Sometimes we have to approach a sad and serious subject. I am on Twitter as some people may know. I have a large number of friends on Twitter and despite not meeting 99% of them in the fur, we woof and discuss what has happened during the day which is usually fun stuff. There are some occasions when the talk turns to more sobering matters such as the illness and injuries that afflict us all at some point in our lives. I have gone through my phase of being pawly and injured. I am hopeful that I have finished with that particular chapter. There are friends who suffer injury now and then. We all try to rally round to help to support them when we can.
Then there is the subject that we all know will arise but none of us want to contemplate, the subject of us making the longest journey. It is known as Over The Rainbow Bridge, as this has a softer tone and feel to the inevitable end. This is the most difficult time for any dog owner, and we always try to treat it with respect and thoughtfulness.
There seem to have been too many friends who have gone bravely to take the longest journey recently and this is always a strange and difficult time. We all know that, usually, we furs don’t last as long as humans. This doesn’t, and shouldn’t, diminish our ability to wheedle our way into your hearts and then take a small piece of it with us when we make our final journey. We may not be here for your whole life but you are invariably here for our whole life. Furs inevitably rely on their humans for pretty much everything from beds to food to tickles and walks. We don’t ask for much when we are here with you and it might be this level of love and loyalty that allows us to take this piece of your heart with us when we go. It’s a strange feeling when you find out that a friend who you have woofed with is suddenly not there. The emptiness in your tummy is palpable and it doesn’t decrease for a considerable time.
I have heard it said that we know when it is “time” and I think this is a true story. A while ago one of my friends was at the vets for various ailments and a picture was posted of him. I looked at his eyes, he seemed sad and resigned to his body giving him notice that this was the time to be brave and make the final and longest journey of all. This is now being replicated by a friend who knows he will go to the Rainbow Bridge soon. However he will do it on his terms and when he, and his parents, want him to go. The bond of love between them remains unbroken and there will be an acknowledgement when the time is right for the lead and collar to be hung up for good.
That the humans we leave behind are sad and feel lonely is, I think, an indication of the esteem and love they hold for us beyond our years of living and companionship. Equally it is an indication of the love and loyalty we have given back. The overriding factor seems to me to be that we have, in the main, enjoyed our time here. This gives our humans that sense of comfort when we have gone. They have looked after us and allowed us to enjoy life, see new things, smell new scents and have fun. Maybe our departure for the Rainbow Bridge shows the humans what they will miss most about us. The sense of fun, loyalty and the bond between us. What I think, and hope, we leave behind is a sense of celebration of our lives and the fun that we had when we were here.
Its not my time yet and I hope that I will continue to be here for quite a while yet. However when I go to the Rainbow Bridge, for I shall go one day, I hope that I leave pals and peeps with a sense of contentment that they made my life worth living and that I was happy. For now though, there is still much life in me.
I think it is vital to understand what the people at rescue centres in different places around the world do and how they do it. We all know why they undertake rescues of course, because there are many furs in need of help through no fault of their own. So, I decided to ask my friends Gracie the Beagle and Roscoe the Basset Hound if I could woof with their mum who is the Adoption Co-ordinator for New England Basset Hound Rescue. This is the discussion we had. I think you will find it interesting and hopefully will give us all a better insight as to the difficulties and the triumphs encountered in rescuing furs.
Please can I ask you to tell us what you do within NEBHR and how NEBHR helps to rescue Bassets?
