In their prime they could have outrun the cars whizzing down my Cambridge side street, but, these days, greyhounds Max and Holly are among the slower-moving canine residents in my Huron Village neighborhood. Walking with measured grace, the two former sprinters circle the block several times a day with companion Cindy Sorensen, a retired teacher and longtime Cambridge resident.
Cindy says that thirteen-year-old Holly, who won an impressive 18 of her 104 career races as “Skiddy Exodus,” still perks up when she spots a squirrel, but she describes Max, age 10, as “more mellow.” Their mechanical rabbit chasing days behind them, neither seems inclined to pursue any of the neighborhood’s burgeoning bunny population. When they see other greyhounds, however, they all do love to chase and race each other, Cindy says.
Holly and Max are the latest in a succession of greyhounds to enjoy life in the slow lane living on Huron Avenue with Cindy. Her first rescue, in 1992, was a young male named Spinnaker who had broken his leg racing; instead of putting him down, Spinnaker’s owner gave him to Greyhound Friends, Inc., where Cindy adopted him. Spinnaker lived to be 13-1/2, and since then Cindy has adopted seven senior greyhounds: Cain, Bridget, Dream, Ty, Maggie (all deceased) and most recently, Holly and Max.Older dogs can be harder to place, but over the years Cindy has developed an affinity for “re-homing” these seniors, whose care draws on the deep reserves of patience and compassion she developed in her 34-year career as a special ed teacher.
Since she brought Spinnaker home two decades ago, Cindy has volunteered at Greyhound Friends, becoming a mainstay among the Hopkinton nonprofit’s corps of dedicated volunteers; she does kennel chores every Friday, greets visitors at open houses and community events and makes follow-up calls to other adoptive families. Cindy also brings Max and Holly to visit Neville Manor; the dogs’ height makes it easier for the elderly residents to stroke them without having to stoop down.
Greyhound Friends, Inc. actually began in Cambridge, back in 1983. Founder Louise Coleman ran the rescue operation out of her Crescent Street home until 1987, when she and her partner leased a kennel in Hopkinton. Of the roughly 68 greyhound rescue organizations currently active across the U.S., Greyhound Friends is one of the few with its own kennel facility; most others house dogs with foster families until they can find them permanent homes.
In 2003 Greyhound Friends expanded its kennel to better accommodate the up to 30 greyhounds it has awaiting adoption at any given time. The oldest greyhound rescue group in Massachusetts, the organization takes in hounds nationally and internationally (Ireland), finding homes for about 300 dogs annually. It’s their policy to take a dog back if the original placement isn’t a good match, or if the family’s circumstances change. Louise, who has led the organization for 28 years, now lives in Sherborn with four greyhound friends of her own.
In addition to Cindy Sorensen’s pair, Greyhound Friends has placed three other retired greyhounds in West Cambridge alone; two families on Lexington Avenue each have one, and Ruth Ryan and Irving Allen, the owners of Paddy’s Pub on Walden Street, went the extra mile when they adopted Rizzo, who narrowly escaped being euthanized after a racing accident in West Palm Beach crushed his hind leg.
Giving a senior or injured greyhound a comfortable and secure home is richly rewarding, though bittersweet, since the final goodbye always comes too soon, and in Cindy Sorensen’s case, too often.
Support Greyhound Rescue
While greyhound racing is illegal in 38 states including Massachusetts (since 2010), dog tracks still operate in seven states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. (See map.)
There are about 20,000 dogs actively involved in racing year-round (about 1,000 dogs per track x 20 tracks). Many puppies are destroyed before they even get a chance to compete; those who make it to the track only race for only a couple of years and are retired by age 5.
With a life expectancy of 13 years, most greyhounds can look forward to a long retirement — if they are fortunate enough to make it into the rescue network, that is. A lucky few are kept by their owners as breeding stock, but as long as the greyhound racing industry continues to exploit and discard dogs, rescue and adoption organizations like Greyhound Friends, Inc. will continue to need our support.