A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Nicole Graves

A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Nicole Graves
By: Contributor Last Updated: August 16, 2017

Nicole Graves, Foster Coordinator for American Greyhound, has always had a desire to help those in need. Whether it’s teaching our future world leaders, or helping our four-legged friends find a forever home, Graves has enriched the lives of everyone, and everything, she meets.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Graves attended Windsor High School, where she was a member of the Color Guard and the Marching Band.

“I played the clarinet while I was in Marching Band,” Graves explained. “That’s actually also how I met my husband. We were friends all throughout middle school and high school, but then we didn’t start dating until we were in college.”

After graduating from high school, Graves continued her education at Missouri Baptist University. There, she received a degree in Elementary Education, just the start of a career of enriching lives.

“I just loved how kids are always so eager and excited to learn,” Graves explained. “And I loved the opportunity to make an impact on and enrich their lives, which in turn, they would go on to enrich the community.”

After graduation, she took a job as a preschool teacher at The Goddard School in St. Louis. She worked there for a few years until her husband received a job offer that was too good to pass up, prompting the couple to pack up and move to Valparaiso.

After the move, Graves took a job at Washington Township as an instructional aide in the Title One Reading Program and worked there for four years. Then, in 2010, an opportunity came about that Graves describes as a “snowball effect.”

“I grew up with dogs, but my husband didn’t,” Graves explained. “So when we moved to Valparaiso, I told him, ‘We’re getting a dog!’ So we started looking and I thought, ‘What about a greyhound?’”

The couple adopted their first greyhound, a now 10-year old hound named Sophie, from American Greyhound, the beginning of that snowball effect with the best possible outcome.

“We adopted our first greyhound in June of 2010,” she explained. “I wasn’t a part of the organization yet; we were just a regular adoption. And then about a year later, sometime in 2011, we decided to start fostering.”

When a person fosters an animal, they provide a roof over the animal’s head, food, and any love and support the animal needs. After a year of fostering greyhounds, Graves took the next step with the organization and began her volunteer career with American Greyhound in 2012.

“We help any greyhounds in need,” Graves explained. “So my responsibilities as Foster Coordinator are to determine how many dogs we can accommodate in foster care, look to see how many available foster homes we have, and then based on how many greyhounds are in need of a home, I will determine placement of where they will be fostered.”

American Greyhound takes in any and all greyhounds in need. From shelters throughout the Midwest, to greyhounds that have retired from their racing careers at racetracks in Alabama or Florida, to even dogs whose owners cannot accommodate them anymore.

Nicole-Graves_02“American Greyhound provides all of the veterinary care, medications, and crates the greyhound may need,” Graves explained. “All we ask is that the foster home provides food and roof over their head. Anyone who is willing to open their home and their hearts is able to foster.”

There is a common misconception with greyhounds that they are too hyper because of their athletic history. That is simply not the case, however.

“I love greyhounds because of their personality and their temperament,” Graves said adoringly. “They’re actually nicknamed the 45-Mile Per Hour Couch Potato! They are extremely lazy dogs, very laid back. I myself have two children and the dogs don’t get all riled up with the kids; they’re easy going, and just a good fit for families.”

While Graves continues to volunteer as the Foster Coordinator, she and her family do their part in fostering greyhounds in need. Since 2010, Graves has adopted two greyhounds, Sophie and Amy, and is currently fostering one as American Greyhound searches for a forever home.

“A lot of people are very hesitant to foster because they say, ‘Oh there’s no way that I could give this dog up.’ Or, ‘There is no way I could bring it in, love it, and then basically give the dog to another family,” Graves explained. “But when you go to the adoption and you see how happy they are and how excited they are to welcome this dog into their family, it makes everything so worthwhile.”

Graves and her family love to travel and enjoy the outdoors. She has also gone back into the teaching field. The Missouri native began working for an organization that tutors Chinese students over the internet in English Immersion Programs.

“The students I work with really can’t speak that much English, so I really immerse and expose them to English and I practice with them,” Graves explained. “It’s great because I can do it at home while I’m home with my kids. Beijing is 12 hours ahead of us, so when we’re asleep, they’re awake. So I am able to do this when my kids go to bed.”

While Graves isn’t volunteering her time for American Greyhound, she is a stay-at-home mom to her two children. Her and her husband have been married for six years, and a few years ago, made the move back to St. Louis when he received a job offer in their hometown. She still travels and works with the organization.

“All of our family lives here in St. Louis, so we were excited to have the opportunity to move back,” Graves explained. “But I already miss Valparaiso. We moved there when we were right out of college and didn’t know anyone. So when I began volunteering for American Greyhound, it was a great way to form relationships and get to know the community.”

From her career in education, to her volunteered time with American Greyhound, Nicole Graves has continued to put others before her and has done all she can to help those in need.

You can help too. American Greyhound is always looking for volunteers and loving foster homes for their dogs. Recently, a race track in Alabama has announced its closing and will displace 400 greyhounds. American Greyhound will be welcoming as many as they can into the rescue, but can only accommodate hounds that the organization has foster homes for. If you are interested in opening up your home and heart to a “45-Mile Per Hour Couch Potato”, please visit American Greyhound’s website at www.americangreyhound.org and fill out the foster application or you can email Nicole Graves at foster@americangreyhound.org.