Elkhounds and Electronic Presence
By Amy Peterson (www.elvbendelkhounds.com)
(this article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of the NEAA newsletter)
Last issue I wrote an article expressing my opinion that an electronic presence as a breeder of purebred dogs is not only desirable, but almost a necessity. I’d like to expand this notion to include that it becomes almost a social responsibility!
What happens if we as responsible breeders don’t make ourselves readily available in today’s electronic world? BAD things happen! Just scrolling through some of the posts on some of the elkhound social media sites elicits a sickening emotion – rescues that have no safety net, puppies and dogs that are supposedly Norwegian Elkhounds but barely resemble the breed, dogs with massive health problems that could have been prevented, and more. Where are these dogs coming from?
Just visit the Lancaster puppies website and search for elkhounds. This site ALWAYS has elkhound puppies available. Greenfield Puppies and PuppyFind are other sites that also ALWAYS have elkhound puppies available. These are the images that the public believesare good examples of a purebred Norwegian Elkhound puppy (no wonder the breeders across the pond think we’re breeding GSD’s), for the “bargain” backyard breeder price of $795. Why are these puppies selling well? Because they are readily available and easy to find.
What happens with these puppies? Sometimes they get great homes, no doubt about it. Sometimes their homes fail them, but they have no responsible breeder to fall back on, and they end up in rescue or shelters. Sometimes they have horrendous health problems and lead short, painful lives. Sometimes they end up like Molly or Judy (see below) – success stories as rescues, but stories that should never have to be told.
A lot of us can place puppies from a litter with ease and without advertising – and that speaks volumes for our success as breeders. Word-of-mouth within our community is a wonderful thing. But we as breeders need to be looking outside of our community, to the new owners, to the young owners, to people who don’t have a clue that an organization such as a “parent club” even exists! Shouldn’t it be our job, as responsible breeders, to aid the public in becoming responsible owners? To provide healthy, sound pups that will be lifelong companions?
We need to shed the elitist attitude that “no good breeder needs to advertise”. Let’s replace that word “advertise” with “be available.” “No good breeder needs to be available.” That doesn’t sound very inviting to the public.
Certainly, we’d all like to see our puppies in show homes, if possible. But as we all know, the show world is graying. Showing is expensive, and the public perception of show dogs has taken an animal-rights turn for the worse. The process of buying a puppy is evolving. Responsible breeders need to embrace these changes and become available.
Quite frankly, I recently tried to refer a puppy inquiry to a great breeder who doesn’t have a website. The potential owners did not want to be referred to a breeder that they couldn’t “see.” That social media/electronic presence is essential, since we now live in a point-and-click society. Gone are the days of asking around, attending shows, phoning breeders, and visiting kennels. It’s a shame, but it’s reality – researching a purchase, be it a puppy or a car, has changed, and responsible breeders need to embrace that evolution and step into the present.
A Tale of Two Curly Tails (whose story could be prevented if responsible breeders are readily available!)
A rescuer found out about “Molly” via a Facebook post on Elkhound Rescue & Rehoming. A Kentucky animal shelter listed Molly as a female Elkhound, 32 lbs, 8 years old. She was taken to shelter by a family who said that their elderly father passed and they didn’t want her, and asked the shelter to euthanize her. The shelter talked them into surrendering her to try for adoption. The rescuer resided in SE Michigan and was searching for a female Elkhound. Social media made this adopter aware of this dog.
According to the adopter, when she saw Molly’s picture, she had a “gut feeling.” That gut feeling led the rescue to driving to Kentucky. In the rescuer’s words, “We journeyed our way to KY and arrived Saturday at noon. They brought her out and my husband and I were shocked! Never in my life have I seen a dog in her shape. She was skin and bones, bleeding sores all over her body, red inflamed skin, no hair on her underside, looked like she had a few litters of pups already, smelled horrible and her fur was beige with a hard crust covering her entire body… I crouched down and she wobbled her way over to me and licked my cheek. Looked me in the eye and said “Get me out of here!””
Molly at the emergency vet, left, and 1 month after treatment, right.
Molly’s story continues, in her rescuer’s words: “I looked at my husband and he nodded. I told the shelter that she needed a bath. They obliged us and I kind of forced my way back with her saying I would help them bathe her. The shelter was clean and the people were doing their best and seemed to really care for the animals. While we were bathing her I asked more questions, she was not spayed, she was not heartworm checked (they are not funded for that he said they only dewormed her), not UTD on shots and then I asked what that crust was on her ears. Mind you I was ignorant about that then. He said dirt and wax. I figured it was something more than dirt, but ok. In the car on our way back to Michigan (8 hours drive) she started itching and scratching and biting herself, blood flew when she shook her head. She was in agony. She was so good in the car btw. Such a sweetheart.
Anyway, I started googling and oh boy it sounded like mange. I WAS IN A PANIC!!! Yikes!!!!! What about our other animals!!!!! OMG!!! Never seen it, never dealt with it, never crossed my mind. I called our ER vet right by our house and told them our situation and they said bring her in. ER vet got a room ready and we did the weigh in, 27lbs, checked her teeth and guessed her age as 4 yrs old not 8. Has had a few litters of pups, did blood work, heartworm check, lyme test, stool test all came back good. Vet did 3 scrapings from her bloody bare spots and took swab from inside her ears. From the scrape the vet found one mite, so he could guarantee it was sarcoptic mange. Her ear canal swipe test came back as yeast. Side note, her urine reeked and we suspected a UTI because I believe she was trying to hold it and not go in her kennel.” (Again, this is a direct quote from the adopter.)
Molly underwent treatment for mange, at the adopter’s expense, which included Revolution every 2 weeks for 3 treatments, medicated shampoo, prednisone, cephalexin, and treatment for her ears. Their existing dog was preemptively treated as well. Molly was quarantined for a month away from the adopter’s existing dog and cats, but rebounded and is doing well. But her story need not ever have occurred! Molly’s adopter is an angel, but through education by and availability of responsible breeders, we can help to prevent dogs from entering the rescue system in the first place!
“Big Booty Judy’s” story is still unfolding. Judy was listed as a senior unclaimed stray, urgent, at a Nebraska shelter (she must’ve found a fantastic food source while “straying”). A rescue angel in New Mexico (who has rescued many special-needs elkhounds and is also an emergency clinic veterinarian) pulled her from the shelter. Judy’s 40-lb frame was carrying a whopping 69 pounds (earning her the nickname of “Pig”). She was found to be hypothyroid, has luxating patellas, is arthritic, and has chronic rhinitis. She’s also endearingly a bit cross-eyed.
Although exceedingly fond of humans, Judy was severely lacking in dog-to-dog social skills, and was unable to integrate with the other special-needs rescues in her foster home. A forever home for this special-needs girl was found halfway across the country. This author is fostering her for a week and by the time this article appears in print, Judy will be in a single-dog home in Michigan, again through the miracle of social media and people willing to transport. Judy’s foster veterinarian made a marathon trip to Milan, IL, and from Milan, additional transport “legs” were filled. Judy shed more than 10 pounds under the care of her veterinarian foster home and had her various illnesses and problems diagnosed.
Judy at 69 lb (left) and at 58 lb (right)
But her story begs many questions. Was she really a stray? Or was she simply released by owners unable to cope with her ailments? Why was this dog produced in the first place?
The internet was essential in getting these two special-needs dogs new homes. Thoughtful use of the internet by responsible breeders can help reduce the number of special-needs or poorly-bred dogs by availability of responsibly-bred, healthy, sound dogs!