When Lambert Chocolatier opens its doors just before Thanksgiving each year, a special display sits among the racks and racks of chocolate.
White, milk and dark chocolate greyhounds sit among greyhound memorabilia and information about the breed on a special rack devoted just to them. Owners Hal and Janet Lambert sell the chocolate treats to benefit Keystone Greyhounds, an organization close to both their hearts.
 
Keystone Greyhounds
The greyhound community has been an essential part of the Lamberts’ lives for the past eight years. Today, they are the proud parents of three of the dogs: Starr Gospel and Dylan, both 11, and 6-year-old Zak.
The Lamberts are the founders and adoption representatives of Keystone Greyhounds’ Sayre satellite, which serves an area within a 60-mile radius of the borough. Hal and Janet facilitate adoptions and conduct home visits for potential adoptees in the area. They also put on presentations for local groups and open their own home to retired racing greyhounds transitioning from track life to home life.
The Lamberts first became interested in greyhounds while their daughters, now 33 and 37, were still young, Hal said. The family traveled to Bath, N.Y. to learn about a greyhound rescue group while seeking a pet. However, their daughters “weren’t particularly impressed” with the breed, and the family chose another type of dog, Hal said.
Several years later, after the Lamberts’ dog passed away and their children had grown, “we decided to revisit the greyhound thing,” he said.
Hal and Janet learned about Harrisburg-based Keystone Greyhounds via the Internet and connected with Dianne Shadle, the organization’s president, about eight years ago. Soon after, they adopted Starr Gospel, and Dylan followed three months later.
The Lamberts became increasingly involved with the group, and Shadle asked them to start a satellite group to cover the region.
Many who adopt a greyhound end up adopting more, the Lamberts said, offering as an example the Moore family of Litchfield. Many in Sayre have seen Debra and Samuel Moore walking their six greyhounds around Howard Elmer Park, all adopted after a Keystone Greyhounds presentation sparked their interest in the breed.
Adopting greyhounds “is like eating potato chips,” Janet said; it’s impossible to have just one.
Today, the chocolate greyhounds are one of the top items flying out of Lambert Chocolatier’s store in downtown Sayre. All proceeds from their sale benefit Keystone Greyhounds.
 
From hot dogs to chocolate
The impact is something the Lamberts had never imagined when they opened the store in April 1978, then Hal’s Hot Dog Stand. Hal rented out the small building next to the current Desmond Street store and served 12 varieties of hot dogs out of it, with the chocolate soon to follow. “It was just a huge success,” Hal said.
The hot dog operation closed up around the time Janet was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Hal had begun a career in television advertising sales that would take him to WETM-TV in Elmira, N.Y. and WBNG-TV in Binghamton, N.Y., and the woman they’d hired to run the store found a new job.
After Janet’s condition improved, the two continued their full-time jobs — Hal in sales, Janet with the Waverly Central School District — while making chocolate on evenings and weekends during the winter season. Janet has now been in remission for 20 years, Hal said.
The business transitioned seamlessly into what is today, Lambert Chocolatier, and continues to grow each year, having just kicked off its 36th season. Today, the Lamberts and their employees ship chocolate nationwide and even to other countries.
Now both retired, Hal and Janet have been able to devote their attention fully to chocolate during the store’s open months. The store officially opens Dec. 1, but generally quietly opens its doors just before Thanksgiving and closes at Easter.
 
A second home
The Lamberts retire to their home in the spring and summer. But during the winter, when most couples their age are in Florida, “our store is our home,” Hal proudly says.
For seven months, the Lamberts — greyhounds in tow — literally called the store home, moving into the rear of the building after the Sept. 2011 flood brought seven feet of water into their living room in Wildwood, Athens Township.
In their time of need, their friends from the greyhound community were the first to help. One even made hats for the dogs to replace the ones swept away by floodwaters, Janet said.
“Greyhound people are incredible,” she said.
When Hal and Janet moved into their current home in South Waverly, they quickly made modifications to best suit their greyhounds. The living room plays home to three large dog beds, and the Lamberts installed a door to their garage and fenced in their yard to allow the dogs easy access to the outdoors. Greyhound decorations also adorn the home.
“Everything we do is for our dogs,” Hal said.
 
Adopting a greyhound
Dianne Shadle, president of the Harrisburg-based Keystone Greyhounds, said the organization has adopted out 780 dogs over nearly 10 years, averaging between 80 and 85 dogs a year. The group has several satellites statewide, including Sayre’s.
The organization takes on retired racing greyhounds and those who didn’t succeed in training — “racing school dropouts,” Shadle calls them — and, with networks of volunteers like the Lamberts, places them in foster homes to transition them to a home-based environment.
The dogs “love their life on the track,” Janet Lambert said. However, as gambling competition increases, the need for racing dogs decreases. When greyhound racing operations close, organizations like Keystone Greyhounds must quickly find homes for a large quantity of dogs.
In the racing world, the greyhounds spend most of the day in kennels, let out only to race and relieve themselves, Shadle said. A home is a new experience for retired racing greyhounds, making foster families integral in the adoption process.
“These dogs have never been in a home,” Shadle said. However, she added, “they learn very, very quickly.”
Greyhounds make great pets because they are constantly handled, from their upbringing on farms to their training in racing school and their handling at the tracks. They are intelligent, gentle and thrive on a routine, she said.
Greyhounds need to be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in area, as they are the second-fastest animal — second only to cheetahs — and their sense of smell isn’t as established as that of other dogs, making it hard for them to sniff their way home.
Because they’ve only been around other greyhounds for most of their lives, greyhounds are usually quiet and don’t bark at other dogs, Hal Lambert said. Greyhounds also have a long lifespan, generally living to 12 or 14 years of age.
Five of Keystone’s greyhounds have been certified as service and support dogs, and many others have been certified as therapy dogs, Shadle said.
Once a dog is acclimated to its new life as a house pet, Shadle matches him or her with a suitable applicant. Those seeking to adopt a dog via Keystone Greyhounds must fill out an application. Then, a representative makes a home visit to educate the prospective owners and determine whether a greyhound would fit well in the home.
Once you adopt a greyhound, you become part of a family, Janet Lambert said. Greyhound owners mentor new owners and give them advice and help where needed. “There’s so much support after you adopt a dog,” she said. 
The company charges a $250 adoption fee, with the fee waived for senior dogs 8 years old and older.
For more information about Keystone Greyhounds, call the Lamberts at (570) 423-8262 or visit www.keystonegreys.org.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.