Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why a Wolfhound?

While I love all animals, when it comes to in the house, I am really more of a cat person. Perhaps this is because of 18 years or living in apartments and condos, plus having to give up my last dog 20 years ago because of the move to MD. I had my horses, my son had his cat, we were content.

But then I married a dog person. He didn't immediately start in on wanting a dog, both of us were working full time, and we were gone just too much to think of bringing in a puppy, but I knew it would happen eventually. We discussed dog breeds, him leaning towards retrievers or sheperds, me leaning towards something that didn't chew everything in sight and shed 24/7. Or drool, or bark constantly, or jump on everyone, get the picture.

We had decided we would wait until we were retired, and had a farm. Plenty of room for the dog(s) and time for socialization and training. I was involved in horse rescue with a couple of groups who bought horses from meat dealers and placed them in new homes. I did some limited transport and networking for them. One of the fellow group members mentioned she had an Irish Wolfhound she was trying to find a better home for.

She had taken the dog in a couple of years before (he was about 4-5 yrs old). He lived outside, and she was concerned being out in the cold in winter was taking it's toll on him. So my husband and I discussed it, and I did some research on the breed. We had always been interested in Irish Wolfhounds and the related breed Scottish Deerhounds, but as we are firm believers in adopting rescue animals, we never thought we would find one needing a home. We discussed it for a while, and talked to our kids. Since the dog was already older, and housebroken, and past any puppy chewing, we decided to go ahead. Plus, the photo of him had already done the most work, he was the typical grey wolfhound, with a mournful soul searching expression. How could we turn that face down? (later of course we learned all wolfhounds can turn on that mournful, 'please give me some of your hamburger' look) We had plenty of room, a backyard that was 80% fenced, just a days work to finish it up.

One problem was that the dog was several states away. We discussed flying him, but the stress of the flight was not something we wanted to put him through. We decided to wait until we had a horse transport trip coming through, which could easily accommodate a large dog. As we set this up, the dog starting having problems. In a 24 hour period, he rapidly went downhill, and a trip to the vet showed he was in organ failure. It was suspected he had a liver shunt, but they decided the best course was to put him down.

We of course were quite heartbroken. Our whole family was looking forward to giving him a home. We stopped talking about a dog and just went on with our lives. I however, had gotten hooked on the breed with my research. Here was a large breed, who did well with horses and large animals, with a wiry coat (no shedding! I thought), and while they had energy outside, was the typical sighthound fur rug inside. Perfect for our lifestyle. I didn't want a hyper, jumping dog who would take out legs and furniture with their tail. (Yes, I have been around a lot of labs) I also wanted a dog with the minimum of 'tampering' by humans, so there would be few health issues like eye and ear problems in breeds like Cocker Spaniels, or breathing, like Pugs and Boxers, mouth/drooling problems like Bassett Hounds.

After about a month of thinking about this, I decided to check Petfinders. Perhaps there were Irish Wolfhounds out there looking for homes. After 20 years without a dog, I didn't want to give up on giving one a home. I found an adorable part wolfhound puppy on Petfinders. I didn't want a puppy, we didn't want a puppy. We wanted housebroken and trained! But here was this puppy. Of all the litter, he was the cutest. Solid cream with red ears, he was colored like his mother, but at 8 wks was already 15 pounds, and looked exactly like all the other wolfhound puppies. I didn't mind a cross. We discussed it again as a family, since the puppy would require more work from everyone. The kids of course were very enthused, so we decided to apply to adopt him. Our application was accepted, but now was the problem of picking him up. He was several states away, 18 hours by car.

I decided to fly down and bring him back in a crate in the cabin. It meant pretty much buying a ticket for the puppy, but I thought that was the safest way to get him. I made all arrangements, it meant taking 3 days off from work, and driving a car 6 hours from the airport to where the puppy was, staying with family the first day, then a hotel at the town where he was. I made all the arrangements, let the sanctuary know I was on my way, and when I would be there to pick him up. I went shopping the night before I left, getting everything you could possible need for a 9 week old puppy, and a crate for the journey.

We had decided to turn the living room into the puppy nursery (hardwood floors!), so it was cleared, a large crate set up with pad, blankets, etc. We were completely ready, and Petsmart was several dollars richer! Off I flew to go get our puppy.

I landed in the airport, and turned my phone on. I had a message. The sanctuary had called leaving a long message that the puppies had all come down with Parvo, and to call before I drove to the place. I had no clue what Parvo was. I called the sanctuary back, they couldn't help me much, the person who had the puppies wasn't there. I called my family and got them Googling Parvo. I called my vet who gave me the best information.

