Helping To Mainstream Adoption From Small-town America!
by Cara Brockhoff
In 1992, however, my husband Jerry, and I discovered a homeless, unneutered, untattooed hound at a local convenience store, hungry and shivering in the cold. However, my veterinarian had to tell me he was a greyhound. Carl Lewis and my son’s cast off Macintosh (The Greyhound-L on the Internet was brand new) introduced us that year to a cause that would become foremost in our new Northern California lives. We would expose others to the joys of Greyhound ownership. There are still pet lovers out there as ignorant about Greyhounds as I used to be.
In an area six hours north of San Francisco and nine hours south of Portland, we were totally out of reach of any of the publicity generated by adoption groups in those areas. It’s possible many CG readers find themselves in the same situation and could benefit by some of the experiences of Northcoast Greyhound Support in McKinleyville, California (pop. 12,000).
Our Origins — A Series of Ups and Downs
Carl Lewis and his successor, Dave (“No, Dave!”) drew so much attention from the public it was inevitable we’d be informed about other Greyhounds residing in the nearby cities of Eureka and Arcata (pop. 25,000 and 14,000 respectively.) We discovered five more Greyhounds and suddenly Carl and later, Dave, had buddies.
I began in 1993, writing articles for the Eureka Times-Standard that they published with color photographs each time I submitted copy. The T/S, being a small newspaper, is accommodating to local interest groups. The Greyhound-L provided a wealth of information and publicity angles. One of our original members, Loretta Nickolaus (owner of Sophie, Mrs. Bones’ 1997 Greyhound of the Year) provided lots of stunning Greyhound photos for this purpose. I published our personal phone number at the end of each article, saying “For Information on Greyhound Adoption, call…….” I also contacted local TV stations and was fortunate to find one reporter who did two early interviews at their station with Greyhounds included. We walked in our first parade in the summer of 1994, wearing any kind of red shirt we owned, with nine dogs. One of the three newly adopted Greyhounds was our own Alice.
In answering the calls that followed this publicity, it was easy to talk about adoption and discourage those who wanted to keep a Greyhound in their backyard doghouse with Fido. For those who sounded at all like possibilities, I sent them a single sheet listing all the greyhound adoption groups we could find within reasonable proximity and a note about joining our local support group. After all, (we felt at the time) we were doing the advertising and it was the adoption groups’ responsibility to pick up the ball after that. It was an unfortunate mistake.
Twice (we didn’t learn enough from the first difficult experience), after a TV interview or newspaper article, all the prospective adopters called the nearest group or the one offering to deliver dogs. The Greyhounds arrived straight from the racetrack unwashed, unfed, unaltered and accompanied by little or no (or mismatched) medical history. We later assisted in rehoming five of these dogs, and Baby Ruth became our own new family member. We were forced to become more discriminating.
“The Swamp”Really Brought Us Together!
On Thanksgiving of 1994, Jerry and I purchased 18.5 acres of totally fenced, natural wetlands. If anything cemented this group together, it was “Schroeder’s Swamp” named after our original adoptee, a fuzzy 100-pound chow/shepherd pound hound, which allowed us a place to picnic and walk our dogs together in safety. Our picnics were more of a Mutual Admiration Society than a Play Group. The majority of our Greyhounds were senior citizens and did little more than lie at our feet as we doted upon them. Even Schroeder attended back then.
By 1995, Northcoast Greyhound Support included about fifteen proud Greyhound owners, some of whom actually offered to help me. One wonderful person made red “silks” for the dogs to wear in parades, and another helped make all the phone calls which brought folks together. The enthusiasm was there for almost all the owners who enjoyed our monthly picnics and parading their Greyhounds as a group.
That Fall I began sending out a rather silly, one page newsletter. This project, of course, involved more postage than was previously required. Until this point, all expenses had been minimal and personal, but with members wanting tee-shirts and expecting newsletters, and with more calls coming in, the F-word came to mind. Fundraising. Ugh. We took orders for shirts, asked for money up front and found a local firm willing to take small orders. The tee-shirts went a long way towards making us look like a group in public and provided a little working capital. We experimented with other inexpensive fundraising possibilities. Some worked, some didn’t, but then, our needs, unlike an adoption agency, weren’t great.
Choosing The Right Agencies Makes The Biggest Difference.
The major factor in expanding Northcoast Greyhound Support to its present size, (other than the fact that Jerry and I and Schroeder now had four Greyhounds of our own), was finding the best adoption groups with which to work. After our two unsatisfactory experiences, I knew we needed the assistance of an agency upon whom we could rely on a regular basis and with whom we could work closely. We wanted to work with a group who could supply dogs within a reasonable amount of time, but which employed a very thorough application process. We wanted to work with a group that would agree to our fostering all dogs (with kids, cats, other dogs, and other situations) coming to our distant area.
