A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

March 02, 2016
A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

(and they won’t judge you for being unfit either, because they can be lazy too)

GALLYYYYY!!!!” Henry will scream whenever he sees a greyhound, after his late dog ‘Suzy Gally’ - the retired racer his family adopted. I’ve lost count of a) the number of occasions he will drop everything he’s doing to rush over and pat a complete stranger’s greyhound, b) the many times he’s waxed lyrical about greyhounds are the best dogs ever and c) his laments about how these gentle creatures are often abandoned, sometimes abused, by their owners once their track careers are over. Myself, I was never a greyhound enthusiast - until recently I always thought of them as strange, spindly alien-like creatures (albeit ones with killer figures - Wasp waists! Long slender legs!).
My boyfriend is the kind of man who puts his money where his mouth is, so on Monday Henry and I made the trek from London to Brentwood, Essex to volunteer at the local branch of the Retired Greyhounds Trust. It’s a noble cause that is very close to Henry’s heart, and being a dog lover myself I wanted to see for myself why greyhounds are such special, wonderful animals that deserve a second chance when their racing days are over.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

We arrived at the kennels in the Essex suburb of Pilgrims Hatch to the cacophony of passionate barking. Dozens and dozens of greyhounds (we soon discovered that there were fifty dogs) poked their noses through the doors of their kennels, wagging their tails with such helicopter-like velocity I feared that they would take off and smash through the roof. The excited dogs, thrilled at the prospect of their daily walks, started springing up six feet in the air like Jacks in The Box - I wonder if they knew that it was Leap Day? The staff, all of them volunteers, were obviously very much in love with their dogs and eager to share with us their charges’ quirks, anecdotes, and histories. The Retired Greyhound Trust, we soon learned, was founded in 1975 as a ‘second chance saloon’ for retired greyhounds seeking loving forever homes. With a network of over 70 branches across Britain and run by over 1,000 dedicated volunteers, the national charity is very much a labour of love.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

Henry and I were given a greyhound each to walk around the paddock. I was paired with the most patient gentleman, a black and white fellow by the name of Connor. Even when my poorly-chosen boots got stuck in the mud and I had to halt the walk several times to free myself (why, oh why didn’t I wear my Hunters?) Connor would most obligingly humour me as I struggled to extract myself from the mire. And they say chivalry is dead… It’s a shame that these pictures don’t do justice to Connor and the greyhounds’ mild-mannered nature especially when they are wearing muzzles which is only a precaution against a very unlikely scenario, as the breed is not known to be vicious. Rare is the greyhound owner that knows their dog to ever display aggression - you would be more likely to be mauled by a pigeon.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

In fact, the lady in the red coat - a black beauty named Lisa - was that rare exception of boisterous greyhound. The worst she did was try to walk ahead occasionally when something exceptional caught her attention, and when she repeatedly poked my camera lens with her nose because she was so fascinated by the clicking shutter.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex


FUN FACTS ABOUT GREYHOUNDS:  

The greyhound is the one of the oldest pedigrees, and the only dog to be mentioned by name in the Bible, as one of the "four things stately" in Proverbs 30:31. 

 Greyhounds were the dogs of the aristocracy. Since the breed’s post-medieval revival, only nobles could own greyhounds - any commoner caught owning one would literally be ‘in the doghouse’. In the 10th century, King Howel of Wales made killing a greyhound tantamount to murder, and therefore punishable by death. 

For an animal that is in the Top 10 of the world’s fastest land mammals and the world’s fastest dog, greyhounds are notoriously lazy. Ask any greyhound owner - the dogs seem to sleep 80% of the time. Apart from their daily walks (preferably in a fenced area like a dog park) when they burst into astonishing speeds, you would never guess that these loveable couch potatoes are the Ferrari of the dog world. 

For that reason, and also that they are hypoallergenic and shed very little, greyhounds are apartment-friendly - all they need is at least two walks a day to keep them happy (and a nice, fluffy dog bed for their 18 hours a day-naps). 

Greyhounds tend to be very placid in nature. They’re not the breed of dog that will jump up on every stranger they meet who shows them attention - 99.9% of greyhounds I pat will quietly enjoy the attention, standing still and blinking slowly with a polite curiosity. 

Here’s my observation - they look and walk like deer with their spindly legs, gentle tip-toe gait, and their incredible agility. A greyhound’s head is also the same size and shape of a slice of pizza; as Henry, Suzy Gally, and a certain slice of margarita pizza will tell you. 

Almost all rescue greyhounds are used to people because they have been handled on race tracks by many different people and also volunteers at rehoming kennels. Many greyhounds are good with other dogs and cats, and to be sure, a greyhound will be given the ‘cat-and-other pets test’ to see if they are suited to specific households. 

