Companions: (From left) Maya Gibbon with her greyhound Opie, Dee Gibbon, and Sid with owner Cindy Daley. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Before convincing the Royal Australian Air Force women could fly combat planes, Dee Gibbon fell head over heels in love with discarded greyhounds.
Awaiting her own pure bred Staffordshire bull terrier, she went to the Royal Melbourne Show to see the staffies, and came across a greyhound adoption tent. Ms Gibbon says she first thought the breed would be vicious, having seen them on television wearing muzzles.
"When I actually met one I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were," she said. "You look into their big brown eyes and I just fell in love, pretty much that was the deciding point."
Affectionate: Opie, a rescued greyhound who is now in a loving family home. Photo: Jamila Toderas
So began a big part of Ms Gibbon’s life. A group captain with the Australian Defence Force, she heads the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office. In the past she has worked to change perceptions of women in aviation, winning a diversity award for making it possible for women to fly combat planes.
Outside of work, Ms Gibbon fosters greyhounds that have been discarded after failing on the race track.
She works with the Greyhound Rescue in Sydney, and has watched a community of greyhound carers grow from about 12 people to more than 150.
Most people recoil at the thought of speedy, competitive dogs driven by an inherent prey instinct as companions for children, but Ms Gibbon views them as affectionate.
"Their disadvantage is they are very fast," she said. "People look at them as money-making objects and they’re treated so appallingly."
Just about every dog rescued has a touching story, including Sid who had tumours and was painfully skinny when he first came with his litter mates to Greyhound Rescue.
Eight-year-old Sid is now fatter, healthier, and has won the heart of his foster carer.
"He’s the snuggliest, most grateful boy," Ms Gibbon said. "Everyone who meets him thinks he’s so special. It’s because he had such an awful life and now he’s got such a good life.
"We are very particular about who gets our greyhounds, they are indoor dogs. We won’t home a greyhound with a family that has outdoor dogs.
Microchipped, desexed, wormed, temperament tested and house-trained, rescued greyhounds make either young, action-packed companions for children with other pets, including cats and dogs, or a good couch dog for older people
After a five-week socialisation course at the pound, they are allowed to walk unmuzzled.
"They are very affectionate, calm, they tend not to dig, bark or chew; they are pretty perfect as pets go," Ms Gibbon said.
"Most greyhounds have never seen steps. Just teaching them to go up and down steps, you have to teach them about televisions, hair dryers, and vacuum cleaners, all the things we take for granted."
Ms Gibbon said the rescue group was desperate for foster carers, or people who could provide "forever homes". She said people did not need to profit from animals for gambling when so many other avenues for gambling were available.