For those of you who don't know, Parvo is deadly to puppies. They should get vaccinated at 6 weeks for it. It is a disease that is common in feral dogs, and has several vectors, including raccoons and birds. At first I thought it was just a matter of dealing with a sick puppy for a while, then as I got more information, I realized even if our puppy had a mild case, I couldn't bring him back to our neighborhood anyway. Those infected can shed the Parvo virus for 6 weeks after their symptoms subside. We live in a neighborhood full of dogs. There was no way I would risk introducing such a deadly disease into our neighborhood. I called the sanctuary back and let them know. I didn't want to know if the puppy survived or not, but I don't think it likely as he was pretty bad.

I was torn between grief for the puppy, and anger at the people who were responsible for him. None of the litter got any shots at 6 weeks like they were supposed to. At 9 weeks they still hadn't gotten any immunizations. When I called to say I was leaving the day before my flight, they knew then the puppies were sick, but no one told me. Then I came home after wasting 3 vacation days and the money on the flights to a living room full of puppy toys, and the tag with his name and our address sitting on the counter.

We totally shelved the idea of getting a dog. It seemed the fates were against us. I had several friends who had gone through their own trials tell me 'Third time is the charm.' It seemed bad experiences with rescues were not unusual. Another friend mentioned the Irish Wolfhound Specialty show that took place in Quiet Waters Park every year. Why don't I contact that club?

The Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Club hold a specialty show every year, and has a large presence in the area. I thought maybe going to the show would get me my wolfhound fix, and I would talk to them about adopting maybe in the future. I e-mailed and Spoke to several wonderful people in the club. they have an application to be on a list for adoption, should a wolfhound need a home. This club has a policy, if you can't keep your wolfhound any more, for whatever reason, call them and they will come get the dog and place them in a good home.

I thought about it for a while, and finally thought I would mail in the application. Maybe by fall there would be a dog needing a home. I was still feeling a bit burned out, and wasn't really looking. The day after I mailed the application in I got a call from the club. An 18 month old wolfhound needs a home now, or they will put him to sleep! They hadn't even gotten my application, but remembered from talking to me that I was interested in adopting. A quick e-mail to my husband, and we said yes, we would take him.

We had no information about him at all, size, color, shots, not even if he was full wolfhound. Just that he had been raised with children, and was housebroken. They asked if we could take him the next day, I said yes, we still had all our set up from when we expected to get a puppy, including a 40 pound bag of large breed puppy food. They wanted to deliver him, and do a home check, as well as make sure the dog was going to feel comfortable with us.

March 25 at 7pm, a car pulled up in font of our house. The couple got out, and we introduced ourselves. While this was going on we could see the dog in the back of their van, but that was about it. Would we like to meet the dog? Yes, of course, and they asked him to get out of the van. Out climbs this huge dog (still a puppy?!?) nothing but a cord around his neck. I went and got the leash I had bought for the puppy, so he could at least walk about a bit.

Is it possible to fall in love at first sight? Because we both did. He was huge, grey, gangly thin, and very dejected and worried. He was beautiful! We showed them our yard and house, and filled out paperwork. Meanwhile the dog stood and panted, stressed from all the changes. Finally, as my husband held his lead, he layed down at his feet and relaxed a bit.

They left, giving us vet numbers, contact information and lots of advice. We had gone from no dog to a lot of dog in a very short time.


  1. That's fantastic. What a lucky dog, not to mention a lucky family. Finnegan is so darned handsome! He obviously loves the snow too.

    You've just got to love a happy ending to a unwanted pet story.

    *Saw this on Link Your 1st Blog Post

  2. Lovely. We looked at wolfhounds as we love big dogs but ended up with two great danes one of which is a rescue. Sometimes fates collide to give you the right dog at the right time. I found our rescued dane on a internet rescue site at a time I had to give up work thanks to illness. He was emaciated and didn't know how to play. Now he is a big happy doofus, often confused, but always loving. Big dogs definitely give big love. Get used to the saddle comments LOL

    1st blog post was definitely a great idea.

  3. Love this post. He is SO handsome. How awful the things you had to go through though!
    We have a border collie we got from a rescue last fall (after we lost our two older dogs - a foxhound and a mixed basenji/whippet cross). The border collie has made a great farm dog for us (and house dog too that spoiled rotten soul!)