Kimberly Robinson
Clockwise from lower left are Sami Bennett, Amalie Bennett, Sam Katcher, Matthew Bennett and their dog Sweeper. Sweeper is a retired champion Grehound racing dog.

Pet of the Week: Sweeper is fast and sweet

When you adopt a Greyhound as a pet you might have a set of expectations. Known for their speed (they can run at up to 40 to 50 miles per hour), Greyhounds are used in dog racing in 27 tracks U.S. and many more in the world, where similar to horse racing they attract gamblers. But where do Greyhounds go when they retire? Some are adopted like Sweeper, the pet of the Bennett family. But the Humane Society estimated that in the year 2000 11,400 retired dogs were killed.

Sweeper's story is far happier. He was adopted from Greyhound Pets Northwest "He was born in Oklahoma and raced in Florida," Matthew said, "and his racing name was 'Dog-a-Flyin'. They retired him when he was 4 1/2 which very late. Usually they retire them when they are 2 or 3. He ran over 120 races and placed first or second in about half of those, so they kept him racing for a long time. But not only was he a great racer, he's just the sweetest dog of all time."

Sweeper is a family dog and is equally loved by Matthew (the dad) Emily Katcher (the mom) Sam Katcher, Sami Bennett and Amalie Bennett.

There's a fee associated with adopting Greyhounds though Bennett said, "It wasn't super expensive."

They found Sweeper through a family friend who are also Greyhound owners and have had him now for about a year.

While Sweeper will "eat anything" he doesn't usually eat a lot. "The other day he ate a whole loaf of bread," said Matthew. It was a braided Hala bread and his wife Emily Katcher said at the time, "Where did it go?" "He got up on the counter, got the bread and took it down and ate it all."

Sweeper gets a regular kind of dog food but is not allowed that much. "It's not good for Greyhounds to get too heavy." He does get treats after he runs fast and he's learned to sit and wait for them. "That's a hard thing for a Greyhound."

Amalie said, "We joked later about seeing a braided imprint on the side of his stomach!"

Sweeper has no shortage of female companionship. "There are a couple of female Greyhounds that belong to some friends of ours," said Matthew,"that are part of his tribe. It's really fun when they are all together. Just beautiful animals."

Toys are not part of Sweeper's life. Matthew said, "He likes to run really fast and sleep."

"He's like a world class athlete for a dog but he's also super sweet and gentle. He's just a gentle soul," Matthew explained.

Sweeper has been trained, a little to lay down on the kids, especially Amalie, "Basically because I make the best pillow nests in our house," she said.

They take him to a few off leash areas where he can run but in the city "you have to keep the leash on him at all times. We have a house on Bainbridge Island and his favorite thing is running in the woods. He loves it. He can still probably run 40 MPH and he can get there in three strides. He can turn on a dime. And when he's running, he's like a cheetah, all four feet are off the ground. They are fastest land animals other than cheetahs. When they are fully extended it's like they are flying."