"The girls are so appreciative of being adopted. When we first got each of them, they'd stand at the door and cry when we were leaving," Nancy Rhodes said.
All of the dogs adopted from the program were destined to be destroyed; many are only 18 months old. According to information the Rhodes received when they adopted Cinnamon, greyhound racing has claimed the lives of an estimated 1 million greyhounds in its 75-year history in the United States. Greyhound racing is legal in 16 states.
According to the program's Web site, about 30,000 greyhounds are put down each year. Most dogs are 21/2 to 31/2 years old when they are adopted. They adapt quickly to a new home environment and are good with children, according to the site.
The site says the dogs are friendly and sociable as a result of constant contact with other dogs in the racing kennel. Life expectancy is 12 years. They weigh 50 to 80 pounds, and are 26 to 29 inches tall at the shoulder.
Jezzi, a 9-year-old, red-and-white greyhound who came to live with the Rhodes seven years ago, has a more quiet personality than Cinnamon. Jezzi has only half of her tail; the rest was lopped off in a starting gate during her racing days. Black marks on her back came from a staph infection resulting from dirty conditions.
"When they can't race anymore and can no longer make money, they are just left, and some are abused," Nancy Rhodes said. "We could count every rib when we got her.
"Greyhounds cannot be left outside in the winter because of their short hair, and they cannot be chained because their necks are not strong and can break easily."
The "girls" eat regular dog food twice a day from elevated bowls, as they would choke if they had to reach to floor level for their food.
Greyhounds cannot sit like other dogs, but have to lie or stand because their chests are so broad, Rhodes said. They arch their back like a cat when they get up.
Forty to 50 greyhounds were waiting to be adopted when Nancy and James Rhodes went to the adoption center to pick up Cinnamon three months ago.
Each dog's birthdate and rank in its litter is tattooed in its right ear, and the number of the track where it raced is tattooed in the left ear. Most racing greyhounds have a short career, unless they are kept for breeding purposes. It costs about $2,000 to prepare a greyhound for racing. If the dog doesn't make money in one or two years, it is killed.
While the dogs have adjusted well to life with the Rhodes, they occasionally have to be reminded of their manners, especially Cinnamon.
"We have to let the girls know who the 'lead dog' is," Rhodes said. "My husband and I rule the roost. Cinnamon growled at Jezzi and the cats last night when I was feeding them, and I had to correct her. We have to be assertive."
The Rhodes have had many different breeds of dogs over the years, but greyhounds "are the only kind I'd adopt from now on," she said. "They grow on you."
Potential adoptive "parents" have to apply to receive a greyhound, provide references and pay an adoption fee. The dogs have all their shots, and receive a medical checkup and teeth-cleaning before adoption.
Would you consider adopting a retired racing Greyhound?
To learn more:
National Greyhound Adoption Program, 4701 Bath St., Philadelphia, PA, 19137
Phone: (800) 348-2517