Our Volunteer Spotlight!
Brad and Cathy Giffel
Brad and Cathy Giffel live in Champaign, Illinois along with their children, Rachel and Ryan and their two dogs; a galgo named Thunder (formerly known as Trueno – which is Spanish for Thunder) and a whippet named Lily. Brad and Cathy have been associated with American Greyhound since August of 2017. In addition to their two dogs, they have also fostered eight greyhounds for the group.
We had a chance to catch up with Brad and Cathy and ask them about their love of dogs and how they first became interested in Greyhounds, and this is what they had to say:
How did you first get interested in or learn about sighthounds?
“We had adopted previous dogs from local humane societies and also fostered for humane societies and for a breed rescue. Our first experience with the sighthound breed was in Austin Texas. We applied for, and drove six hours to the border of Texas to checkout a 9 month old whippet-mix, based only on a photo and description of the dog. The shelter manager of this small, rural shelter was fostering this “Whipador” (a Whippet and Labrador mix) named Alexis at her home, because she had been overlooked in the shelter and had been stuck there quite a while. I thought Alexis was quite the funny looking dog, with her Whippet head, long skinny legs and tail, and a rounded Labrador body. We had driven six hours and spent the night in a dingy motel room, so there was no way we were going back home without a dog. Plus, there was just something special about Alexis. We changed her name to “Lexi,” and she turned out to be the best dog we ever had! Lexi had the best qualities of both breeds; easy to care for short, black fur, people pleasing personality, silly sighthound antics, yet very laid back and very sweet. She was fast and would easily catch different types of critters, but because of her lab side, she would surrender them to us unharmed. Fast forward to our move back to Illinois and deciding to get a second dog. We looked into adopting a retired racer then, but for various reasons we purchased a Whippet named Lily, and this was the first time we had not adopted from the Humane Society. Lily was over 4 months old, which is unusual to find a pure bred Whippet that old and she had been overlooked because she was a nervous puppy and small. She did eventually let us pet her and she then hung around with us long after the other Whippets left to go about their Whippet business. Lily was not a good eater and was extremely thin, even for a Whippet. We really felt like we were rescuing her because we knew we would give her a good home and would commit to her. Lily has been with us since 2009 and has been a real handful, lol.”
When did you adopt your first greyhound?
“We foster failed with our galgo, Thunder in June of 2018. Thunder (Trueno) came to American Greyhound from Madrid, Spain in April of 2018. We joke that Thunder really wanted to stay with us, as he seemed to sabotage any other adoption attempts by making very unfavorable impressions at meet and greets. Once we told him he was stuck with us, he was really more outgoing at meet and greets as well as whining and barking less. He would even lie down like the couch potato he truly is, but never exhibited this nicer behavior before his adoption.”
What is it that you like about American Greyhound, and what keeps you associated with the group?
“Greyhounds and other sighthounds come with American Greyhound, and we love the breed! There are many other dedicated greyhound lovers that are part of this group, and that says it all, and we really enjoy attending meet and greets to visit with our friends and their hounds. We also love informing other people about the breed, and bringing our foster dogs out to get exposure. We have personally been involved in four adoptions, all of which happened because we made the 2+ hour drive with a foster to attend a meet and greet.”
Tell us about what you do for, or within the American Greyhound group, and also your American Greyhound story, and also how you got started with the group:
“We foster for American Greyhound and have also helped out with the intake of dogs from a few track hauls, with Brad being on two of the hauls. We have also helped out with transportation of other foster hounds and have assisted in the adoption of a couple of fosters that were not ours. We also participate in the Greyt Readers program at the Champaign library. We attend meet and greets, and have marched in the Champaign Pride Parade too. The Central Illinois American Greyhound group participates in two huge annual events and we have helped out with those as well. We have recently transported a foster hound from Crown Point to an event in Mokena for her adoption, which also had ties to the Central Illinois group. This individual had been thinking about adopting a retired racer for quite a while, saying he did all his research, etc., but never committed to going forward with an adoption. Well, this past September he drove from Decatur, Illinois to one of the annual events that happen here in Champaign. American Greyhound was at this weekend event so he and his daughters had a chance to meet some greyhounds, and he said that was what finally sealed the deal for them. He especially remembered the dogs that Nicole and Sarah brought up, and his daughters remembered meeting our Thunder. After that event he applied for adoption with AG and was approved, picking out a dog on the website to adopt. It turned out that the dog he wanted was already spoken for and he was pretty bummed. However, during the process of trying to find another dog, that first dog he originally wanted became available again and thus an especially happy ending!
With every foster we take in, we vow to not foster fail so we can continue to foster. We lost our Lexi to cancer in July of 2017 which was very devastating to us. In August, the local news media ran stories about the need for foster homes for retired racers coming from the Mobile, Alabama track which was soon closing. We didn’t think we were ready to adopt at that point, but I did some research, and in August of 2017, I emailed the link to a newspaper article about the track closing to Brad and asked if we could foster, and he agreed. We applied to be a foster family and were soon approved. We drove up to Valparaiso Indiana to assist with intake of dogs from the track and to pick up our first foster named “Ogden.” We also transported a dog named “Snow,” who arrived on that last Mobile haul for another new foster family. We allowed ourselves one foster fail, as we have always had two dogs in our family, however, we are in the process of relocating, and once we sell our house and move to our new residence, we are allowing ourselves one more foster fail. Between dog-sitting and fostering, we have cared for up to four dogs at once, so we know we can handle having three resident dogs and a foster in the house. We are amazed at the people who can handle more!”
Brad has recently joined the American Greyhound Board of Directors, and we asked him about how this came about, as well as his thoughts on what he hopes to bring to the Board with his experience and accomplishments:
“During the return the trip from the last Birmingham Alabama haul, Jeff and I spoke at length about American Greyhound and the group’s future direction. During this conversation he mentioned the idea of me joining the Board of Directors, as we saw eye to eye on many topics and issues. So when he formally asked in January, I agreed and the rest is history. I feel my place on the board is to advocate for the central Illinois members, many of whom feel too much distance from the main group. In my professional life I work in electronics, so my passion project will be to improve the comfort of our hounds during their transportation in the hauler by monitoring environmental conditions during the long trip. This will also help inexperienced crews insure the safety and well-being of the hounds while on the road.”
When not busy with work and family life, and volunteering with American Greyhound, you can find Brad and Cathy enjoying their passion for running and also perhaps binge-watching Netflix, especially after running a long marathon!
All of us at American Greyhound would like to thank Brad and Cathy for all the hard work they do, and the important contributions they make to the group to make a difference in the lives of the dogs we all strive to help.