Greyhound Adoption Center’s Barks and Brews

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Human athletes may speak in troubling terms over how retirement from professional sports has been accompanied by multiple difficulties and subsequent health problems. But what about our fellow creatures on this planet, who themselves have similarly been sporting competitors but have no voices of their own to describe their predicament?

Human athletes may speak in troubling terms over how retirement from professional sports has been accompanied by multiple difficulties and subsequent health problems. But what about our fellow creatures on this planet, who themselves have similarly been sporting competitors but have no voices of their own to describe their predicament?

For racing greyhounds, that is where El Cajon’s Greyhound Adoption Center comes into the picture. The center provides shelter, veterinary care and ongoing support and companionship for dogs rescued from racetracks, until such time as these sweet-natured hounds can be placed into suitable “forever” homes.

Darren Rigg is president of the Greyhound Adoption Center, and he and his wife Candy Lewis are considered co-founders of the organization. (She is also known formally as Dr. Anne Lewis, veterinarian and medical director of GAC.) The center began operation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1987, after three years of working out of the founders’ home and rented kennels.

Rigg was there from the outset on Saturday, June 17, representing his group at the Barks and Brews event designed for raising awareness and money to benefit GAC. The gathering was held during sunny afternoon heat at the Ballast Point Brewing Company location in Scripps Ranch. Presale tickets were priced at $16 for a commemorative GAC pint glass and two tasters of beer. Tickets during the event jumped to $20. Raffle tickets and bake sale desserts were also sold to raise funds. 

Ballast Point’s guiding motto is “Dedicated to the Craft.” GAC’s self-description could likewise be called “Dedicated to the Mission” — as supporters came from near and far to attend.

Lilah and Frank Mooney were over 500 miles from their home in Hereford, Arizona, when they arrived. The couple volunteered with GAC from 1989 through 2002 doing kennel work until they moved out of state.

Christopher McAllister is on active duty as a Major in the Marine Corps. Between his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has volunteered with GAC since 2004. “Most people don’t understand the plight of greyhounds,” McAllister stated. “The greyhound racing industry is not well known for what happens to the dogs. And people can help support these dogs in many ways.”

Darren Rigg spoke alternately with happy praise for greyhounds as companion animals and with dismayed chagrin over how these dogs rescued from racetracks arrive in poor medical condition. “Greyhounds are the best-kept secret in the dog world,” Rigg said with a smile. But then he turned somber, detailing how badly the racing dogs have fared. These dogs were racers that most likely were never really cared about or cared for, except for their fast speed in out-running their competition. Greyhounds from the Caliente track have been brought into GAC with all kinds of parasites, including hook worms, round worms, whip worms, as well as broken legs.

The center is currently providing safe shelter and care to 58 dogs, all available for adoption. This is a bit higher than normal, as Rigg noted that the average is 52 dogs housed on site awaiting homes. To date, GAC has directly rescued about 6,000 dogs.

“We do some things that are special,” Rigg said. “We advocate not only for the dogs but for the people who adopt. We work to fit the dog to the adopter. And we follow up with post-adoption support, and we lend a hand with any problems and with more training to assist in getting the household settled with the dog.” He said further that the group insists that any adopted dog never be returned from adoption anywhere except back to GAC.

The Greyhound Adoption Center was started in La Mesa, then moved to Lakeside, and now is situated at 4821 Dehesa Road in El Cajon. “We’ve been moving farther east all the time,” Rigg joshed.

Supporter Andrea Ashbaugh stopped by to greet Rigg, while wearing an apt but provocative t-shirt, emblazoned, “I kissed a dog and I liked it.”

That inspired Rigg to comment on the need for more people to step up for the volunteer organization. The board members and executives are not paid for their work at GAC’s three and a half acre site. He urged anyone interested to ponder adopting a center greyhound, telling associates about adoption possibilities, and coming onboard to assist directly with the center’s dogs. “You will be satisfied with how much you can help,” he said. “And you get doggy kisses.”

For the event on the dog-friendly outdoor parking lot area, Ballast Point was pouring four of the brewery’s selections, California Kolsch, Wahoo witbier, the famous flagship Sculpin India Pale Ale, and the nicely flavored Grapefruit Sculpin IPA. Wading pools and blankets shielded dog paws from the blacktop’s heat. Ballast Point is celebrating its 25th anniversary, with a Home Brew Contest, with free entry for home brewers who submit entries at Home Brew Mart in Linda Vista by July 8.

A post-event report declared the event a success.  Nearly 200 people attended, along with about 75 dogs. The fundraiser brought in $7,800 to benefit the hounds of GAC.

The Greyhound Adoption Center holds periodic open houses, for potential adopters and volunteers to meet the dogs. More information about how to help these beautiful, loving creatures transition from sporting competitors to family companions can be found at www.houndsavers.org or by phoning (877) 478-8364.

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