Maggie Neenan-Michel (MNA ’01)laughs that she and her husband, John had a “pup” pre-nup before they got married. Two dogs max—although she could take in one additional, just for overnight, in an emergency situation since Neenan-Michel did greyhound rescue work. But then Breeze joined Bex and Peyton for a one-night stay—four years ago. Her husband says he’s not falling for that again.
A documentary about the greyhound racing industry that Neenan-Michel saw in the 1980s laid the foundation for her involvement. Back then, racing greyhounds weren’t believed to make good pets. Racing careers, even now, start at 18 months and end at age 21/2 - 5, if they’re fantastic. But at the peak, 20,000 greyhounds a year were euthanized.
Today, that number may be as low as 2,000, thanks, in part, to rescue groups that have formed around the country. Neenan-Michel, manager of faculty support at Mendoza, coordinates adoptions as area representative for Lafayette, Indiana’s All Star Greyhounds. “The applications come through me, and I will do home visits and then match a dog with a family,” she says. For the past 13 years, she and other All Star Greyhounds volunteers have manned a concession stand at Notre Dame hockey games as a major fundraising effort.
The intelligence and gentle temperament of greyhounds, who have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, make them great pets. “We call them ‘potato-chip’ dogs,” Neenan-Michel says. “You can’t have just one.”
As a local representative, Neenan-Michel has placed 57 dogs since 2007 with 27 families in the South Bend area. “Fifteen of those families have adopted multiple dogs,” she says. “Either by adding one in the family or welcoming another after they have lost one.” When Neenan-Michel is standing with foster families, waiting for dogs to arrive from Daytona, her eyes are dry. She’s still okay when the truck pulls in. But when the door opens and the dogs jump out, she can’t help crying. “They’re safe,” she says. “And it’s a whole new world for them.”