SCHERERVILLE | The moment Nancy Laskarin saw a television special exposing the poor treatment of greyhound racing dogs, she knew she had room in her heart and home to rescue some.
That meant making a few changes around the house.
Greyhounds need a fenced yard. Laskarin and her husband Mark Purevich live in Briar Ridge, which does not allow fences unless the home has an outdoor pool.
So, they put in an in-ground pool in order to put up a fence around the yard. The greyhound adoption organization said it was not safe to mix greyhounds and pools, so the couple built another fence, this one encircling the pool.
The dogs don't understand stairs, so the couple installed a ramp off the rear sliding glass door, allowing the dogs to easily access the yard and dog run area on the back of the property.
Inside, they laid a maze of rugs to prevent the dogs from sliding into walls and windows as they gallop along the hardwood floors. Orthopedic dog beds are available for snoozing in the living room, master bedroom and even the master closet.
The couple happily have adapted their lives and their house to welcoming the animals. Right now, they have three and no plans for more.
"Three works for me," Laskarin said.
Their first greyhound was JB, who arrived in August of 2000. Then came Wave, Frannie Bean, Boo and Rudy. Frannie Bean, 13, Boo, 10, and Rudy, 5, remain. They spend their days napping, playing, chasing and dining on organic food that Laskarin prepares herself.
Each dogs has its own personality. Laskarin describes Boo Boo as her "Christmas morning" and Rudy is dumb and loveable.
Their new digs are a far cry from the life they used to live, often spending 23 hours in a crate and being fed substandard food. Some are scarred physically and mentally.
One Christmas, Laskarin and Purevich gathered heaps of dog toys, folded them in a sheet, went to the backyard and flung the sheet open, letting the toys rain down. The dogs were so excited, they couldn't focus on just one toy.
Friends and family say the dogs must be grateful the couple rescued them, but Laskarin said it is the other way around. Despite what they've been through—Rudy has scars all over his body to prove it—the dogs are loving and affectionate, she said.
"Dogs teach unconditional love," she said. "Greyhounds teach forgiveness."
Greyhounds are not for everybody, but there are plenty of dogs that need forever homes. Laskarin said she encourages people to adopt or rescue dogs instead of buying them at a store or breeder.
"These shelters are overflowing," she said.
Laskarin's dogs are through All-Star Greyhounds, based out of Lafayette. The group rescues greyhounds from race tracks, where they are no longer wanted.
Kristina Montgomery, behavior specialist at Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster and a dog trainer, said big dogs and little dogs have different needs. Someone interested in a big dog should focus on training, early on.
"If a little dog jumps on you, it's not a big deal, but if a Saint Bernard jumps on you, it can flatten you to the ground," she said.
Montgomery said big dogs can be lazy and need comfortable places of their own to lie down, otherwise they could end up on your bed or couch.
"A lot of big dog breeds are couch potatoes," she said.
They can make good pets in an apartment or small house because they don't require a lot of exercise. And, it's important to keep food off counters and tables, out of reach of a nosy snout.
"Big dogs can counter surf very, very easily," Montgomery said.
Adult shelter and rescue dogs can be retrained, although it may be a bit challenging if the dog already has bad habits.
"Love and time and consistency can really turn things around," she said. "Rescue dogs are so awesome. I swear that they know they were rescued."