is that because the young dogs do not care about personal space like the older dogs, they typically are great with children.

I have a variety of jobs on New Dog Day, but one of the messier ones is giving Pedialyte to the new arrivals. We do this to ensure the dogs have enough electrolytes in their system, as they have been fasting prior to their arrival. I get the unfortunate task of squirting the sticky, sugary liquid down the dogs’ throats with an oral syringe. It is a dirty job, but a very necessary one, particularly on very hot days!

The other thing that is extremely challenging, particularly on New Dog Day is that the young arrivals are extremely stressed when they arrive at our drop site.  They are not used to the constant change of location or riding in haulers like the older, more experienced dogs.  Dogs are very much like humans in this regard.  Think about it – you are more comfortable with tasks that you have done over and over, even if there is some slight variation.  Dogs are the same.  If a dog has been on the racing circuit for a while, they are used to constant change and transport.  Young dogs just don’t have that experience, so after riding in a hauler for a very long time and arriving at a brand new location, it can be overwhelming.  We have multiple volunteers watching for signs of stress and exhaustion.  It can be incredibly scary to watch a dog’s temperature shoot up to 108°F (and yes, that has happened).  Or to watch a dog completely collapse because he can no longer stand due to the fact that he stood up on the hauler for the entire trip (again, this has happened).  We have procedures in place to help mitigate any serious medical emergencies, but it is always a risk, particularly with these young dogs.  This is something that used to only happen on hot days, but now seems to be a lot more common.

Despite our best efforts, some dogs are just too stressed on New Dog Day. If the dog cannot calm himself down via our usual measures (Pedialyte, water, soft food), we lay the dog on his side. Here, I sit down with a new arrival to ensure he remains on the cool concrete. If you see pictures of me on New Dog Day where I am sitting on the ground, it isn’t for a break! It is to ensure the dog doesn’t stress so much that he requires medical attention. If I am on the ground, he feels more comfortable on the ground.

The last change I want to address is how our group handles adoptions and fosters.  In 2020, we were tasked at moving an incredibly high number of retired dogs.  The soon-to-be end of racing in Florida, coupled with a pandemic and related track-closure meant that we had to move dogs fast.  We brought up several hauls of 30+ dogs, all for our group.  It was incredible to see how many people were willing to jump in and help.  We had foster families seemingly come from nowhere to help with the emergency.  We wanted to ensure that every single dog that we could possibly bring up had a home to go to.  Unfortunately, this is also when the prison went on lock down, so no volunteers, which in turn meant no dogs, would be allowed into the prison.  It was all on us to find foster homes.  And we did.  The unfortunate down side to this is, two years later, the foster homes are either burnt out, or adopted a dog and no longer have space for another foster.  Therefore, the supply of foster homes is at an all-time low.

During our COVID hauls, every single compartment on the hauler contained dogs designated for Prison Greyhounds. That’s over 30 dogs each time!

In order to still bring up as many dogs as we can, we have started instituting a foster-to-adopt program.  Historically, we would not pre-adopt any dog unless special circumstances were warranted.  This has changed.  We now let adopters pick out their dog from the list of greyhounds assigned to our group.  They have the right of first refusal for two weeks.  At the end of that two week period, the adopters can choose to adopt, or release the dog to other potential adopters.  However, it is expected that the first home will continue to foster until the dog adopts to someone else.  This has allowed us to bring up a lot more dogs than we could if we stuck to a traditional foster system.  On the past haul, six dogs were fosters and four dogs were foster-to-adopt.  I personally am very grateful that our board members chose to allow the foster-to-adopt system as it has significantly reduced the need for me to continually find foster homes.

Our standard New Dog Day lineup picture. We had so many dogs on this day that not everyone could fit in the shot.

Overall, so much of New Dog Day has changed over the past two years, but then again, so much has stayed the same.  We remain committed to bringing up as many greyhounds as we can.  We are dedicated to finding these dogs safe, loving homes that they can thrive in.  We always request the dogs that may get overlooked – the older dogs or the ones with medical issues.  And finally, we simply love these dogs.  Ask any one of our volunteers, foster families, or adopters – the love for these dogs is deep.

This article has 1 comments

  1. Katherine Dill Reply

    This is a great read. I have learned so much about the very deliberate processes you have. And a lot has changed. Wow!

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