I am the adoption coordinator for New England Basset Hound Rescue. I also take care of the rescue’s Facebook page and make sure the web site is kept up to date. I started off nearly 3.5 years ago as the social media coordinator and then in October of 2018 we needed an adoptions person. I took up the post straight away. Our rescue covers the New England states, which are Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. We are a non-profit and run solely on donations. We have no state funding, but donations to us are tax deductible in the U.S. Those of us involved in the rescue are all volunteers. We joke that the only one one who gets paid is Roscoe because he gets treats when he poses for pictures to use on the rescue’s Facebook page. Oh, and the reason we do it is because we are all crazy about basset hounds. We are the only basset rescue that is based in New England, although there are some other basset rescues in other parts of the country that will have dogs transported to adopters in New England. Okay, so now on to the process…
Bassets and Basset mixes come into our rescue for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they’re found running loose as strays. Other times we get contacted by animal control officers who have held them but no one came to claim them. On some occasions they’ve been set loose to fend for themselves by bad breeders or by hunters who have decided they’re not worth their keep. Then there are times when owners turn them over due to changes in life situations like they’ve lost their job and their home, and they aren’t allowed to have pets where they’re moving to, or we’ve even had somebody turn their dogs over to us because he was about to go to jail. Next there are those who want to get a new puppy so they dump their older dog, those who get into relationships with someone who doesn’t like their dog so rather than dumping the boyfriend, they dump the dog, people having a baby and “won’t have time for the dog”… The excuses are endless, and rarely do we get the full truth in the story of why someone decides to turn their dog over to rescue or leave them at a shelter. There are also times of sadness when the owner dies unexpectedly and the family can’t take the dogs, so they turn to us for help. And finally there are those who get the cute basset puppies and a few months later turn them over because they found out that it’s a lot of work to raise a puppy. Any puppy is work, but we all know hound pups are extra special and thus require extra work in training, etc.
So once our intake person gets the information about the dog, our fostering volunteer goes to work right away to find a foster home to agree to take the dog into fosterers home. Depending on the distance between the dog and the foster home, one of the board members or one of our volunteers will go and pick the dog up from the original owner, animal control officer, shelter, whatever the case may be, and drive the dog to the foster. I’ve done surrenders, and it’s not fun and sometimes scary. The foster takes the dog into their home and take care of him or her as if they were members of their family. They take them to a vet soon after their arrival at the foster home so that we can make sure the dog is up to date on all of the required immunisations and make sure that if there are any health concerns, we can evaluate them and get started as soon as possible with any treatment needed. We see a lot of skin issues, malnourishment and obesity, a large number of eye problems (which bassets are prone to), arthritis (again which bassets are prone to), spays and neuters and sadly a lot of the dogs come into care testing positive for heartworm. This can be treated, but it is really uncomfortable and hard on the dog during treatment because they have to be kept in a very calm and quiet environment.
Besides getting the dogs healthy, fosters also work on training issues if possible, as they are best placed to evaluate the dogs’ personalities and behaviour. This helps me, as the adoptions person, to have a better idea of which potential adopters would be the best matches for the individual dogs. Our goal is to place dogs in what, we hope, will be their forever home. We do our best to place them where they are most likely to stay and not come back to us. A dog stays with the foster family until he or she is ready to go on to their forever family, which could be anywhere from 2 weeks to many months. It all depends on what the dog needs in order to get ready to move on to the forever home environment.
Thank you. It sounds like its quite a well oiled machine. What are the procedures that you go through to register, check the details and then help to decide where each dog will go firstly and thereafter forever.
I shall start in adoptions. When an application comes in, I check to make sure that all of the required information is included, and if they’ve left any of the absolutely necessary details out, I email the potential adopters and tell them I won’t process their application further until they provide the necessary information. After I’ve got all the details I need, I will make arrangements to have a phone interview with the applicant. During that phone call, I review the application and ask them questions about anything that concerns or confuses me about their answers on the application. I also like to have them tell me about their past dogs. This gives me a chance to hear in their voice how they really felt about those dogs. We will discuss breed traits, behaviour and health issues, as well as general hound behaviour. I need to make sure that they know what they’re getting into, and that they don’t adopt a basset hound just because they saw a cute picture somewhere. We also discuss points such as whether they have a fenced-in yard or not. For some rescues it’s a deal breaker if they don’t. That’s not the case for NEBHR. However what is a deal breaker will be the potential adopters having an invisible fence or an electric fence of any kind. I would never allow a dog to be adopted by a person who would use one of those or who would use an electric training collar. Never.
