Saving sighthounds four skinny legs at a time

A passion for sighthounds has brought a growing group of volunteers together with a single-minded vision: to find a loving home for every adorable, abandoned sighthound in the country. We spoke to Sighthound Rescue SA co-founder Cheryl Campbell about this inspiring project.

One look at a whippet or greyhound in full flight on an open field is enough to understand the unbridled devotion of sighthound owners. With the double-suspension gallop (where all four feet are off the ground twice — once fully suspended and once tucked under the body), their athleticism is a thing of beauty. Yet it’s their gentle, docile and ‘civilized’ cuddly nature that wins the most hearts and has made sighthounds increasingly popular as companion pets.

Unfortunately, their speed and hunting prowess have led sighthounds to be abused by dog race enthusiasts and hunters the world over — also in South Africa, where these beautiful creatures are often kept in abysmal conditions or left for dead when they get injured. Greyhounds, whippets and boerwindhonde are mostly rescued by Sighthound Rescue South Africa, although the sighthound group also includes breeds like the Saluki, Irish Wolfhound, Afghan hound, Borzoi and the whippet’s small cousin, the Italian Greyhound.

Sighthound Rescue SA was officially founded in 2015 but in fact their work started earlier.

“Three of our founders had been rescuing sighthounds on an individual basis but we felt a need for a formal NPO in order to facilitate better fundraising and networking so we applied for NPO status and have been going from strength to strength ever since!” says Cheryl Campbell.

Currently, there are 3 directors, 7 board members, and a team of about 30 volunteers who assist with fostering dogs, fundraising and other tasks. Because there are no salaries or actual shelter premises, all funding goes to cover vet bills, food and transport costs. All intakes go to a foster home while waiting for their forever home.

“Fostering is by far our biggest need.  It is one of the most rewarding things you can do for animal welfare to provide temporary accommodation and care for a dog in need.  Our foster parents are the backbone of our organization.  It’s a very selfless task but one that allows you to have the pleasure of a dog’s company without having to make a lifelong commitment. Sighthound Rescue bears all costs related to the foster dog and uses the same care in placing the right foster dog in your home as we would if it were a permanent adoption.  Foster parents have first option to adopt but in the event that you decide not to adopt, a good home is typically found within a few days at the least, a few months at the most,” says Campbell.

Sighthounds’ wonderful nature, of course, helps to make the successful re-homing rate very high. Contrary to popular belief, sighthounds have very low energy levels.

“As sprinters, they are prone to short bursts of speed but spend most of the rest of the day sleeping, in the company of their family if at all possible! As such, they make ideal pets for people with busy lifestyles and are not prone to the stress-related behavior problems which other high-energy breeds have” says Campbell. They also get along well with children and other dogs.

However, providing a foster home is not the only way you can help. Dog walking, helping with admin, giving a sighthound a lift to their new home in another part of the country, or even knitting or sewing blankets or jerseys for the skinny creatures are ways you can contribute in non-monetary ways.

The sighthounds in our pictures are a few of many dogs, which have found their homes with the help of Sighthound Rescue SA

Dino is a little whippet who was found running around as a stray in the streets of Gansbaai. He was rescued by a local organization and transferred to Sighthound Rescue SA and now lives a life of luxury as does his brother Tali in his adopted home. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Poolman Creative.

Farrah was rescued as a starving puppy and now lives the life of a princess in her amazing home.

Carmelita was starving and full of mange. She was used as a hunting dog. Now blossoming in foster care and heading to her permanent home.

To find out more about Sighthound Rescue SA, go to their website or Facebook page or send an email to [email protected]