A leash of greyhounds will soon embark on regular social outings in the Barossa with a new group currently being formed for the ex-racers and their new owners.
‘Barossa Greys’, initiated by Tanunda’s Anthony McLean with support from Barossa’s Melissa Pfeiffer, is aimed at socialising the dogs and to encourage the wider community to consider greyhound ownership.
Mr McLean said the group is also a perfect way for owners to come together and further network on a range of topics on greyhound management.
Yet for the long-time army officer and peace keeper, originally from Blanchetown, the group’s presence will mean much more.
Openly sharing his battle with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Mr McLean said it was while spending time in Adelaide’s Repatriation Hospital that he came across companion dogs provided to veterans by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in support of their fight against anxiety and depression.
He shared how he opted for a pet as opposed to an assistance dog and sought out a greyhound at the suggestion of his daughter Melanie.
DVA offered to fund all training to convert any dog selected.
In order to train the dog into an assistance dog, the animal is assessed in assisting its owner on and off buses, and planes, toileting on command, it must be able to recognise a range of other signal from the owner, and is trained to act on a number of other signs from its own.
It is a rigorous process and Mr McLean didn’t want to put a greyhound through any further training routine.
Also, the dog and owner would develop a one-on-one relationship only.
The retired Soldier decided to turn to the Greyhound Adoption Program South Australia (GAP SA) to find a companion he could bring into the family home and socialise with other greys.
Eight months ago, along came beautiful Bonnie, aged six, and clearly now the apple of her dad’s eye.
Bonnie has meant the difference between Mr McLean, at times, crippled with the thought of leaving his home, to walking down the street and chatting to passerbys.
It’s further given him strength to make a life in the Barossa with his wife Meredith, whose job with the federal government means she’s away for most of the day.
“Bonnie suits my needs. She’s loyal and perfect for me,” he said.
And the companionship was fate according to Mr McLean.
“When we went to pick up Bonnie she came up to me straight away and Sharon, Bonnie’s Foster Mum said she hadn’t done that with anyone,” he explained.
“We just clicked straight away.”
Yet not wanting to take the shine off the new group, Mr McLean is extremely keen to promote GAP SA and the work they do to foster the retired racers to families of all walks which are later put out for adoption.
But first he and Ms Pfeiffer are calling on the people from the community who are Greyhound owners to join for regular walks.
“PTSD is always there, and with it sometimes your confidence drains away,” he said.
“Ms Pfieiffer is very busy lady, but she has given me further confidence with her dog Biffa to do this,” he added.
Mr McLean has also been given a welcomed steer from Wanda, the Gawler and Barossa District Greyhound group in Gawler.
So far, 27 people in the Barossa have showed their interest with 11 greys ready to meet up. “Although we won’t really know how many greys we have in the valley for a while.”
In the past, Bonnie and Mr McLean have taken on walks at Rowland Flat and Peter Lehmann Wines yet would like to branch out with others.
“I am keen to rotate our meet and greets around the valley, include a vet weigh in, have coffee mornings, cross country, perhaps a winery. Basically whatever people want it to be,” he said.
In addition to the group, he’s keen to promote a cause dear to his heart, Domestic Violence.
If you are keen to join the group, head to Facebook and request to join Barossa Greys and for more details on GAP SA visit gapsa.org.