We will discuss how many hours a day a dog would be home alone. Some are fine being home alone however some have separation anxiety and suffer when they’re alone for longer than a couple hours at a time. We talk about children as some of the dogs that come into our care have resource guarding issues. A small child can come across to a dog as competition for food, treats, toys or attention, and as a result we can’t place those dogs in homes with small children because it would be setting the dog up for failure. We will cover the things a family is looking for in a dog. Sometimes they want a young energetic dog that can go on hikes and family adventures. Sometimes they want a dog that is more laid back, more of a couch potato. Once the interview is done, the next step is to call their vet’s office and check to make sure that they’re good pet parents and have kept all of their previous animals up to date on their immunizations and other care. I also have to contact their local animal control officer to make sure they do not have a record of animal-related complaints against them, including nuisance to neighbours or dogs roaming free. Lastly I have to find a volunteer who lives somewhere in the vicinity to go and do a home visit on our behalf.
A home visit volunteer visits the house where the dog will live and checks to make sure it’s a safe environment for a basset and make any suggestions. For example, stairs and long spined dogs do not go well together, especially if there is nothing that provides traction on the stairs. It’s really easy for a basset to fall down the stairs if they don’t have traction and this is pretty much a guaranteed back injury or even paralysis. If the house is too cluttered, again this is a difficulty as Bassets are mischievous and get into places they may not necessarily need to.
If the home visit is positive and all the other things have gone well, I can approve them to adopt. I send them a congratulations email and we start looking for a dog that will be a good match for their family. Once the match is made, the foster family and the adopter arrange a meeting, and the new adopter will take the dog home. Sometimes it’s too far to drive for one or the other, so we can call on our transport volunteers to help transport the dog from the foster to the new family. I check in with the new family after the dog has been with them overnight to make sure things are going okay. Sometimes I will be sent a photo of the Basset. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to get a text with a picture of a basset totally taking over a couch and knowing that I just made that happen. That is what makes it all worth it.
Is the “no dog to anyone with an invisible fence” your decision, or the NEBHR or law (state or federal). I am wondering if it is a legal requirement. What percentage of dogs come back to you? Hopefully not large numbers. Do you get transfers from other Basset rescues coming to you, or you to them?
The decision on invisible or electric fence is something that more and more rescues are deciding to have as their policies, but it’s not a law. If it’s a law in any other states, I’m not aware. The problem with invisible or electric fences is that they are ineffective with hounds. As you know, a hound picks up a scent, and they go. Bassets are even better scent hounds than beagles, if you can believe that! They are second only to bloodhounds in scenting ability. They are ineffective at keeping a hound in an area. However if you think about it, surely if you are jolted with electricity on your way out, are you really going to want to return? We have had a few dogs arrive in our care that have been abused with the electric training collars, so these collars are very traumatic to them. We do not get a large percent of dogs that come back to us after we adopt them out. I’ve had 2 come back because in one case the children got too rambunctious and the dog didn’t like it. The parents got nervous the dog would bite. In another case a lady decided she couldn’t deal with training issues of an 8 month old puppy. Sadly sometimes the dogs come back to us after their adopters have passed away. We have a dog in our care currently for that reason. He was adopted in 2017, and the adopter passed away in 2018. We don’t really do many transfers back and forth with other basset rescues. Occasionally we get a call from an all-breed rescue that ends up with a basset and wants our help, and we get calls from animal shelters sometimes when they have bassets come in. We do take dogs from other areas of the country if they can be transported in to us. We are not licensed to transport them in, but we can receive them.
May we turn to the fundraising aspect for the NEBHR. This is clearly a very important aspect so I would like to understand a little more about how the fundraising occurs.
Okay, Dex, we are always, ALWAYS in need of donations, so we try to come up with some small creative ideas throughout the year. We also need to put together our annual fundraising event, Bassetpalooza. This is a great occasion where people come from all over New England with their bassets and spend the day playing games with them, catching up with those of us who helped in their bassets’ rescue efforts, and raise money with raffle baskets. We have our rescue’s little store where we sell New England Basset Hound Rescue merchandise as well as other dog-themed items, and explore what vendors there have to offer. For instance last year, Dunkyn’s mum set up a booth selling her home made dog treats. In addition we do a calendar contest, in which Roscoe has been entered for the last 4 or 5 years. The 12 bassets that bring in the most money through votes get to be the main photos in the following year’s calendar. We do an event-themed t-shirt fundraiser each year and alongside the calendar. Wilbur the Basset’s mum & dad designed the t-shirts for Bassetpalooza 2017. People can come to the event wearing that year’s t-shirt if they like, or have it as a souvenir. We do other things through the year, such as smaller raffles through the Facebook page and a year-end video with a plea for donations. We always remind people that they are tax-deductible. Right now we’re working on a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, where we’ll have photos of the dogs in our care along with links to donate in order to show them some love on Valentine’s Day. We’ve had some of Gracie’s friends from Twitter make things for us to sell at events and in the store. For instance Schroeder’s mom Connie made plastic canvas signs, tissue boxes and luggage tags for us and LilyDoodle’s mom Erin sent us some awesome doggy bandanas that she made.
