Faithful hounds will have much to celebrate on birthday walk

The Surrey Sighthound Walking Group welcomes owners, and their dogs, for frequent group walks around some of the most beautiful countryside in and around Croydon

The Surrey Sighthound Walking Group will celebrate its first anniversary this Sunday,  February 25, by returning to Mogador, near Kingswood, the site of its first group walk.

The group will set off from The Sportsman pub at 11am for a two-mile route around adjacent Banstead Heath, which takes in open grassland, the woods and passes the pond.

It will be the 24th official outing for the group, which has grown from just a handful of members to more than 300 and has held walks all over the county, from Limpsfield Chart to Lightwater Country Park, Epsom Downs and the Shalford River Wey Navigations.

Laura Fewell, the South Croydon resident who founded the group, says that she started SSWG to bring together owners of greyhounds adopted from Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, where she is a volunteer. The charity has been rehoming greyhounds since 1995 and has around 80 dogs at its kennels in Hersham at any time, the majority of which are ex-racers looking for a new home.

“People think a ‘retired’ hound must be old, but most finish racing around age 4, so they are still young dogs,” Fewell said.

‘Sighthounds’ take in greyhounds, whippets and lurchers, plus a host of other faithful hounds

“They typically live to age 12 and there’s plenty of life in them! With around 10,000 coming off the tracks every year, rescues are always inundated with requests to take in dogs. Those that make it to places like Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare are the lucky ones.”

Fewell, who adopted her greyhound Rena from Hersham two years ago, wanted to set up regular meet ups for owners to socialise their dogs with other greyhounds, and to swap notes on the care of their faithful hounds.

“They are quite unusual compared with other breeds. Until their ‘Gotcha Day’ when they go home with their new family, most have never stepped foot inside a house before and they almost have to ‘learn’ about being a pet dog. They don’t know what stairs are and many may have to be shown how to play with toys. As trained racers, they’ve never had a conventional life as any other kind of puppy might enjoy.

“Many have never seen another type of dog and quite a few have a strong prey drive as they are bred to chase the lure around the track. Most do mellow quickly and come to be fine with other breeds – even small fluffies – but they definitely recognise other hounds and really do love to walk with their own kind, which is one reason the group has grown so rapidly.”

The walking group welcomes owners of any type of sighthound – whether greyhounds, whippets, lurchers or the many other varieties – and from any background or rescue.

It organises walks at locations all around Surrey a couple of times a month through its Facebook page. Other walks already planned for the coming months include Chobham Common, Nonsuch Park, Ockham Common and Banstead Woods. The walks are free, they usually gather near no-charge car parks, and the only costs usually involve a nearby pub and doggy treats for the pooches.

To find out more or take part, visit the SSWG Facebook group or get in touch via Twitter.

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