Retired greyhound enjoys life as ‘a 45 mile-an-hour couch potato’

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Wish started out life as a racing greyhound, but these days she’s content to lounge on the couch at the Smith home in Elk River.

Ashley Smith, 12, and Wish. She said the dog is "awesome."

The Smiths — Kristi, Pat and their daughter, Ashley —adopted Wish six years ago through Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption. They describe her as an easy-going dog who likes people and gets along fine with their other dog, a red setter, and their two cats.

“They’re extremely easy to have around. They call them a 45 mile-an-hour couch potato,” Kristi said of the greyhound.

Wish, whose full name is Ilene’s Wish, was born and bred to race. But as it turned out she was not fast enough. She ran in only about six races and didn’t place very well so the owners made the choice to let her be adopted, Kristi said.

Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption got Wish from Dubuque, Iowa. The Smiths adopted her when she was 2 years old.

This is the second greyhound they have adopted. They had their first greyhound, Maggie, for about five years before she got cancer.

They also have fostered three other greyhounds that went on to be placed in permanent homes.

Each new greyhound that has come to their home has been interesting, because racing greyhounds live in kennels at the track.

“They’ve never seen the inside of a house,” Kristi explained.

Added Pat: “They don’t know what stairs are, what sliding glass doors are.”

But they soon adapt to their new surroundings and, over time, their distinct personalities emerge.

Pat described greyhounds as “a really, really cool breed.”

Kristi said they don’t need all the exercise that people often think they do because they are sprinters that exhibit quick bursts of energy. Wish is happy with a lap or two around their fenced-in yard and is very good on a leash, she said.

When Wish does run, it’s something to see.
“It’s amazing,” Pat said. “It’s cool to watch a dog do what it was engineered to do.”

In general, greyhounds are typically very adaptable and laid back and sleep a lot, Kristi said.

Pat, Kristi and Ashley Smith at a Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption “meet and greet” event Feb. 11 at Chuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet in Elk River.

“The bottom line is it’s a breed that really likes to hang out,” Pat said.

Kristi, who used to work as a veterinary technician, fell in love with greyhounds while working at an animal hospital. It was there she also learned about Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption.

Northern Lights was founded by Donna and Rodger Barr of Foley Boulevard Animal Hospital in Coon Rapids. Rodger is a veterinarian; Donna is a technician and office manager at the animal hospital.

Donna Barr said she adopted her first greyhound in 1977 and has had greyhounds ever since.

The Barrs currently have four greyhounds of their own, and have had a total of more than a dozen over the years.

Donna described the dogs as sweet, loving, quiet, calm and clean.

“They just make great pets,” she said.

Because the greyhounds have been race dogs, two common misconceptions are that they have a lot of energy and need a lot of exercise. “It’s totally the opposite,” Barr said. “They are content to sleep about 22 hours a day.”

Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption works with people who want to adopt greyhounds to match the right dog to them.

Wish the greyhound.

When the Smiths adopted Wish, for instance, they first had to fill out an application and go through a phone interview process. Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption then selected three dogs that would be a good fit for their family.

The Smiths checked out all three in person but in the end the choice was clear.

“After we met Wish, we knew she was the one we wanted,” Kristi said.

Six years later, it’s clearly a match that has worked out.

As 12-year-old Ashley puts it: “I think she’s awesome.”


Fast facts about greyhounds

•The greyhound has deep roots in the history of the world. Evidence of the existence of greyhounds more than 4,000 years ago is found in murals, sculpture and paintings of dogs strikingly similar to the hounds seen today.

•Greyhounds claim descent from the desert dogs of the pharaohs and Arab sheiks. Etchings of greyhounds have been found on the walls of the tombs of ancient pharaohs. The pharaohs prized greyhounds both as pets and hunters. The Arabs, too, so admired the greyhound that it was the only dog permitted to share their tents (a high honor in nomadic tribes) and to ride atop their camels. The birth of a greyhound ranked second in importance only to the birth of a son.

•Greyhounds are the only canine mentioned in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31).

•Greyhounds were introduced in England just prior to the ninth century. Their speed, agility and keen eyesight made greyhounds highly prized as sporting dogs by British royalty.

•In the late 1800s greyhounds were imported to America to help farmers control jackrabbits and a growing rodent problem. Eventually, greyhounds became a source of great entertainment and greyhound racing was established in many sections of the United States. In 1921 the first successful greyhound track was opened in Tulsa, Okla.

Wish curled up on the couch at the Smith home in Elk River. She is small for a greyhound, weighing about 60 pounds. Her coloring is called red brindle. Grey greyhounds are actually very rare.

•Throughout history a number of prominent people have kept greyhounds as pets. Among those are Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, General George Custer, actress Bo Derek, and Ron Gardenhire, manager of the Minnesota Twins.

Source: Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption

Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption helps dogs find permanent homes
•Northern Light Greyhound Adoption is a nonprofit group of volunteers dedicated to finding responsible homes for retired racing greyhounds and educating the public about greyhounds as pets.
•The organization has been placing greyhounds for nearly 15 years and has found homes for more than 1,300 dogs. The dogs come from all over the United States. On average greyhounds are retired from racing at 2-3 years of age, but some are 4 or 5. Older dogs that have been used for breeding after they retire from racing also become available for adoption.

•Greyhound “meet and greet” events are held throughout the Twin Cities, including at Chuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet in Elk River. The Elk River event is typically held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the second Saturday of the month. Check the organization’s website at for details.

•The website also shows the dogs available for adoption.

•For more information, go to or call 763-754-9754.

Source: Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption