We’ve had retired racing greyhounds for 10 years too. We’ve had four, in all. The first one passed in 1998, the second in 2000, and we currently have two. We’ve also done a good deal of work promoting the adoption of greyhounds, fostering, transportation of dogs to new homes, etc.
Greyhounds adapt amazingly well to becoming pets in most cases - I doubt humans could be thrown from one situation to another that is so completely different and do as well.
One nice thing about adopting a greyhound is that you also will get a nice support system to go with him or her if you adopt from a reputable group - they can help you with problems, assist you in finding good veterinary care and a good pet sitter if you need one, etc. Here’s a few links to some groups I think pretty highly of that are in Illinois:
Midwest Greyhound Adoption:
Quad Cities Greyhound Adoption: http://www.qcgreyhoundadoption.org/
Greyhound Guardians (they do Illinois and Indiana):
There are more in that area, which are available from the Greyhound Project’s web site (Greyhound Adoption Agency Directory | The Greyhound Project - it’s not working right now or I would have just posted that one link). There can be some political crapola (pro- and anti-racing) involved with groups, so you’ll want to choose a group that shares your views, if any, on that subject, and also one that is helpful and supportive.
I’ll address a few of the things that are said above:
About shyness - while no doubt some racing dogs are abused during their racing lives (just as, unfortunately, pets of all kinds seem to be abused on an all-too-frequent basis), there is also a genetic and a developmental component to shyness. Racing dogs that are good runners are bred - personality and body type notwithstanding. So there are some lines of racing dogs where you can see a streak of shyness that extends from a particular sire or dam and carries on throughout the line. Also, since racing dogs are raised in a different enivornment than a pet would be, they don’t get quite the same type and amount of exposure to different kinds of people and situations that a pet dog would get. So some allowance must be made for that. On the flip side of that, though, it’s fairly rare to run across an overly aggressive greyhound. An aggressive dog can’t be handled easily in a kennel environment, so that’s the one personality trait that might lead a breeder to not use a dog for breeding, even if he or she was a successful racer.
Food - you should use a good quality food - your adoption group will have recommendations on what you should use. A quality food can be fed in smaller amounts, so while it might be more expensive to buy, the bag will last longer. Your dog will also look better and keep weight on easier.
People worry about bloat with a large deep-chested dog, but the good news is that retired racers don’t tend to suffer much from this. I’ve known of cases where it’s happened, but it’s fairly rare.
Teeth - greyhounds are notorious for bad teeth. It’s again probably part genetics and part environment - racing hounds are fed soft food and they can end up with bad teeth. Regular care of the teeth will go a long way toward keeping a greyhound’s mouth healthy. I have a greyhound that is almost 12 and he’s only had to have one tooth extracted in the entire time we’ve had him. He gets his teeth brushed a couple times a week and occasionally my husband will hand-scale them. Greyhounds are pretty tractable and I haven’t met one who wouldn’t let you brush his teeth if you are gentle and patient about it.
Health issues - you can expect a racing greyhound to live about 12 years. The one big health problem I’ve seen with hounds is bone cancer. I’ve seen estimates that say 1 of every 5 hounds will get it. It’s painful, nasty, and expensive to treat, and treatment doesn’t always extend the lifespan very much. We opted to treat our almost-12-year-old dog when he was diagnosed at age 9, and feel very fortunate to still have him. About 50 percent of dogs with bone cancer who are treated will live a year beyond diagnosis, and most dogs that get it will be diagnosed around the age of 9, so that’s something you might want to think about before deciding on a greyhound.
Greyhounds can also be prone to arthritis and neck and spine issues (also very painful) as they age due to their former athlete status, but these things often be dealt with for quite awhile before they really start to impact quality of life.
Cats and other small furry critters (little dogs included): Some hounds are very keen, others not. Your adoption group can point you to a low prey-drive dog who you can acclimate to your cats (I think the dogs acclimate better than the cats, usually!). Don’t expect that courtesy to necessarily extend to wild animals, though. Rabbits and squirrels are just too tempting - plus trainers often use rabbit fur as a lure, so they’ve been taught to chase something that looks and probably smells like a rabbit.
One last note - not all greyhounds are couch potatoes, so if you want one that’s quiet, make sure you mention it to your adoption group. My six-year-old hound is a pistol who likes to wake me up by jumping on me. So I’m usually out of the bed until after he’s had his breakfast and calmed down a bit. He’s also insatiably curious about everything I do around the house, so I am rarely alone when I’m home.
I have a web site about adopted greyhounds if you are interested - it’s mostly links to adoption resources and supplies, plus some photos of my own dogs:
If you are interested in reading up about greyhounds, there are a couple good books - Adopting the Retired Racing Greyhound by Cynthia Branigan and Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood (I know Lee personally and she’s a marvelous person and a marvelous trainer, so I can recommend her book quite highly).