If you could change the law, what do you think you would change. For instance compulsory micro chipping?
I don’t know really what to say about laws… I mean obviously animal cruelty and neglect laws should be harsher in my opinion, and it would be nice if we had some kind of a registry of animal abuse and neglect perpetrators that we could use as a tool in vetting potential adopters. I just do what I do and try my best to find homes for these deserving dogs where they will get the love and the care they deserve.
I will include a link to the donation page of the website:
I have long been an admirer of furs who have special talents or abilities. I thought it might be a good idea to woof with one such illustrious dog who has overcome some difficulties and now is an example of courage, strength, fortitude and overall doggedness. I don’t think Winston will mind if I woof that I suspect these attributes also apply to Winston’s mum (Mumz) who had the never say no attitude to try and give Winston the best life possible.
This is Winston’s story.
Winston, hi. Can you tell us how did it all begin? Have you been with your mum since you were a small puppy? When did you find out that something wasn’t quite right with your legs?
Ok well Mumz didn’t meet me until I was 6 and Bruv was 9, at least we think he was 9. I was ok at that point regarding my walking. I’d had my cyst removed 3 years before that, so I was young when I got it, however it was removed successfully. But then I started scuffing my toes on my back legs, so she took me back to specialist centre who did lots of tests and found scar tissue at operation site. The scar tissue was attached to my spinal cord. There was no choice but to attempt to remove the scar tissue but it was risky. The day before I went in Mumz made sure I had THE best day at the seaside. The operation released scar tissue but damage had been done. Mumz was told I’d be completely paralysed within the year and would be “easier” to put me to sleep. She was so shocked because she didn’t expect that response or recommendation. Through her tears she asked if I’d be viable for a set of wheels or hot rod to support my back legs and thus allow me to get around much easier. They reluctantly confirmed it was possible and Mumz was still really upset when she took me away.
However she then got cross and I mean really cross. She started doing research and hopefully try to get a second opinion. This proved to be quite hard as people in the profession don’t like to step on each other’s toes. Eventually she found somewhere in Birmingham who would see me. It’s a 3 hour drive but we did it. They were brilliant. They explained exactly what was happening inside me, and they even drew Mumz an “idiot proof” picture to demonstrate what was going on. They explained the spinal cord has no pain receptors so I wouldn’t be in pain. The only pain I would get would be muscular as my front end would be working so hard. They even recommended the best hot rod wheels for me. She was elated as they also recommended I find a physio and hydrotherapist. We took action straight away. As a result I stayed upright for 5 years. I didn’t walk normally but I walked. I needed my hot rod wheels after a year or so when we went out but I could still get round the house and garden. Of course I had my man mobile or chariot. It’s been hard work, I have physio once a week and hydro every couple of weeks and a lot of work at home as directed by physio but it is worth it. She has to massage my front end every day as I get muscle fatigue through pulling myself along on the wheels. As a result, my front muscles are larger than they ordinarily would be. She also researched mobility aids, my special “help em up” harness (I think that’s what it’s called) and then also an off roader hot rod wheels. She’s made good contacts with people in the know – in fact the hot rod people are the ones who got me the Alan Titchmarsh show a while ago on the television.
