With 95.5 thousand followers and 4.9 million likes on TikTok (as of Feb. 23), North Shore Kennel of Abilene finds millions watching them breed, train and raise greyhounds and doberman pinschers at their local kennel.
However, before the North Shore kennel and social media, Danielle and Ryan O’Donnell started dating on the East Coast. Ryan, whose family goes back three generations in greyhound racing, found his childhood around the breed and the sport something he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“I’ve always loved it and I grew up a little different,” Ryan said. “So, I grew up on the racing side. I grew up racing dogs in New England, mostly it was at the Seabrook Park dog track in Seabrook, New Hampshire. So, I grew up there most of my childhood and it was great. I loved it. I enjoyed it.”
Ryan remembers running in between the adoption kennel and the track to watch and play with all the greyhounds. He remembers long days at the track helping his family and enjoying being around all the dogs.
While Ryan came from a family of greyhound people, Danielle didn’t have much more than outside opinions about the breed and racing — until she met Ryan.
“I had never heard anything good about greyhound racing,” Danielle said. “I’ve only heard bad things, so when I got the chance to go into a kennel, I was like no. But, then I went in, I saw the dogs were nothing, but happy and healthy — I never left. It’s been 13 years and I’ve been in the kennel every single day since then.”
After dating and introducing Danielle to the greyhound world, Ryan watched as tracks in the New England area close and needed to move to Florida for his dogs. Danielle decided she was coming too.
“We met and I told her, ‘hey, tracks are closing and I’m going down to Florida and I’m going to work the tracks down in Florida,’ and she said, ‘well, I’m coming too.”
With more tracks closing, Danielle and Ryan decided to uproot their lives once more and move to Abilene — but all of the moves were worth it for the dogs. In Abilene, they continued their family kennel, Northshore, which started in 1975.
While Ryan and Danielle breed and raise the puppies, his uncle “trains all so when our puppies leave here, they go to his uncle at the track and after the track, they come back to us and then we send them to adoption.
With the adoption of greyhounds raising, the O’Donnell family has seen their dogs go to so many different homes through greyhound adoption groups, which allows for them to make sure littermates get to find forever homes together.
Through working as a family, the kennel was able to set up space for all the dogs which allowed them to run and play together, while each dog got their own sleeping area. In doing all this work, Danielle saw an opportunity to use social media to educate people on the greyhound and doberman breed through videos.
“I wanted to break the stigma that greyhounds are being mistreated,” Danielle said.
She said it bothers her that people think her animals are being abused.
“It hurts thinking that people think that I’m (treating my dogs) that way, because of what other people have done,” Danielle said. “When I do everything possible to make sure that my dogs are happy and healthy and safe. Having the best possible life.”
Danielle and Ryan show how they feed and train their dogs, while trying to keep up with their pack and farm duties.
“It’s hard because I don’t have a lot of time to do it,” Danielle said. “I would rather be with my dogs one-on-one and paying attention to them than making videos, but if making the videos helps them, then it’s kind of a win-win.”
One of their most popular videos on Tik Tok, which garnered 27.9 million views and 3 million likes, was Danielle showing off the machine they use to mix up the dogs’ daily meal’s ingredients. Other videos on the channel focus on race training and raising the puppies.
“I think that our training videos where we show people how the dogs are really trained is probably my favorite part of doing the TikTok,” Danielle said. “Because people think that they’re trained using live animals and they’re not, we train them using literally dog toys that we buy from Chewy.”
While Danielle is the brains behind the TikTok, Ryan helps with the videos, but struggled for a while to open up the “bubble” created in the greyhound industry.
“For most of my childhood, we were always fighting to keep the tracks open,” Ryan said. “People were just really misinformed of how we feel about our animals, how we treat our animals. The dogs are our family and nobody’s really ever got to see that side, because we were being essentially attacked by so many different people that you kind of shut everybody out. It’s hard when you’re doing something you love and you’re giving the dogs the best life and you’re treating them in the best possible way. You still have all these people coming in saying ‘you’re abusing them, you’re this, you’re that. It’s like I don’t want to deal with this. I just want to stay in my little bubble and do my work. I want to be with my family, my team of dogs and my whole thing. I don’t want to deal with all this extra stuff.”
However, through the videos, Ryan decided it would be better to answer questions and educate then keep the bubble, because everything they “do is for the dogs.”
Danielle and Ryan welcome people to their TikTok page @northshorekennel and to ask questions about the industry.
“I’m happy to answer any questions that anybody has,” Danielle and Ryan said simultaneously.