A Long Tail: The Great British Greyhound Walk

Sometimes small ideas turn into big ones. This is the story of one such idea that touched the lives of many people – and their dogs.

Some years back I bumped into a small group of people in a local park – they were all walking greyhounds. Relaxed conversation and at-ease  dogs. I was intrigued:  how had they come together?

I later found out that this group met in order to talk and swap solutions to greyhound problems.

They also doubled as greyhound ambassadors to the public.

The walks were the brainchild of Janet Peacock. Janet had adopted her first dog, a greyhound called Chelsea, from a rescue centre. Careful research had led her to believe that the breed would be a good fit for her family – even with a husband who wasn’t a “dog person.”

Janet took Chelsea to obedience classes but neither of them found them  very interesting. They did enjoy meeting the other greyhounds however,  so an idea occurred to Janet:  a walking group for greyhounds that had been rescued and adopted.

Greyhounds are deprived of the advantages of training and socialisation when they are puppies.  The majority of them are bred to race, so their formative years are spent learning to race and chase. Once rehomed as pets, many find that their greyhounds need training, but more crucially they need opportunities to socialise, as well as space and time to adjust.

Owners were pleased to find a group where their dogs would be forgiven if they needed to wear muzzles when walked and where they could be slowly introduced via a supportive group into a wider world.

An alliance was formed of 6 greyhound families. Then something radical happened:  the group received a large amount of money from grateful owners and they decided to form a charity called Greyhound Walks.

Because of this, Janet and the “originals” were inspired to start a greyhound show to raise money for local greyhounds.

The first show was a huge success. It is now an annual event, and a firm favourite within the greyhound fraternity

Janet surprised herself again with the idea to invite all UK  greyhound owners to gather and  walk, at the same time on the same day, in order to further raise the profile of greyhounds.

Around this time,  Chelsea’s health began to fail.  Janet had to choose between staying at home with her sweet dog, or continuing what they had started together. The undertaking was huge and the planning that went into it beyond anything that had gone before.

The Great British Greyhound Walk would raise money for local greyhound projects and rescue centres. Today, GBGW (as it has become known) is a nationwide success story.

In GBGW’s first year, 1, 624 dogs turned out. 4 years later in 2013 the number increased to 2, 638. This extended family includes other sight hounds and lurchers.

Chelsea, the inspiration for all of this, died in 2011 but she had been a catalyst for change in Janet’s life, including the addition of 2 new dogs:  George, a shy black greyhound, and Millie,  a collie rescued from Wales.

Walking groups for other breeds are now springing up all over the UK with identical goals. Greyhounds are being recognised as superb companions and much of the credit must go to Janet and her beautiful Chelsea.

When asked about her next move she replied by sending me this note:  I have an idea- One Greyhound,  One World.

Pennie Clayton is the UK based owner of the Horse and Hound School.  She  writes about life with horses and dogs: training, living with them and how to help them stay healthy and happy.  We are thrilled to have her writing for Mrs Robinson.