When life slows down for these speedy greyhounds, he helps them find their way home

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Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-05 14:16:19-04

DOSWELL, Va. — Deep in the woods near Doswell, Virginia, life slows down for animals that are built for speed.

Mark Lane serves as leader of the pack at James River Greyhounds.

“For me, it just gives me joy to see that we’re the next step of their life,” Lane said.

His 20-acre sanctuary is a destination for retired racers.

“It’s been a calling for me. I’ve always enjoyed animals, but the breed itself speaks to me,” Lane said.

Mark Lane

But these greyhounds don’t stay for long. The 24-year-old nonprofit pairs the dogs with people looking to adopt.

Lane said since it was founded in 1989, the group has welcomed close to 2,000 greyhounds.

“Yes, it is hard when they get adopted out because they grow on you. They can grow on you in a week,” he said. "Last year, we moved 115 dogs into adoptable homes."

There is no paid staff at this organization.

It is run entirely on donations and by volunteers like James Mellon.

“It is my happy place. I love coming up here. My wife loves coming up here. My daughter loves coming up here,” Mellon said.

James Mellon

Mellon, a captain with Henrico County Fire and EMS finds comfort in rescuing the breed.

You can say he takes his work home with him.

The firefighter is the proud owner of three greyhounds.

“They are as loyal as any pet I have ever owned,” Lane said.

Once a thriving sport, the popularity of greyhound racing has waned.

Only two tracks remain in the U.S. Both are six hours away in West Virginia.

James River Greyhounds enjoys a working relationship with the dog’s trainers.

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“You hear all kinds of horror stories about how these dogs are treated and they’re just being used to race and they’re discarded. That couldn’t be anything further from the truth,” said Mellon.

He goes the distance for the nonprofit. Twice a month the volunteer drives to Wheeling and Charleston, West Virginia to pick up the dogs whose racing days have ended.

“They’re used to these muzzles,” Mellon said. “These muzzles have been a part of their lives since they were puppies. It prevents them from playing too hard and getting cut. So it’s for the dog’s protection, not human protection.”

After finishing up his 111th race a few weeks ago, Gambler found his way to Richmond and the sanctuary on Mark Lane’s property.

“If you adopted a dog from me, I’m probably going to remember the dog more so than you,” Lane said. “We will also be here as an adoption group for the life of the dog.”

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Within a few strides, a greyhound can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

“There are no words to say how much I love these dogs,” Lane said.

But Mark Lane said you won’t find a more relaxed breed, which thrives as a couch potato.

“What I really like about the retired racing greyhound is that they’re laid back and adaptable dogs. They are loving dogs,” he said.

As long as there are racers retiring, the nonprofit promises to welcome them with open paws.

“We’re all here for one purpose and it is these dogs,” Lane said.


James River Greyhounds is a place where docile dogs are on the fast track to finding a forever home.

“It is an amazing journey,” Lane said. “Every dog has its story. Every dog has its place in someone’s life. And I’m just glad to be part of it.”

If you would like to learn more about the greyhounds, James River Greyhounds has a meet-and-greet the first Saturday of every month at the PetSmart in Mechanicsville.

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