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How Rescuing Greyhounds Made Me a Better COO

Posted on December 11, 2016 at 9:55 AM

I adopted two retired racing greyhounds several years ago. Despite their fierce racing image, greyhounds are gentle-natured and don’t need much exercise. Their ability to sleep all day has earned them the nickname “40 mph couch potatoes.” Because of their careers as racers, however, they do require unique care to adjust to life in a home. That experience transitioning them to a new life made me a better leader of people at work in 4 ways.


1) Assessing Needs – My first greyhound was fully grown when I got him. At four years old, he was a washed up world-class pro athlete who had competed in tracks around the country. What I didn’t realize by looking at him was how he lacked many skills any four month old puppy would have begun to master. Stairs, furniture, mirrors, vacuums and verbal commands were among the things alien to him. He didn’t even know how to sit. I learned to assume every experience would be a learning experience for him. Car rides, walking on a leash, darting squirrels, curious kids – I learned to ease him into every first time experience to ensure we didn’t have a big failure that could have been prevented by training.


LEADERSHIP LESSON – It’s the responsibility of adults reentering an environment to learn quickly. It’s the responsibility of their leaders to give them a safe learning environment.




2) Managing Risk – Because greyhounds are sight-hounds they can see things moving far off and will automatically run at them at full speed, even straight into car traffic. Rabbits, squirrels, and floating plastic bags are all stimuli. Since no amount of training could defeat that inbred trait and the consequences could be tragic, I had to invest in an expensive fence to feel safe letting them free in my yard. Indoors, they presented other risks of damage that were also likely to occur but with lesser consequences. If they went into an off limit room to relieve themselves, the results would be messy but not tragic. At first I invested in baby gates but realized they were as annoying to me as they were effective with them and I often put them aside. I then tested flimsy white tension curtain rods that I wouldn’t put aside but might still curb them. They worked great and now the dogs don’t even step over electric cords on the floor unless I tell them it is OK.


LEADERSHIP LESSON – Whenever I need to manage a risk at work, I will think carefully about whether I need a $5000 fence or if a $5 curtain rod will suffice.


3) Giving Attention – Because of the tough conditions they faced as racers, greyhounds are troopers as pets. They rarely bark, they aren’t food crazed, they sleep all day, and they can go for 12 plus hours between bathroom breaks. When I get busy, it is easy to neglect them for several hours at a time. I learned the hard way that, even if they aren’t crying out for physical relief, they still need regular attention from me. When I neglect them too long, bad things happen. Just because they don’t need me to let them out doesn’t mean they don’t need reassurance that I know they are there.


LEADERSHIP LESSON – Some team members generate great results without needing a lot of input from their managers. They are easy to neglect. If you neglect them long enough, bad things happen, like they take other job offers.


4) Finding Community – Because they grow up in a sealed environment in racing with only humans and other greyhounds, greyhounds are aloof with other dog breeds. When other dogs want to say hello on a walk, my greyhounds stand stoically through the sniffing. But when another greyhound crosses the street three blocks away, my greyhounds see with their sighthound eyes and get excited. The greyhounds drag their walkers to a meeting. The funny part is, that the meeting of the greyhounds lasts about 30 frantic seconds before they go back to their stoic selves, but the people walking the greyhounds connect much longer and talk about the unique experience rescuing greyhounds. Those interactions between greyhound walkers became so frequent in my neighborhood that we ended up forming a vibrant 60+ person community on Facebook. That Facebook group blossomed into an annual entry in our big neighborhood 4th of July Parade to increase awareness of greyhound adoption.


LEADERSHIP LESSON – Leading a greyhound transitioning from racing life to homelife is a unique challenge that only other greyhound adopters can understand. If you can connect with other greyhound adopters, you can help each other out. The same is probably true with other types of caregivers.


I’ve spent a lot of time and money getting training to make me a better leader at work. Rescuing two greyhounds has been the best training I ever got to learn the patience and empathy to help adults transition to a new career. Even though they haven’t been as “free” as I expected rescued dogs to be, the experience they have given me has been priceless.


->> Learn more about adopting retired racing greyhounds at



Categories: People Leadership, Communication Skills, Organizational Values