There are a number of things that owners may look for in a trainer, one of the things that is up at the top of my list is the welfare and rehoming procedures. Dave Jeans, our trainer who is attached to Swindon and his partner Jodie Payne have a model that could be used industry wide.

Swindon is one of the areas that is very badly served by the GT and up until about a year ago, Dave’s kennel, like so many other kennels, was backed up with retired dogs.  So Jodie, working on the old adage of ‘If you want a job doing, do it yourself’ set about doing it herself’ – on a budget of £0.00.

She set up a few different Facebook pages all designed to appeal to slightly different audiences.  Then she posted photos of all the dogs that were available for adoption on those pages.  She took the time to give each dog a thorough assessment and by assessment I mean she introduced them to her smallish Dalmations and eventually her cats.

She took them for walks in the local parks with all of the dogs wearing publicity jackets.  I was very happy and proud to be a part of this.  Through my old greyhound’s page I set up a small auction and raised enough money to buy 16 coats, 16 collars and leads, 16 muzzles and a supply of publicity jackets.

One or two dogs were adopted to their forever homes, then three or four, then ten or twelve and then many, many dogs.  As word has gone round there are more and more enquiries.  After some discussions with the GBGB she was given a small grant to put four double kennels and one single kennel in an empty unit at the kennel.

That unit has been given the ‘Jodie’ touch.  She’s used donated shelving to display some of the things that the dogs go home with and other things that she can sell to help raise money.  There’s a big sofa so that anyone meeting a dog can sit and give their chosen dog a cuddle.  The whole set up is very professional but with a nice bit of the pink fluffy touch making it look very approachable and friendly.

Prior to lockdown Jodie had organised weekly walks to one of the local country parks.  (It will of course recommence when it has been deemed safe to do so).  One week it’s Saturday and the next week it’s a Sunday.  These walks are advertised through one of the facebook pages and then ‘shared’ to the other pages.  People who have adopted dogs from Jodie come along to walk their dogs.

Jodie turns up with all or most of the available dogs in the van and as word has got round, non greyhound owners turn up and there is a veritable stampede to the van to pick a dog to walk.  Children are accommodated by there being second clip-on leads available so that a child can ‘walk’ their chosen dog with the grown up keeping things safe with the big lead.

Adoptions work so well that there are usually spaces that can be booked by other owners or trainers so that Jodie can find their dogs the loving homes that we all want them have.  She has even taken dogs from the GBGB that were in urgent need of accommodation in a rehoming kennel.

Now I can hear a few groans, sighs and rolling of eyes at all this.  It looks like an awful lot of work for a racing kennel to devote to retired dogs.  But look at it this way.  When I first visited Dave Jeans’ kennel over a year ago, half the dogs were retired and awaiting homes.  Within 9 months there were none, the whole racing block is for racing dogs.  In economic terms how much is that worth to a racing kennel?

You work it out.

How many times have we heard the criticism that racing owners and trainers ‘dump’ their dogs on charities, even though the main one  is the Greyhound Trust that was set up as the RETIRED GREYHOUND TRUST by trainers and owners.  How many times do we hear the accusation of secretiveness in racing, with members of the public never going anywhere near a racing kennel?

And how many times have we been accused of leaving retired dogs languishing in kennels because there’s nowhere for them to go?  Well this model, begun from such a modest base has resulted in the kennel not being backed up with retired dogs, no dogs are being ‘dumped’ anywhere because the kennel is doing all the rehoming.

Members of the public who come to visit the dogs may not be going into the racing block but they’re greeted by kennel hands who talk to them about their chosen dog with great enthusiasm and they can see the racing dogs enjoying their downtime in the paddocks.  There’s nothing secretive about any of it, if an adopter’s chosen dog has retired through injury then that injury is explained so that if there is a need for gentle exercise the adopter knows not to let the dog off lead in an acre dog field.

Anyone who is familiar with the history of The Retired Greyhound Trust will probably find this familiar.  Arguably it’s the 21st century version of the origins of that well loved and respected charity.  The advantage for Jodie is that the 21st century has witnessed a great rise in the popularity of greyhounds as pets and Jodie has definitely given the whole enterprise a far more modern feel.

I was recently talking to someone who is steeped in the RGT.  He said that the RGT worked, it may have been clunky and at times frustrating, but it worked and it worked by being fed with love, dedication and a real drive to get retired greyhounds into homes.  Let’s take a serious look at what Jodie is doing, perhaps combine it with a new RGT and then look to the future.