MYRTLE BEACH — Myrtle Beach has gone to the dogs.
Beachgoers strolling in the surf near 12th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach Wednesday afternoon saw dozens of four-legged beach bums splashing in the ocean, enjoying the shade under a large canopy and bonding with other dogs and their owners.
They are greyhounds, those lean, athletic sprinters most associated with race tracks. And they’re here at the Grand Strand for Beach Bound Hounds, several days of events celebrating this unique and spirited breed.
The fun and games is just one part of the mission. The other is helping to find nice homes for these dogs, which at one time were in danger of being put down once they retired from racing.
“They’re like potato chips. Nobody can have just one,” said Blanche Fedor, from Greensboro, N.C.
Fedor soaked in Wednesday’s clear blue sky, sparkling water and pleasant fall temperatures with Izzy right by her side.
Izzy is a nearly five-year-old greyhound Fedor got when the dog was just three months old and had a broken leg.
Before three weeks ago, Izzy shared Fedor’s home and affections with Sport. Unfortunately, the 11-year-old greyhound passed away, according to his owner.
But Fedor isn’t at a loss when it comes to this breed of dog. She works at a greyhound kennel in Oak Ridge, N.C. Plus, she’s had four of them in her lifetime.
And the animal doesn’t necessarily live up to its reputation as a competitive sprinter. The greyhounds populating the sand near Sea Mist Resort weren’t thinking about running in the least. Rest and relaxation were the words of the day.
Fedor even refers to Izzy as a, “30-mile-an-hour couch potato.”
Kim Owens, the owner of Greyhound Crossroads and the organizer of Beach Bound Hounds, said getting people to believe that is one of the challenges greyhound adoption groups such as hers face as they try to find suitable homes for the dogs.
“People have the perception in their head that because they race, they’re hyper,” said Owens, whose adoption group is based in Chappels.
Owens added that greyhounds are athletes, but the best analogy is a human sprinter - when they’re running, they’re giving it their all.
“When they’re not, they’re probably lying on the couch watching TV,” she said.
Several years ago, the perception was much different and the consensus was greyhounds didn’t make good pets. So, once they retired from racing, Owens said, their lives could be in danger.
Owens first got her greyhounds in 1993, after saving them from a kill truck.
“We do this because they’re incredible animals,” she said.
The biggest way Greyhound Crossroads tries to change any negative public opinion is getting the dogs out in the communities so residents can see the animals up close and personal.
For this week’s Beach Bound Hounds, Owens said there are 350 greyhounds and 400 people registered to participate.
And several were out in Surfside Beach Wednesday night for dinner and a Dean Martin tribute show at the Grand Theatre.
Theatre manager Cindra Marshall was expecting 30 to 40 participants and their dogs to come out for the show, which was also open to the public.
Marshall counted herself among those who had a completely different perception of greyhounds when she first encountered one, based solely on their large stature.
“These dogs are intimidating at first blush. You just look at them and go, ‘Whoa.’ But, you quickly realize that they’re the most gentle giants,” she said.
Getting one of these gentle giants into a home requires a few concessions.
Owens said greyhounds have three basic living requirements.
First, they must be inside dogs. Their lean, athletic build and lack of body hair leaves them vulnerable to cold weather if left outdoors.
Second, Owens said they need to be leashed or fenced in at all times. Since their instinct is to run, she added, once they get going, they just keep on moving.
Finally, a greyhound can’t be chained. That running instinct and fast speeds can lead to a dog breaking its neck if it gets going while being tied up.
For the greyhound owners who have flocked to Myrtle Beach this week, the love for this animal is evident in the numbers they keep as pets, and they work they do to make sure others find good families.
Audrey Lochansky’s two Italian greyhounds are named Bella and Lucky. Plus, she’s responsible for three other foster dogs.
She had all five of them with her on the beach Wednesday, their leashes wrapped around Lochansky’s legs as the excited dogs got anxious to explore in the sand.
Lochansky didn’t appear to want it any other way.
“They just want to be loved,” she said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.