Kelly Leal, salon owner. In her other life: greyhound foster home provider.
More than 28,000 greyhounds are put down every year when their racing careers come to an end. But thanks to nail tech Kelly Leal and volunteers like her at Greyhound Options and similar organizations, many of these good-natured animals instead find their way into loving homes. “Many people think of Greyhounds as very high-strung if they have only seen them racing, but they are calm and gentle dogs off the track,” says Leal, a co-owner of Reflections Hair & Nails in Westfield, Mass. Her role with Greyhound Options is to supply a foster home for the dogs as they transition from the racetrack to family homes.
When greyhounds retire, usually between age 2 and 4, the lucky ones come to live in a home for the first time, having lived previously only on a breeding farm and in a racing kennel. Most Greyhounds adapt quickly to the home environment, but the first few hours with a new foster dog are quite comical, says Leal. “These dogs have never been in a home, so everything is new to them: their reflection in the oven, the noises of the TV, tile floors, the bathroom and most dreaded of all — the stairs!” she says. “For the first few weeks I have a new foster I offer it a crate to sleep in. This is very comforting since they have lived most of their lives crated.” One of Leal’s most important duties is the weekly meet-and-greets at area pet stores where the public can see the dogs available for adoption.
“These dogs have so much love to give, they are just waiting for a chance,” she says. “I greet every one of my fosters the same way. I say, ‘Welcome to the first day of your new life. Happy retirement.’”