I discovered that in GPA/NW, nine hours north of us. The president, Pat Toman, welcomed my phone call and the assistance our group agreed to provide. We offered to mail out GPA applications after a local screening phone call. We offered to provide a home visit with a hound or two after GPA had read the application (mailed/faxed directly to them) and held their own lengthy phone interview. We agreed that we would compare and discuss impressions of applicants by e-mail and phone before decisions were made and before the new adopter planned the lengthy drive north. I personally guaranteed the return of any Greyhound whose new situation did not turn out as anticipated. All final decision making would forever remain in the hands of the agency itself. NCGS members Carol Lawrence and Tom Cockle (owners of Chico and Switcher from Greyhound Friends For Life in Gilroy, CA) and I discuss or mail solutions to any problems adopters may encounter. We’ve average one adoption per month in the year we’ve been working with GPA/NW, one of them being our “new” twelve year old Sadie.
For those prospective adopters who prefer to drive South from our area, we refer to two very reputable and conscientious agencies who continue to handle all the details of their own placements. Because the populace of NCGS has come from a variety of racetracks, humane societies and adoption agencies, it is imperative to maintain independent status rather than become a branch of any one particular agency. We are willing to communicate with any reputable group who will consider distant placement.
Growth Is Inevitable.
NCGS’s growth in the last two years to its present membership of fifty Greyhounds, has flowed naturally into expansion we’d never have foreseen in 1993, thanks to the skills and dedication of new members. We have a committee of five or six owners who now assist in all planning and organization. This month our local TV station KIEM Channel 3 covered professional speaker Cassie Wyland who presented the Greyhounds to two senior luncheons. Jo and Jim Spannaus, who own a bar in Eureka, host morning“Kaffee Klatches” on a bi-monthly basis before the bar opens.
Members come Greyhoundless to welcome new adopters and admire their new Greyhounds. Diane Swartz, who owns her own dog cookie company, regularly contributes a portion of her profits from “Meggie’s Morsels.” Our newsletter has a more professional appearance due to the efforts of Dan Pambianco, Sports Information Director at Humboldt State University.
Eureka, McKinleyville and Fortuna now expect us to appear in three parades each year. Last June we held the First Annual combined Tick Clinic/Meet & Greet in the parking lot of Myrtle Avenue Veterinary/Pet Center (also broadcasted on TV). No, unfortunately, we have no Petcos or the like in this area. Our double-booth at Humdog Expo, hosted by Humboldt Dog Obedience Group at the Eureka fairgrounds drew more crowds than any other booth did. We had twenty-one Greyhounds in the “Parade Of Breeds,” more dogs than all other exhibitions!
Last year we mailed to all area veterinarians Greyhound Packages with information on tick diseases and anesthesia along with a friendly reminder that “we’re doing all we can to increase the Greyhound population in your practice.” Consequently we now are getting referrals from local veterinarians as well as from Sequoia Humane Society.
Last October, we held our first annual fund-raiser picnic and accumulated over $500 all at one time! Our closely guarded funds make possible the many copies necessary for mailings, handout brochures and newsletters, as well as entry fees and postage. Still, for two years, we have contributed $20 per month to foster a newly retired Greyhound through GPA/CA. Members enjoy the monthly newsletter foster dog updates from GPA’s volunteer foster homes.
The picnic windfall allowed us to order business cards which admirers tend to keep longer than our copied brochure. It’s amazing how many calls we get from folks saying, “I’ve just lost my dog and I remember seeing the Greyhounds last year…..” Though we have not made the extensive effort to become an actual non-profit, our bank provides that designation for our checking account: no charges, no interest.
Keep in mind: we’re still a small group in a small town with little money, but we’re making a big impression.
You can make a difference by making help available.
In spite of the trial and error process we endured in inventing ourselves in 1993, we’ve learned and we’ve grown. Polly arrived last week, and Joan is expecting her pair of Greyhounds next week. We have another handful of hopefuls in the works following The Expo. It’s not surprising that we now have so many Greyhounds being walked on the streets in downtown Eureka, that they’re doing their own advertising. Like Topsy, we “just growed.”
The biggest benefit of starting your own independent support group is that you decide how much time and effort you are willing to spend upon this adventure. Choose carefully the groups to whom you’ll refer. Take advantage of experienced advice available and the skills of your volunteers. You can provide a lot or a little help to adoption agencies. Your group can grow as fast or as slowly as you personally decide. Whatever you do, know that every minute your group spends may lead to the adoption of one more retiring Greyhound in an area, that but for you, would never have been exposed to our magnificent breed. What better reward can there be?
CG SU 98. Fast forward to 2013. NCSG is alive and well!
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