If you’re concerned about greyhound welfare … read this

Caption: Josie Watson is pictured here with Gilbert (on the left) and Goldy

 KURT DONSBERG is a highly-regarded, South Australian-based professional photographer (including greyhounds). Kurt is also a Chase columnist and has a popular Facebook page – Kurt Donsberg Greyhound Photography. Recently, Kurt contacted Josie Watson, who had been following his page for some time. He wanted to highlight someone that owned greyhounds, but wasn’t a part of the industry. Josie’s reply to Kurt is a story that everyone associated with greyhounds should read. (Chase has spoken to Kurt and Josie and both were keen for the story to run in Chase). This is Josie Watson’s story, in her words:

“I’m a dog lover. My whole life I’ve loved dogs!

“I hate the thought any dogs getting mistreated, so the idea that greyhounds were raced simply for human entertainment, with no care for their wellbeing, really stuck in my craw.

“I was one of ‘those’ people … I wrote to newspapers, I made a huge deal of every single incident I found at a greyhound track, and labelled all owners and trainers as heartless animal abusers.

“So I decided I would ‘rescue’ one of these poor abused dogs. I did lots of research through GAP – Greyhounds As Pets SA (the only adoption agency I was aware of at the time, but have since learned there are many more doing great work), and although I read they weren’t the vicious animals I was led to believe they were, being forced to run and then just discarded when they started losing, I was still unsure that they would fit into a household lifestyle. But I knew I needed to ‘help’ them!

“In early 2018 my rescue mission was in full swing! I went to a GAP adoption day. It was quite surreal, nothing like I imagined. I thought they’d all be locked in cages, ribs and spine showing, and not at all friendly. After all, they weren’t loved, were they? But here they were all looking happy and tails wagging! They had cushions in their pens, and on the cushions were toys, and people were in their pens patting them … kissing them even!

“They weren’t overly skinny, they weren’t broken, they weren’t vicious and they weren’t scared.

“That day I chatted to a few people – who I found out were actually owners and trainers of the dogs being adopted out. They were there because they wanted to be, not because they had to, and they were talking about their dogs with real emotion.

“I didn’t adopt or foster a dog that day, but I knew I soon would

“Another adoption day came and I decided to bite the bullet. I walked in and saw my Gilbert. He looked a bit nervous, but hey, so was I! Gilbert raced as Fear Foran and was trained by the Newlyns

“We went for a walk outside. The volunteer with Gilbert told me a bit about him, how he slept with a teddy, that he’d been fostered with a small dog and had no issues. I took him home that day!

“A few days after Gilbert came home, I received a message from Gilbert’s trainer. She told me all about the things Gilbert liked and some of the things he wasn’t too keen on. I sent her a photo of Gilbert at our place and she cried. I never imagined the trainers would care where they went or what their lives were like once they’d stopped making money for them, let alone cry.

“Fast forward 12 months and, with my new perception of the greyhound industry, I decided that I could help change people’s opinions of greyhounds and racing by fostering another grey. I contacted Nicole (Gilbert’s trainer) and asked if she had any to foster. She had Goldy (race name Outdoorsy), who was actually Gilbert’s kennel neighbour, and I could foster her through GAP.

“I went to pick her up and there was Nicky, with Goldy and her teddy. She gave me the run down on Goldy and before we left told me she was only a phone call away if I ever had any questions or needed any help.

“We fostered Goldy in April 2019, unfortunately – or fortunately depending on how you look at it – he was a foster fail … meaning we couldn’t let him go so we adopted him too! So now we have Gilbert and Goldy!

“The last mental hurdle for me was to go to a race meeting, and I finally decided to go. I watched with a little uncertainty to begin with.

“The trainers and handlers walked alongside their dogs. I couldn’t believe it – they were speaking to their dogs like a parent would speak to their child before a football match or netball game – very encouraging. Not one harsh word was spoken and not one dog was forced to do anything they didn’t want to do.

“When the dogs returned from their run, I watched as they almost smiled coming off the track and then getting their hose-down and their cuddles after the race – even if they didn’t win. I’d seen the same look on Gilbert’s face after he’d done his zoomies around the back yard – that happy look.

“I’ve been to several races since then. Never once have I seen or heard a harsh word, or a dog being mistreated, or a dog being pushed to run or forced to race. It’s obviously in their blood. I couldn’t stop my Gilbert and Goldy running if I tried. They love it!

“I’d encourage anyone that has any doubts or misconceptions about the greyhound industry to do their own research and not just base their opinions on the thoughts of others like I did.

“Racing greyhounds get more care and attention than your average backyard dog.

“They are loved not just for their racing, but because you just can’t help but love them!”

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