Who rescued who?Aug 04, 2018 04:57AM ● By Cloie Sandlin
Larry and Shauna Copley fell in love with greyhounds when one randomly showed up at their door. Now they’ve committed to giving these race dogs a good life after they retire from the track.
Have you ever experienced those moments where something good happens at just the right time in your life?
That’s how Shauna Copley felt shortly after Bob showed up in her driveway.
“My husband, Larry, and I came home from a trip and this black dog comes up and sticks his face right in my car window,” she said.
Shauna had never seen anything like this odd-looking dog—with its lean and muscular frame, narrow face and long, scraggly black hair. Laughing at the memory, she said, “I thought to myself, ‘Is that a skinny lab?’”
The dog had no ID tags, so Shauna leashed him up and walked him around the neighborhood to see if anyone claimed him. That’s when a neighbor told her she had a greyhound.
It wasn’t too surprising that a greyhound made its way into the Copleys’ neighborhood, being that they lived just a few miles from the dog-racing track in Pueblo—but if this was a race dog, why was he running loose in the first place?
After calling the local pound and getting the information for a nearby rescue, the Copleys kept the dog overnight.
“I didn’t know anything about him, but we took him in the house and put him in the garage,” Shauna said, “and then we heard howling all night.”
She let him inside, and they all slept peacefully.
The Copleys released him to the rescue, and later insisted that if nobody claimed him, they wanted to adopt him.
“They had him for two weeks—and my husband’s not a dog person—but Larry says, ‘I want that dog if nobody adopts it.”
Then one day the phone rang—it was the rescue telling the Copleys they could keep him.
“They told us the reason he had long hair was because he’d been left outside, and he wasn’t neutered, so they think he might have been used for illegal breeding,” Shauna said.
From a tattoo inside his ear, the rescue learned about the dog’s pedigree and his name—Iza Bobaloo (thus the nickname “Bob”). He was a well-known racer that was recently retired from the circuit on the Front Range in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Fort Collins.
Not only was Bob the first in a line of greyhounds the Copleys adopted over the years, but he also gave them their first glimpse into the past and present lives of retired racing dogs.
A rough start
Most greyhounds begin their racing careers on “farms.” They’re sorted during each stage of training to determine whether or not they will race. Some dogs, like the Copleys’ current dog, Honey, a runt, are likely eliminated from racing at the very beginning.
Racing dogs have a routine—spending most of their days in a kennel and getting out a few times a day to run and exercise, then racing every three days year-round for five or six years.
“When you’re getting a dog off the track, you’re getting a 6-year-old dog that’s never been socialized. All it’s done is run the circuit for six years,” Shauna said.
The Copleys had to teach their second dog, Kid’s brigham (“Briggs”)—another retired racer—how to get in and out of the car.
“Dogs need introduced to things like cars rides, stairs and windows,” she said.
Though she never raced, their dog Angie took the most patience.
The Copleys adopted 1 1/2-year-old Angie from the prison system, where inmates at Crowley County Correctional in Olney Springs worked with greyhounds to help socialize them.
“She never raced, but she went from a greyhound farm, which was quiet and had other dogs, to the prison [program], where she was for six weeks,” Shauna said. “She came out traumatized—she was very noise sensitive. It took me hours to walk her around the house.”
Life after the track
The Copleys adopted all of their greyhounds from rescues that match retired racers and farm dogs with their forever homes.
“[The dogs] have had a really rough life,” Shauna said. “If we could adopt a zillion of them, we would, because we know they’re seen as disposable.”
Shauna has read articles and watched videos about dogs, where once they retire from the track, they’re shot, let loose in the desert or put to sleep because their owners no longer have use for them.
“The more money the dogs make, the better treatment they get. It’s all for the money—that’s what bothers me,” she said. “If they don’t make money, they’re gone.”
It’s a sad reality, but it’s not just true for retired racers. Even farm dogs that don’t race are eliminated because the breeder doesn’t want to deal with rescues or adoptions.
“Some dogs can have 13 or 14 puppies, and you know not all those dogs are going to be racing, so you have a bunch of dogs you have to find homes for,” Shauna said.
Most rescues will start the process of socializing dogs at a facility or place them in foster homes until they’re ready to be adopted. The rescue staff reviews applications and will match you with a dog they hope will be perfect for you.
“If you take the dog home and it doesn’t adjust, they want you to take it back,” Shauna said. “They’ll work with you until you find one that works for you.”
But no matter the behaviors, the Copleys have never given up on a dog.
“It takes patience and often a good year for them to feel like they’re part of your home,” Shauna said.
While she doesn’t care much for the racing industry or the treatment some dogs receive, Shauna said watching them run is beautiful.
The greyhound gaze
Whether he knew it or not, Bob couldn’t have picked a better time to walk into the Copleys’ lives.
“I was going through some very personal struggles at the time— high-stress stuff,” Shauna said, “and when we got Bob, he was just there all the time. I would pet him and my stress level went down.”
Today, Shauna has a sign on her mantel that reads, “Who Rescued Who?”
“That is such a true statement,” she said, noting that although she’s had a lot of different breeds in her life, greyhounds have a special intuition and way of comforting people.
This level of connection can be seen in the “greyhound gaze,” which Larry can only describe as a mesmerizing look that “just makes you melt.”
Though they’ve all had different personalities, each dog has profoundly impacted Larry and Shauna.
“Out of all four dogs, we think God gave [Honey] to us just to laugh,” Shauna said. “She’s so comical.”
Honey has gone through obedience training and received her K9 Good Citizenship award. Shauna hopes she’ll become a therapy dog someday—after all, she’s great with Bonnie, Shauna’s 90-year-old mother who lives with them.
Do your research
The Copleys have learned a lot about greyhounds over the years, and they encourage others to do their research on the rewards and challenges before welcoming one into their home.
“They’re fascinating and beautiful dogs but you have to be aware of what you’re getting into,” said Shauna, “and you can’t be frustrated with the dog because it doesn’t understand.”
But raising and training a greyhound is reciprocated with love, which the Copleys say is well worth the effort.
“I know everyone thinks the dog they have or the breed they have is special,” Shauna said. “But when I run into another greyhound owner, we smile at each other because we both know the hidden secrets of sharing your life with a greyhound.”