The First USA Transport Of Some Of The 101 Keeshonden – Rev. Ruthann Seibert
The trip had been planned for months. I was so excited! Traveling to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando Florida would be the culmination of an extremely successful 2013 dog show year. It was not likely that any show could have topped Mercy’s Best of Breed win at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show the past February, but thought we would just have some fun and make the trip. I also decided to take Mercy’s littermate Grace along. Once again, just the three of us would travel in my van, as we had done when we went across country for the 2012 Keeshond Club of America National Show in Washington State. Reservations had been planned for a hotel in Orlando, entries made, bags beginning to get packed and by the first week of December, I had even started to move some things for the trip into the van.
And then things changed…. I read a FaceBook posting by Dee Wingfield, indicating a number of Keeshonden were in need of transport out of a puppy mill in New York to foster homes in Virginia and Georgia. This posting grabbed my attention. Why? I don’t know, as I had never even considered becoming active in the breed’s rescue missions. That seemed to be for other people to do. I already had my hands full with my call to ministry and a congregation, plus trying to keep up with the grooming, showing and breeding of my small kennel of Kees. I was planning this big trip leaving on Dec 10…. So maybe I could get involved once I got back…if nobody else had done something first.
I followed the post for a few minutes and no one was stepping up to the plate. I thought about my own furkids and how warm and well fed they were in my home. The plight of the Keeshonden tugged at my heart. These dogs had to get out! I was travelling south on a Tuesday morning Dec. 10, so if someone could get some dogs to me, I would make room in my van to accommodate them. I answered Dee’s posting. I told her that I could make room for four. It would be tight, but could do it! I was going to be headed south anyway, so it wasn’t going out of my way to put these needy dogs into my van and bring them along! I had no idea how that decision would change my mindset about Keeshond Rescue.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was bleak. A snowstorm was predicted. I also had no accommodations to house the dogs overnight at my house. The dogs would need to come to my house sometime during early Tuesday morning, be loaded into my van so that we could begin the trip south. There were four of them and they arrived at 4:00 am. Sharon Knerr had done the northern part of the journey and brought the dogs to my house. The snow storm had not yet begun. When Sharon opened her van, the smell of these unfortunate dogs was overwhelming. One by one, each of these truly terrified dogs were transferred from the cages in Sharon’s van to the cages in my van. Their feet never touched the ground and they were all double leashed. I had to promise not to take any of the dogs out of my van until I reached a destination with one of the other rescuers. There were Scarlet, Grumpy, Scaredy and the Young ‘un. At 4:30 they were all loaded in the way back portion of the van and ready for the trip. But I wasn’t. I needed a short nap before starting the trip.
At 7:00 am, I arose and what before my wandering eyes should appear??? Snow! Falling fast and already covering the ground. I grabbed my last items and put them in the van as I scrambled to get Grace and Mercy into the van as well. Grace went in first, was settled in the mid - section of the van. Then there was Mercy, who upon entering the van put his nose in the air and took a big wiff and then looked at me questioningly. I told him that we needed to take some friends along for part of the ride. Friends that didn’t have the love and kindness that he enjoyed. He seemed to nod approvingly and settled right down for the ride.
We got on the rode as the snow slammed down upon us. We needed to travel very slowly. Once we got south and around Washington DC, the snow changed to rain and very soon after that even the rain stopped and the sun came out. We, the band of merry travelers, had been safe so far on this miraculous and unexpected journey together. Not a bark or whine was heard from any of the dogs. I stopped along the way for a potty break for Grace and Mercy and felt a bit of guilt for not being able to allow the others to relieve themselves. I had made an agreement not to take any of them out, so I had to honor that agreement.
In a few hours we met up with Patti Raymond Hanson in Virginia. She and I tried to get the four dogs to potty on grass. It was obvious that none of them had ever been on grass before! They were terrifically frightened. Each of them would have bolted had they been given the opportunity. Even getting them out of the crates was a difficult process. Patti had to lift each dog out of the crate, but none of them wanted to be lifted out and cowered so frightened, into the way back crate corners. This was heartbreaking to witness. The shivering and cowering was accompanied by the very sad fearful eyes. Each dog was terrified of both Patti and I.
Soon Patti had three of the dogs loaded and was off to deliver them to be fostered. I still had one of the females fondly named Grumpy due to the noises that she made when she was being picked up and moved from crating. She had not eliminated on the rest stop where Patti attempted to have her potty, and she was going to be with me overnight until the next rescuer rendezvoused with me in South Carolina. When I stopped for the night, I felt so guilty leaving her in my van while Grace and Mercy enjoyed the comforts of the motel room. Would I dare try to take her out of the van? No. I had made a promise.
I pondered the plight of these dogs. Why would anyone allow dogs to be this dirty and neglected? This was abuse!!!! At this point, I did not know the whole story. I only knew what I could observe. These dogs were like the feral cats that lived in our barn when I was growing up on the farm. They could never be caught, never tamed, never petted….. was this how life would also be for these four dogs too? I remembered how little experience I had with the rescue mission of dogs. All this had come about so soon that I hadn’t even had a chance to read and research what might be involved. All I knew was that I had to help get as many of these dogs out of their current living situation as soon as I could.
Ms. Grumpy hadn’t made a noise until I stopped for the night. Then she began to start howling. And howling. And howling. She kept watching me from inside the van and appeared to be looking for something. I tried to cover the crating so that she might not have street lights blinding her eyes in hopes that she would lie down and get quiet. She was so restless and pawing the bottom of the crate and her blankets. With each howl, my heart hurt even more for these dogs. I had noticed her deformed hips and legs. These had to hurt her as she was not even able to sit comfortably. She sat with her hips pointed sideways. My heart cried. She had sores all over her back and her coat was cut down cover her hack revealing these sores. I sat in the van with her for hours, talking with her and trying to get her to stop howling and eventually she did finally lie down to sleep. I promised her that I would help get others like her out, if she could just lie down and sleep. I made an agreement with her that night.
When we met up with Lori Wudel in South Carolina later the next day, Ms. Grumpy had been in transit 41 hours already and still had several more to go. Lori loaded her from my van to her car, again without her feet hitting the ground, and soon she was off and on the final leg of her journey to fostering.
Grace, Mercy and I were on our final leg of our trip to Florida. I knew that I had been forever changed in the past 36 hours. Never again would I think that it was someone else’s job to do the breed rescue. Never again would I feel that conformation and rescue were mutually exclusive. This would be the first of my three transports of these 101 Keeshonden.