I took to everything without complaint. It took a couple of goes before I realised my hot rod was a good thing but once I realised it meant I could run in it, I was fine! I’ve done all my physio without any complaint, however I think this was probably because food was involved. I’ve adjusted with each step of this journey. It’s Mumz who found it all upsetting and has cried buckets over the years but I’ve not dwelled on how I used to be. As long as I can get where I wanna go, I don’t care how I get there. I don’t mind saying I have been an inspiration to Mumz and everyone in the family. I’ve not changed one bit from the waist up. My zest for life has always been strong and I’m always wanting to be up and at them. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not cheap to look after but I’m worth every single penny and I’ve got a really close bond with Mumz because I rely on her so much. I’m quite fond of her despite her being a bit needy. I can’t walk at all now but we knew this would happen and it’s now 8 years since they told Mumz to put me to sleep and I’ve had a great time! I have had lots of fun, holibobs, trips to seaside and so on. I’m 14 and a half now so I’ve done brilliantly. Me being disabled hasn’t made me any the less of a great pet and friend – if anything the opposite because I so enjoy life it makes it all worth while. Every owner has a special bond with their pet but I think the bond you develop with a disabled pet is a very special one, and who wouldn’t want that.
Thanks Mr Winston sir for the clear and extensive answer. May I ask where you were before you picked Mum to look after you?
We came from a somewhat broken home. Bruv and I had been living together so Mumz got to adopt us both. Bruv and I were the best of buddies, we always knocked along together and were a strong unit.
Did the hot wheels make you and Mum feel that, actually, dogs with disabilities can be super powered and inspiring to others?
Mumz was shocked almost beyond words at how easily I was dismissed as a lost cause by the people who did me op. In the very same meeting when she was told that it would “easier” if I was put to sleep, the specialist asked if we were doing anything nice for fireworks night! I mean, talk about priorities. She now understands better how other places didn’t want to step on their toes but she wasn’t looking for that. She just wanted to see if anyone had any other ideas except euthanasia, but they wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t quite believe how some people who make a living out of caring for animals could be so uncaring. She also changed vets cos my vet wasn’t great in time of crisis too. I think that’s a very important point. If you’re not happy with what you’re being told, try your hardest to get more info and a second opinion. The internet has taught Mumz so much in respect of stuff like this. For instance, like how to help with me toilets as sadly the nerves dealing with that area were affected but it’s all very manageable when you know how. My vet didn’t know how and wasn’t interested. It’s very important to get the right team around you when you have a dog like me with very different needs. They are out there, the experts, you just need to find them.
So, Zombiesquad was a direct result of your combined thought that pets with disabilities can be super powered and inspirational?
Yes, exactly. This is why I’ve taken on hunting zombies cos I knew I was the best candidate. The whole point of starting zombiesquad was exactly that, to inspire others and to let them see my journey, and how brave I was (I can hunt zombies after all) and the fun people can still have with a disabled pet. We wanted to make my twitter page fun. She wanted everyone to see how happy I am. Obviously she had no idea it would grow so big but she’s thrilled she’s got such a large audience who can see how good my life is. People have approached her for advice with a newly disabled pet or on behalf of friends with a newly disabled pet which has made her very happy because without Twitter / ZS they wouldn’t have known me. She was able to reassure and offer advice and point people in the right direction at a very scary and daunting time.
Thanks. I think everyone agrees that the twitter page is indeed fun and inspirational. May I turn to something a little sadder. When Bruv went to the Rainbow Bridge, this was clearly a very large loss. Did you and Mum have an idea to get you another friend or apprentice soon after.
She didn’t want another dog after Bruv. We loved him so much, still do, the thought of someone else and going through that again was not something she was prepared to do. It felt very disloyal to him. But then I got depressed. Very depressed. Mumz did her best to cheer me up and even spoke to an animal behaviouralist but I missed him so badly nothing helped. So her solution was to allow the Kid to move in. We’re not best pals like I was with Bruv but he’s a companion and someone to do things with. He cheered me up.
Mr Winston, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I think everyone can see that being a pet with disabilities isn’t something to hold you back. The zest for life, for fun and for chasing zombies clearly allows you to live as full a life as possible. Thank you also to Mumz for pursuing the alternative option, for not taking the first advice as final and wanting the best in life for you.