Henry’s greyhound passed the cat test. In fact his cats ended up bossing her around, like smacking her bottom when she moved too slowly. Suzy Gally thought she was a cat - she tried to follow Spike the Cat through the cat flap, and was confused/disappointed when only her head fit through to be met by the judgemental and bemused gaze of her feline superior.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

Unintentionally hilarious pony placement #1 - Say hello to Jasiminne the Centaur. Divination abilities sold separately.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

Unintentionally hilarious pony placement #2 - Waiter, there’s a horse on my dog’s back!

Thanks a lot, ponies, for photobombing my pictures.

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

I AM/SHOULD BE WEARING:



A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

A day at the Retired Greyhound Trust in Brentwood, Essex

As wonderfully selfless as the Retired Greyhound Trust is, it is for very sad reasons that the trust exists in the first place. A greyhound’s racing career is short-lived and by the time the dog is aged 4-6 it is retired. Many uncaring owners simply abandon their loyal servants and move on raising the next puppy who will make them more money. Irish racers have both ears tattooed with serial numbers to identify them, and this is why there have been reported cases of abandoned greyhounds found with both ears cut clean off so as not to incriminate their human abusers. The relatively luckier ones are sent to Retired Greyhound Trust branches around the country, but even so most branches have a waiting list so for every dog that makes it to the kennels, there are several others waiting in dog limbo.
I find it depressing and infuriating that there hundreds, maybe thousands of greyhounds across the country kicked out of hearth and home simply because their owners decide that their value begin and ends with how much money these loving dogs will make them at the tracks! Haven’t they heard that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas racing season? It’s somewhat heartening to know that despite the abuse and neglect that some of these dogs have suffered, none of the greyhounds seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Each and every dog at the Brentwood branch were as pleased as punch for the attention they receive from the good people at the kennels. Even so, these gentle hounds deserve forever homes. Happily, more and more people are adopting rescue greyhounds because they make such wonderful, calm, and loving pets with the additional bonus of already being housetrained, socialised with people, and having been vaccinated. 
The Retired Greyhound Trust is run entirely on the generosity of people, whether it be donations of goods and money or volunteers taking the time to walk the dogs. Even if you, like Henry and I, don’t have time for a full-time dog, you are very welcome to meet these sweet creatures at the kennels and take them for a spin - be warned, unless you have a heart of stone you will almost definitely fall in love with at least one of these adorable pups… 
Learn more about the Retired Greyhound Trust and their tireless cause to find homes for these lovely dogs. 
Henry and I visited the branch in Brentwood, Essex but you can find the list of their many branches nationwide, here.




Lunch at The Brentwood Kitchen in Brentwood, Essex

After a long morning spent with the greyhounds at Pilgrims Hatch, Henry and I needed a much-deserved refuel before our train ride back to London. I suggested The Brentwood Kitchen - a colourful, wholesome eatery on the high street that’s on the lips of all the locals (in more ways than one!). The Brentwood Kitchen is all wholesome goodness - from the homemade food lovingly prepared using local ingredients and charming, eclectic decor that looks like a Pinterest dream. I wish I could have taken more photos of the place but I kept my camera somewhat restrained as The Brentwood Kitchen was full of mothers and their children. No wonder, as the place was “born out of a desire for parents to have somewhere nice to eat with their children”. As someone who’s best friend has recently become a mother, I really appreciate a restaurant who pays attention to not just the food and ambience but also their customer’s needs! 



To make up for my lack of photos of The Brentwood Kitchen decor, here’s a peace offering - a DSLR selfie.

Because once you go full-frame, you never go back to front-facing smartphone camera. 

Lunch at The Brentwood Kitchen in Brentwood, Essex

Lunch at The Brentwood Kitchen in Brentwood, Essex

Lunch at The Brentwood Kitchen in Brentwood, Essex

Lunch at The Brentwood Kitchen in Brentwood, Essex

Between the both of us Henry and I put away a stack of American pancakes with berry compote and cream, nachos with chilli, and a pile of avocado and salsa on ciabatta. The food was delicious and simple, the ambience was friendly and welcoming (we were given a cup of tea on the house by way of apology for waiting for our meal), but the most pleasant surprise were the prices - only £30 for three dishes and two drinks, which is practically unheard of in London!



To round up our day in Brentwood, both at the Retired Greyhounds Trust and lunch afterward, here’s one of my favourite Simpsons scenes featuring greyhounds and food blogging:



Do you have a greyhound?
Would you consider adopting a retired racer from the Retired Greyhounds Trust?
Do you like your food “chewy”?


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