The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


For Greyhounds United: This Volunteer who is Making a Difference

Retired Greyhounds
photo courtesy of Google Images
Retired Greyhounds

Retired Greyhounds (photo courtesy of Google Images)

Inside a building at Fair Park are hundreds of rescue groups promoting their organizations at the North Texas Irish Festival. All kinds of dogs are present, from yipping Pomeranians to powerful Irish wolfhounds. Amid the chaos is Greyhounds Unlimited – a rescue group that focuses on greyhounds who have retired from the racing track, escaped abusive homes or finally stopped wandering the streets. The greyhounds are extremely calm compared to their neighbors. Most are unbelievably lying down, sleeping despite all the Irish festivities (beer, kilts and unrelenting fiddles). Stepping over and around them, excitedly passing out name tags and assigning duties to the volunteers is Janis Brown, GU’s volunteer coordinator.

Brown, who reaches 5’2″ at best, animatedly talks to passersby about her passion for the rescue group. She answers questions openly about her experience with these animals that she claims everyone needs to know about.

“People have no idea that this animal has the capability to run 40 miles an hour in six strides,” Brown laughs. “It’s the second-fastest land animal, but it will sleep on your sofa all the time and snuggle with you.”

In her New England home, Brown grew up with dogs her whole life but during her nearly two-decade-long process of acquiring an undergraduate degree in music education from University of New Hampshire, a master’s in clarinet performance at Washington State and a Ph.D. in music from the University of Iowa, there was simply no time for animals.

“I have a brother who is three years older,” Brown says. From the bench she sits on her tennis-shoe-clad feet that don’t quite reach the ground but kick energetically a few inches above the ground. “He got the math side of the family and I got the musical side.” Brown’s father was an electrical engineer from MIT while her mother was a music teacher.

Voted “Most Musical” in her high school class, Brown didn’t hesitate to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She taught music for 10 years at the University of New Hampshire, Concord Community Music School and Rochester Public Schools in New Hampshire in between her master’s and doctorate degrees. She then headed to Texas to return to teaching for 25 more years at Stephen F. Austin and then a West Plano public school in North Texas where she has since lived.

 “In the end, I grew tired of the students,” Brown says, always speaking animatedly with her hands. “I kind of knew what the students were going to do when I saw them walk in the door. I wanted people that were more serious. When that happened I thought, ‘I have a bad attitude, I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.'”

Once her teaching gig was up, she noticed an advertisement in the paper that sparked her curiosity – Brown’s strongest personality trait. The ad read: “Can you do research on your own? Do you enjoy doing research?” Brown’s immediate response to both questions was yes, and she was directed to a family-owned legal research firm, Attorney Services Associates. This job, although stressful in its requirement of time sensitivity and faultless accuracy, is perfect for Brown.

“I want to know why something is the way it is. Why does it work that way? How? That kind of thing,” Brown says. Her short gray hair flicks with every word her enthusiastic voice forms.

Brown’s retirement from teaching not only led to a more interesting job, but other doors opened as well. The nine-to-five was a much more preferable schedule compared to what she had juggled before – a full school day that followed her home, balanced with practicing and rehearsing for the symphonies she was playing for.

“There was no space or time [to have a dog] when I was a student, and not when I was teaching and performing either,” Brown says. “But when I finally retired, I started looking at greyhounds.”

The breed is ideal for Brown because she has bad allergies to long fur, but she also says she “admires their physical prowess,” claiming they are just like a racehorse – only smaller. The passion for the dogs grew into what is now her favorite hobby – volunteering for Greyhounds Unlimited.

She adopted her first greyhound, Regal, in 1999. He died of bone cancer 10 years later. Her email still remains “regalgrey.” 

 She now is the proud owner of Diana (“The Diva”) and Bear, who she rescued when he retired from the racetrack but also, continues to race in non-profit competitions.

Diana used to be a racing dog too but retired two years ago when she tore her Achilles tendon. She is a lemon-Brindle greyhound – an unusual kind that has a coat base of tan or orange covered in thin black stripes and spots. Diana is very beautiful and Brown displays her pride with her round dangling medallion earrings that read “Brindle or Bust.”

Bear is a very powerful and skillful runner but, according to Brown, “is only in it for the money.” He doesn’t have the same competitive and strategic thoughts that Diana used to display. Although his races don’t pay off in cash, he receives ribbons and trophies and might someday be able to have “Field Champion” precede his name if he wins enough blue ribbons. He’s well on his way there. He beat 12 other dogs at a Large Gazehound Racing Association race recently. His name suggests both sides of his personality – he is a powerful racer, but Brown says he’s also a “big love.” He’s easy going and friendly. Bear is already trained from his history on the track, but Brown works to keep him in shape.

Luckily another one of her favorite hobbies is hiking and biking, which are great exercise for Bear. He enjoys running beside her while she rides a bike, or chasing a buggy whip around in circles – Brown laughs that Bear thinks running in circles is “unbelievably fun.”

Kate Howell, who has been friends with Brown since meeting her through GU five years ago, says that GU and its greyhounds “couldn’t have a more devoted advocate than Janis.”

“She takes them on long walks and hikes or things such as lure coursing with them,” Howell says. “They’re all outdoor activities, which she loves. It provides a sharp contrast to the detail-oriented day job she does. Greyhounds often provide much needed comic relief in the lives of their owners and Diana and Bear are no exception. “

Once she adopted, Brown says that volunteering with GU just came with it.

“You can do as much or as little as you want,” Brown says. “But I knew a lot of the volunteers and enjoy organizing events like festivals or meet and greets.”

She also enjoys what the community of volunteers has to offer.

“I like the people,” Brown says. “They’re friends that don’t have an agenda.  In the professional world a lot of people have those personal agendas but [within GU] the dogs bring us all together.”

Brown stresses the importance of philanthropy for this generation’s future. “Volunteerism is something we really do focus on,” she says. “As our economy gets more split and there becomes less of a middle class, it won’t be a very nice world to live in if we don’t help each other out.”

Jimmy Ross, who met Brown at a GU “Meet and Greet” eight years ago, recognizes Brown as a true asset to the organization.

“Janis is one of the strongest volunteers I have seen in a long time,” he says. ” She gives her all and expects absolutely nothing in return except respect.  She always does what she commits to and is one that you can always depend on to be there.”

With no husband or kids, it seems that Brown’s joyous personality comes from the sheer pleasure she receives from getting to know these greyhounds, learning about the breed and helping these dogs find homes.

Another friend that she met through GU six years ago says Brown has a real bond with the dogs.

“Janis is very passionate and dedicated in her volunteer work for
Greyhounds Unlimited,” says Becky McAllister.  “She will get down on the ground with [the dogs] and play and love on them.  She does this every time I see her.  She loves all of our dogs just like her own.”

As our conversation comes to an end, Brown spontaneously pops up to pet a large white Labrador that is being walked around Fair Park in hope of finding someone to take him in. Brown cracks a joke that all the dog really wants is a hot dog, but then squats down to scratch him behind the ears and assure him that he will, undoubtedly, find a home soon.

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