It was the dead of night and my parents were out of bed and making ready for the day ahead. After weeks of chicanery and subterfuge with various friends, we were at last on our way to rural Shropshire to make Charley’s parents cry, albeit in the nicest possible fashion. They were blissfully unaware of our impending arrival and this was the way it was supposed to be.
We met up with Raffa Beagle and her mum, and thence on to Charleys house. “Oh my, what are you doing here?” asks Charleys mum, whilst his dad expressed similar surprise from an upstairs window. “Who, us? Oh we were just passing and thought we would drop by to see you”. Griff the Beagle and Boot the Cocker bounded out to greet us and the humans settled down for coffee, buns and chatter, all the time waiting for the unexpected delivery.
After an hour or so, panic sets in as there is no sign of the delivery truck bringing the unknown gift for Charley’s M&D. Off we set on our walk with Raffa and her mum having to turn back as it is feeding time. After phone calls it appears that the delivery will arrive, however not until later in the day. “Do you not realise we have people from London and Liverpool who have taken time off and driven for hundreds of miles to be here?”. The rest of us kept going around the fields and arrive at Charley’s final resting place. It is a place of contemplation and maybe some sorrow but also of great beauty, looking out over the fields where he would run, roam, laze and watch the world go by, all in the shadow of the Shropshire Hills.
“Who’s that at the door?” – action stations and all hands to the pump time. Charley must have known something was up for, as soon as the unknown package was removed from the truck, a wonderful double rainbow appeared over the house with one end landing close by Charley’s last resting place. To see the look upon the faces of Charley’s M&D when the bench was removed from the crate, of joy mixed with reminiscence of some long held thoughts, was strangely comforting to us all. The culmination of a plan to honour Charley had borne fruit, and the fruit was mellow and welcomed. Griff explored the bench quizzically. Boot strolled in his nonchalant fashion toward the bench. Charley’s M&D sat upon the bench and looked at the rainbow stretching over the house and toward the fields and hills.
A suitable tribute, a timely reminder and a place of contemplation. All considered, it was a good day. I could return home content. I am not sure that we made Charley’s M&D cry, but I hope we made their hearts feel full of the love of their friends.
What a week of walks and shenanigans. Sunday started with a great walk around the local lanes and fields. I love all the smells and sniffs, as well as all the rabbit warrens I can stick my nose into.
Having returned home and eaten my breakfast, it was straightaway into the car and we drove north through winding roads and lanes, then across the Grand Union Canal to a place called Dunstable Downs. There were many people there, enjoying the walks and sights on a warm late summer day with the wind blowing breezily through my ears. I was getting excited about visiting the woods and hill tops I could see. However we seemed to be heading toward the Visitor Centre. I had a lovely surprise when I saw Raffa Beagle and her mum waiting for us. Raffa lives in Liverpool and was visiting locally for the day. We walked and woofed with each other whilst scenting the longer grass and admiring the views. Of course we were both asked if we would like strokes and belly rubs which were not turned down. We found a great hill to sit atop and watch the gliders take off and land. It was great fun all day, however we were sad when Raffa had to leave to go home again.
Monday through to Thursday I was able to drag one or the other pawrent around the fields or lanes locally. I even got to meet some Alpaca who live on a farm near me. I don’t go near them as one of them was attacked last year by an off lead dog.
Today was another adventure, this time to Ashridge Estate and Northchurch Common. We had driven past on our way to Dunstable on Sunday but this time we stopped and I got to experience all the sounds, sights and scents of the woods and long grass. We dexplored for about 2 hours and it was great fun to see somewhere new and get all the lovely scents in my nose. I saw squirrels leaping from tree to tree and would have enjoyed chasing them, had I not been shackled to my humum. It was fun wandering about not really knowing where you would end up. Its not big enough to get completely lost in the woods, but the scents and sights would keep me occupied for some considerable time.
It was quite windy which was welcomed as the scents were blown quickly into my nose and my ears flapped happily in the breeze.
We left after a couple of hours and I expected to return home. However we continued our adventure to the Tring Brewery for some “supplies”. I got to meet Ronnie the Lurcher cross whilst my humans made purchases. There was only one thing left to do when I got home. I had to run around my garden arooing at squirrels and making a noisy nuisance of myself.