Jeff and his wife Barb Coggins brought their little terrier companion to a local pet store for a picture with Santa Claus several years ago. They walked out with an accepted application to adopt their first greyhound.
Now the two have helped save more than 1,500 greyhound dogs as members of the American Greyhound Society.
“Our intention was not to adopt a dog that day,” Jeff Coggins claimed. “And, we ended up applying for a dog and adopted him the next day.”
With the adoption of their second greyhound, the Coggins were nominated to the board without them knowing, yet by then the two had “already drank the Kool-aid” and had fallen in love with the dogs.
Coggins has been the president of the society since 2009, taking over the duties of coordinating functions and fundraisers, looking over the foster and adoption process, and is the main contact for issues concerning breeding and race-tracks.
Racing greyhounds is a fading hobby, Coggins said, but still occurs in the southern states as a popular activity at the casinos. Just a few weeks ago, Coggins was called and received 10 dogs that were no longer in good use to race, he said.
“I am contacted at least once a month from somebody in some state,” he said. “We take them in and make sure they are getting taken care of and find them a home.”
For most of these dogs, they have never been in a home before, he said, so the fosters and volunteers – the organization is 100 percent foster based – take them in first to teach them how to live as a pet.
Then, the animals are brought to the vet, where they receive shots, have any dental work done, and are checked for any other issues they may have.
Though the foster home will care for the dog's needs, the major vet costs and supplies are taken care of by the organization.
If 10 are brought back to Coggins, usually at least two have some sort of additional problem, he explained, and if those problems are too difficult to treat, the Coggins usually keeps them instead of being adopted out.
“Personally my wife and I have adopted eight to nine dogs, and typically we adopt the older dogs,” he said. One dog they brought back and kept was a brood female, which means she was kept for breeding purposes only, however, due to medical issues she did not live long with them.
Overall, the two have fostered about 200 dogs in the last 11 years.
“She (Barbara) can remember all of them,” he said. “I can remember some.”
Recently they adopted a 12-year-old female who was returned from an adoption and in the early years of doing this, they had adopted a male who had several issues, which made him unfit for adoption.
“We usually take the ones who are not appealing to adopters,” he said. “With the older ones or sick ones, we end up not having them as long.”
The society brings the dogs out to places, such as fairs or pet stores every weekend for potential adoption situations. The most prominent way they attract attention is through various fundraisers.
The biggest one is the January 1 Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Michigan. The plunge has been going on for the last 10 years, and yes, Coggins himself has jumped in all 10 years. The event has raised more than $140,000 since it began.
They also host a large auction in April to raise money in addition to other smaller events throughout the year. Coggins also signed up for the Chicago Marathon several times to raise money.
The cold water and wintery season is one of the main reasons why Coggins chose and remained here in Northwest Indiana, he said. Originally from Central Michigan, he has jumped around to Illinois and Georgia before landing in Indiana to work at the U.S. Steel Corporation.
“Believe it or not I do like the changing of seasons,” he said. “Though it is cold and nasty now and I was swimming in this just a few weeks ago, that’s one thing I find appealing here.”
When Coggins took over the president spot of the foundation, the former leader was stepping down due to medical issues. So, as the duties fell on Coggins, he promised to fulfill the former president to uphold the commitment to the dogs and the organization. Even though this hobby turned into a second job which spends a lot of his time, Coggins’ passion has grown from this commitment.
“Obviously, I don’t want to let the dogs down,” he said. “I feel like I have some sort of obligation to the dogs, and additionally to the previous owner. I don’t want to let him down.”
The organization’s website, www.americangreyhound.org has all the information about which dogs are up for adoption and how to foster and adopt a greyhound. Their Facebook site is also always updated with pictures of new dogs looking for loving homes.
A greyhound is sleek, fast, and tough. But at night, he or she is still a dog in search of his or her best friend.