Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Phone Call, Great Grey Dogs, and Rescues

So my sister calls me today, rather sheepishly.

Seems she's rescued a dog; problem is - we took in Quinn the puppy because she (Sis) was going to adopt her. Oh well... she was really afraid I was going to be upset, and kept emphasizing, "but it's a rescue and if I hadn't taken her in, she'd have been killed!"

Which is, unfortunately, true. I told her that I'd come see the dog in a few weeks (give the dog time to adjust, give her other dog enough time to settle in, etc.) and I'd take a look at her (the new one) to see what I thought. Of course, I did tell her that I was glad she took in a rescue rather than purchasing from a pet store or back yard breeder.

Not to give ALL backyard breeders a bad name, but they've got more "bad apples" than good, and some folks who selectively breed are tarred with that brush, which is unfortunate.

So it looks like we're a household of "Great Grey Dogs" - Norwegian Elkhounds. Or, if you prefer, "elghund" - which is Norwegian for "moose dog." Elkhounds are a compact dog with a talent for flushing moose, occasionally bear and sometimes elk. They go out in packs of two or 3 dogs - sometimes one dog will go by itself. The dogs track and corner the moose and bark like crazy, alerting the hunter(s) to come get it. They're fast, agile dogs who can think for themselves.

Thus, they are not a dog for everyone! In Norway, they're considered a "farm dog" but here in the US, they're most often seen in dog shows or specialty breed shows. They're excellent therapy dogs, good at obedience trials (they love to solve puzzles) and great at agility and rally, because of their energy and eagerness to complete a task. They're happiest when they're kept busy, and are not good for people who don't want to spend time around their dog.

Who in the world would get a dog and then not want to spend time with it? What a silly person!

Quinn actually went to my sister's house to play with her one mixed breed (I'm thinking greyhound mix). That dog was fast, but Quinn was quicker. She took corners at lightning-fast speeds, and confounded the bigger dog, who stood there a couple of times, whipping her head around looking for her. And then Quinn wanted water. So she jumped onto my sister's deck. A deck that's about 4 1/2 feet off the ground. And she cleared it, without touching a step. Good thing she never figured out she could leap over my sister's 4' fence surrounding her yard!  Here's a quick picture of the two of them playing: (hint: Quinn is the furry one)...

There are very few Elkhound people in our area, and in a way that's good for the breed. Those who know the dog, love the dog. And while we'd love our Great Grey Dogs to be in the spotlight, we also have seen the downside of that. Think 101 Dalmations... Overbreeding and puppymill people coming out of the woodwork have tanked the Dalmation breed for the casual owner. The folks who know what they're doing will continue to breed great Dalmations.

Idiots will breed without regard to pedigree - unknowingly, or uncaringly breeding dogs with bad temperaments, congenital defects (like the deafness that's common in Dalmations) and other issues - and then sell them to unsuspecting and ill-educated owners who "want the cuted spotted puppies" and don't realize what they're getting into. The idiots will breed "to make lots of money."

Those dogs are the ones we see in rescue transports every week. And they're not only one breed. I can rattle off about a dozen breeds we've seen, both large and small, where the dogs were kept in crates their entire lives, and females were literally worn to a nub from breeding, breeding, breeding.

Talk to a responsible breeder. See how much "money" there is, and be prepared for the responsible breeder to laugh his or her head off. Talk to my one friend who had stayed up literally 3 or 4 nights in a row because her mommy-dog had mastitis and had brand-new puppies who couldn't nurse. Talk to her about how, when one little boy was born, she had to do doggy-CPR on him to get him breathing. Talk to her about the vet bills. And what happens when she doesn't sell her dogs - or if someone buys one and finds out that it's not a good fit for any reason. Responsible breeders make a contract with you - if for any reason, the dog doesn't fit anymore, they take it back.

I could go on. And I frequently do, particularly when people find out that we foster and are involved in rescue. And then they mention getting a dog from "Furry Friends" or a "guy in the neighborhood who breeds dogs as a hobby" or any of the chain stores that sell them.

The point is, my sister did put a kink in our plans, but it was a good kink. I'm glad - and proud of her for taking on the responsibility. She's in for a challenge, but she's also in for the good stuff: the dog who realizes that he or she is "home forever" and turns into the most loyal companion you will know. No matter the breed or the heritage - that look in their eyes (see my profile picture) says it all.

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