Ever since she adopted her first greyhound 10 years ago, Pam Green had dreamed of starting her own rescue group for the breed.
After years of volunteering for other rescue organizations, Ms. Green, of Delta, Ohio, started "2nd Chance at Life - Ohio Heavenly Hounds" in May.
The group, consisting of more than 20 members and volunteers from all over northwest Ohio, takes in greyhounds from across the country that have been used for racing.
The greyhounds often are abandoned when racetracks close or when the dogs pass their racing prime, usually between ages 3 1/2 and 5.
"They run, run, run, run, run, but when they get old or they get ill, they're history," Ms. Green said. "It's just been my mission to help as many as I can."
The Humane Society of the United States describes greyhound racing and practices associated with it as animal abuse.
The dogs are bred by the thousands in an attempt to produce "winning" dogs, and those that don't meet that criteria are often cruelly disposed of, the organization said. They are also kept in crates or fenced enclosures for most of their racing lives.
Although greyhound racing has declined in popularity across the country, tracks still operate in 15 states, and dogs continue to be killed despite rescue groups' efforts. Ohio does not have any greyhound race tracks. The closest one is in Wheeling, W.Va., Ms. Green said.
So far, Heavenly Hounds has taken in five dogs.
Ms. Green said she hopes to take in more but she wanted to start small. One dog now has a permanent home and two others are with foster families. Two others are being trained by inmates at Lakeland Correctional Center in Coldwater, Mich., under a nationwide program called "2nd Chance at Life" with which Heavenly Hounds is affiliated.
The dogs are delivered to the group by rescuers from the National Greyhound Foundation, who pick up unwanted greyhounds from racetracks across the country.
Heavenly Hounds takes care of the dog's veterinary needs, including shots, spaying and neutering, and dental care.
Then the group works to train the dogs and find foster and permanent homes for then, she said.
By partnering with the prison program, Heavenly Hounds is able to benefit both the dogs and the inmates, Ms. Green said.
Under the guidance of a professional trainer, inmates learn to teach the animals basic commands and feed and care for them. After nine weeks, the dogs are ready to go to foster families or permanent homes.
Ms. Green said inmates learn a lot from the program. "He could be the biggest, baddest guy, but he just turns into a meatball over his dog. They change the whole attitude of the prison," Ms. Green said. "The dogs help them to gain patience and love and respect for themselves because they respect that dog. It just teaches a lot."
Heavenly Hounds hopes to get more prisons interested in training the dogs, particularly some in northwest Ohio.
Ms. Green also would like to build a kennel to house 30 to 40 dogs at a time, so people can see the dogs more easily and, hopefully, adopt them.
"If we have a kennel, and volunteers to work the kennel, I think we could save more dogs," Ms. Green said. "When it comes to obtaining the dogs, I can get dogs anytime I want. It's finding a place to put them."
Karen Bolander, who adopted a rescued greyhound last year and is now secretary-treasurer for Heavenly Hounds, said there are some misconceptions about the dogs that can make it difficult to find homes for them.
Many people believe the dogs need a lot of exercise, something Ms. Bolander said is not true.
She said greyhounds can run very fast, but they prefer not to. "They're called the 45-mile-per-hour couch potatoes," Ms. Bolander said. "I'm amazed at how much they like to sleep!"
Nevertheless, greyhound owners do need to have a fenced yard to keep the dogs from running into the street, Ms. Bolander said. But she added they are very affectionate and easy to train.
The adoption fee for dogs rescued by Heavenly Hounds is $225, which Ms. Green said covers the organization's veterinary and food costs for the dog. In addition, her group is looking for volunteers, sponsors, and donations.
More information about the program is available at OhioHeavenlyHounds.com.