Dennis Tyler and his greyhounds
01/08/2013 at 01:00 PM EST
Dennis Tyler never expected to fall in love.
But after he took in a former racing greyhound named Clara Voyant in 1991, Tyler soon discovered that he'd found a constant companion in the affectionate light-brown dog, who strode beside him on daily walks and nestled against him while watching TV.
"She was a very special dog," recalls the Melbourne, Fla.-based father of two grown children. "She blended right into the family."
So when Tyler, 66, learned that many greyhounds, some injured while racing, faced the risk of being euthanized, he couldn't look the other way.
"These dogs can be the most wonderful pets," he says. "I needed to do something."
Since then the retired mechanic and his wife, Claire, 66, have found homes for more than 7,400 greyhounds through his nonprofit, Florida Greyhounds
. Using donations, Tyler provides medical care for the dogs, personally matches them to a compatible family and drives them from his home state of Florida – which has the largest number of greyhound racetracks in the U.S. – to their new homes along the East Coast.
While the group briefly suspended operations last year due to new costs at track kennels in the area, Tyler says they'll be back up running later this month. His group has also started a fledgling foster dog program.
Lorie Stewart, of Satellite Beach, Fla., is one of the thousands of people who have benefitted from Tyler's efforts.
"I just adore my dogs," says Stewart, who's adopted five greyhounds through Florida Greyhounds. "They call them potato chip dogs because they're so addictive; you can't have just one!"
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