Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TOP STORY >> Off to the races, then to a good Sherwood home

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

For over 20 years, Tom and Millie Grimes of Sherwood have been helping retired racing greyhounds find new homes away from the dog track.

They are volunteers who work with helping the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option. The nonprofit, rescue-adoption center is on the grounds of Southland Park, a dog racing track in West Memphis. The couple does not adopt out dogs, but helps in finding new owners. They also rescue greyhounds left in animal shelters.
To help spread adoption information about greyhounds, the Grimeses set up information booths at PetSmart stores in North Little Rock and Conway. They educate potential adopters about how to adopt greyhounds and how to care for the former track stars.

The Grimeses have lived in Sherwood for 40 years and are both school-crossing guards for the Sherwood Police Department.

Tom Grimes has made crossing the street to Sylvan Hills Elementary School safer for 16 years. Millie Grimes has helped students for four years at Sherwood Elementary.

Over the two decades they’ve been helping rescue greyhounds, the Grimes have had 18 as pets. Of those greyhounds, two were adopted from the Pulaski County Humane Society and one was from the North Little Rock animal shelter.

They now have three dogs that previously raced at Southland Park.

According to Millie Grimes, the greyhound adoption center has 35 to 40 dogs ready for new homes. The adoption fee for a former racer is $250. The greyhounds are already spayed or neutered. The dogs are current on their shots for a year. They have their blood work, their teeth are cleaned and their nails are clipped. The dogs are all on prevention medications for fleas and heartworms.

The sleek racing canines are inside dogs. They have very thin skin and little body fat. They need coats in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, Grimes said. She and her husband walk their greyhounds every day and the dogs run laps around the yard. But they are strictly house dogs.

Former track dogs have tattoos. One ear has the dog’s birth date. The other ear has a litter number by the breeder.

“They are very laid-back. No hard grooming is needed. The dogs very seldom bark. They are not watchdogs. They are good- tempered and easy to take care of. They are 95 percent housebroken when we get them,” Grimes said.

She added, “When they see rabbits and squirrels they want to chase. It’s instinct.”

According to the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option Web site, greyhounds can run as fast as 45 miles per hour. The dogs are retired around two to four years of age. Commonly, a dog stops racing due to age, loss of interest or injury.

Many times, the greyhounds are seen with muzzles at the track, because of their competitive spirit. Grimes said they don’t muzzle their dogs and have not had any problems.

The Grimeses learned about greyhounds 21 years ago when they read a newspaper article about a greyhound farm in Sulfur Rock. They took a motorcycle trip to the Zinnecker farm that is now no longer in business. The owner raised and leased greyhounds to kennels for dog racing.

While touring the farm, the owner gave the couple a free greyhound. The dog, named Precious Nugget, was banned from all race tracks. She was so competitive that she would push the other dogs to the rail and she didn’t want dogs running beside or in front of her.

“We thought they were ugly when we got her, but they grow on you after awhile,” Grimes said.

Their oldest greyhound is Greta, who is 15. When she was racing, Greta was known as Gray Flash Flame. Greta was three when the Grimeses adopted her.

According to Millie Grimes, Greta injured her leg on the track. She was “walked out the back door” of the kennels instead of being put down. The dog ended up in a veterinary hospital in Hot Springs for three months. The hospital contacted the Grimes.

“When we got her, we had to walk and exercise her. Now she doesn’t walk with a limp,” Grimes said.

The second greyhound they obtained is a fawn-colored dog named Dodge. The former racer, known by his track name Dodge-M, is now making laps at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in North Little Rock. The greyhound is a certified therapy dog. The Grimeses have brought different greyhounds to the hospital for 17 years.

“I walk him through the therapy room and visit with the patients,” Grimes said.

They are the third owners of Dodge. The dog’s first home was in Memphis. The owner had the greyhound’s vocal cords cut.

The silenced dog was then turned back to the adoption center. A second family adopted Dodge but returned him to the center when he was not a good fit for the family and their other small dog.

Their third greyhound is 4-year-old Yiona.

“We went to the track and adopted her,” Millie Grimes said.