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Old June 8th, 2003, 05:52 AM
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Racer is enjoying the retired life

By Mary Ford

Brian no longer lives in the fast lane, and that's fine with him.

Apart from jaunts on the grass outside his new Cohasset home, he's perfectly happy to lounge around and be a "couch potato."

The four-year-old greyhound used to spend 22 hours a day in a cage when he wasn't reaching speeds of up to 45 mph running at the Taunton-Raynham Race Track. Now he's thoroughly enjoying retirement while at the same time being spoiled by the dozens of residents at Sunrise Senior Living on Route 3A.

After two unsuccessful tries with other breeds of dogs, Sunrise adopted Brian in April from Greyhound Pets of America, says Sunrise Executive Director Denise Baxter.

"We've been trying to adopt a dog for a long time but we had not had good success with the right match," she says. Baxter explained that Sunrise - which has upwards of 330 communities for seniors in the US, Canada and the UK - believes strongly in having a pet because it can help the residents interact and can even provide positive health effects, such as lowering blood pressure.

But it wasn't until Justine Thurston of Hingham, who provided a program on greyhounds at the Cohasset Sunrise earlier this spring, that the stage was set for Brian's arrival. In other words, Sunrise's need for a dog and Thurston's visit came at the perfect time.

Thurston, who is a volunteer with Greyhound Pets of America that has a kennel in Middleboro, can be very persuasive about how lovable and adaptable adopted greyhounds can be.

"She hand picked Brian for us and brought him over," Baxter recalled.

Actually it was a toss up between Brian and Trudy, another greyhound. Thurston brought them both over. But Brian felt right at home almost immediately and followed a resident into her room.

"He had a ball," Thurston recalled. Brian, who had never seen stairs before, even provided a little comic relief when he tried to negotiate the spiral staircase for the very first time.

"Now he's fine with stairs," Baxter says. There was also a problem in the beginning with getting Brian housebroken. Greyhounds are kept in cages when not racing. They won't go to the bathroom in their cage, but will when let out. So Brian was initially confused about all the freedom. However, he is a smart dog, Baxter says, and caught on quickly.

Baxter says Brian's size has turned out to be a plus. (He's a big dog and weighs about 75 pounds). The residents don't have to bend down to pet him, which is especially nice for those in wheelchairs.

Visiting children also love Brian. Residents will often say to the youngsters, "let's go find Brian," Baxter says.

"This dog is precious," she says. "You just can't help to like him."

Brian, who is brindled or mixed in color, came with a list of instructions in the form of a letter of introduction for the staff members to refer to if need be. They include a friendly reminder, written in the first person from Brian's perspective, to keep Brian on a leash when outside because as a "sight-hound racing dog" the big world looks very interesting. No one wants Brian to run off into the street and get hurt.

Thurston says greyhounds are docile, quiet "couch potatoes" that like to run. Sunrise has posted a sign at the front door asking that Brian not be let outside by accident.

Residents have also been asked not to slip Brian the occasional chocolate, so his tummy won't get upset.

Thurston is confident Brian has found a place to call home.

"He's very much a caring dog and will give a lot of comfort," Thurston says.

For more about Greyhound Pets of America, call Thurston at 781-749-4620.



***

About greyhounds

Size:27-inches to the shoulder

Weight: 50-80 pounds

Life expectancy: 12-14 years

Their nature:They are not vicious predators, but chase things that move by nature. It is the Greyhound's nature to run. Greyhounds love people, in fact more than most breeds, and tend to be quite sociable.

History:Egyptians worshipped Greyhounds as a god and showed them on murals in the tombs of kings.

Name:Greyhound may have come form the old English gre-hundr, meaning dog hunter or high order of rank

Source: www.greyhoundpets.org and www.adopt-a-greyhound.org
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