MAKE A fast friend at the Savage library.
That's the invitation. You can "Fall in Love with a Greyhound" at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow at the library. You can even make arrangements to take one home.
Members of the Greyhound Pets of America, Md., Inc. will bring some of their dogs to the library to be petted and hugged, and talk about this breed of fast, large and gentle dogs.
The organization is dedicated to saving greyhounds that would otherwise be destroyed when their racing careers have ended. The Maryland chapter was founded in 1985 by the late Betty Rosen of Lutherville.
The Savage library's children's department has been host to sheep, goats, potbellied pigs and rabbits, but this is the first time that greyhounds have been guests.
On June 5, Michele Hunt, a Savage branch children's librarian, was staffing the library's booth at the Savage Fest. The booth was next to that of the greyhound rescue group. GPA has had a booth at the fair for the past six years. It's a popular booth -- GPA members always bring greyhounds for people to pet.
Hunt struck up a conversation with volunteer Beth Blair at the neighboring booth and invited her to give a presentation at the library. The Arbutus resident said yes.
Blair may bring her elderly greyhound Hootie or younger Tony -- she refers to him as her sweetheart -- to tomorrow's presentation. Betty Ann Kundrat of Laurel, also a member of the group, is bringing Baby, age 7.
Kundrat had two Afghan hounds before adopting Baby four years ago. She says she felt guilty whenever the Afghans' fur became matted. It wasn't their fault, she said. She simply didn't have time to groom them every day to prevent their long hair from matting.
So when her last afghan passed away, she considered adopting a greyhound. She had seen presentations about the dogs at craft and holiday fairs, so she called GPA.
Kundrat says that when the GPA representative asked her if she had a color preference, she said, "Yes. White with little brown spots." She had meant to say "large spots," she says. That would be a common coat color among greyhounds. Small spots are rare, she said.
She also told the GPA representative that she preferred a male dog. She says the rep replied, "You're just describing this dog in front of me to a T."
Although GPA usually requires a home visit before adoption, volunteers expedited the process. They brought the dog to her house with a bow around his neck, Kundrat recalls.
It was her daughter Kendall's 6th birthday.
After GPA checked the house and yard, the adoption was made final. The dog -- named Lightning -- "was a gift from God," Kundrat says.
The Kundrats renamed him Baby because "he cries for attention all the time," Kundrat said. He's a very affectionate animal, she added.
Kundrat credits Baby's calm and comforting demeanor with helping her during a bleak time in her life.
The dog has a few personality quirks, however. He's indifferent to squirrels but would love to catch a cat. This is unusual for a breed that usually likes felines.
He's also sneakily clever, trying to get extra dog biscuits from Kundrat and her husband, Joe, by pretending, first to one and then the other, not to have received his daily ration of the treats.
Baby waits patiently until their son, Joseph, 12 (who goes to Murray Hill Middle School), and daughter, Kendall, (now 10 and a student at Gorman Crossing Elementary) come home. Then he insists on his "walkies," Kundrat said.
Beth Blair got her first greyhound, Hootie, through the rescue group 10 years ago.
"Many don't realize how calm and sweet they are," she said of the breed. "They're really couch potatoes. They're big dogs that take up little space."
Although the dogs have an expected life span of 12 to 15 years, their racing days at tracks in New England and Florida end when they are 2 to 4 years old, Blair says. Then they are routinely destroyed.
GPA and other groups rescue many of the dogs by finding homes for them. Dogs placed by GPA often are 2 years old.
An adoption fee of $195 covers the cost of a driver from the Florida GPA picking up the dogs and bringing them to Maryland, Blair says.
GPA transports them, Blair says, in air-conditioned trucks. Because they have so little body fat, greyhounds are extremely sensitive to heat and cold. Last week, the group brought 15 dogs from Florida. Adoptions took place Saturday.
Health checkups, shots, neutering or spaying, teeth cleaning, and a leash and collar are included in the fee.
Also included is a home visit to make sure the environment is suitable for the pet, as well as a care manual and the support of GPA members.
Originally bred for hunting -- and now for racing -- greyhounds are "sight hounds," Blair says. They will chase what they see. When something catches its eye, Blair says, a greyhound will give chase without noticing anything else.
New owners should realize, she cautions, that the dogs must be walked on a leash.
But other than that, they are maintenance-free. Or as Betty Kundrat says, "guilt-free."
Information about tomorrow's program: 410-880-5978. Information about Greyhound Pets of America: 800-600-8607.
Pub Date: 9/24/99