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Freedom is at Hand by Dee Wingfield
My name is Dee Wingfield, mostly from Florida, but I can be found traveling in my motor home almost anywhere these days. I am probably best known as a rescue person, but really I am a Keeshond person. I rescue Kees because I love them, not because I want to be a rescuer. I want to do all I can to preserve and protect this breed that I love.
In October 2013, Keeshond rescuers were contacted by a self-identified veterinary technician about Marjorie’s Kennel, a high volume commercial breeder located near Binghamton, in Harpursville, NY. This veterinary worker was dealing with the NY state inspectors and breeder Marjorie Ingraham. He told me that he believed Mrs. Ingraham was genuine in her desire to discontinue her breeding operation. Marjorie Ingraham seemed to be a reluctant participant, but she wanted to get out from under the scrutiny of the New York State authorities. She indicated that she wanted to stop breeding and to retire, but she needed to place her dogs. This breeder often fails state inspections, but little has been done to improve the lot of the dogs at the kennel. Mrs. Ingraham has been breeding Keeshonden for over 30 years, and is arguably the largest single-site Keeshond breeder in North America. To close this kennel would hugely benefit not only the Kees currently in the kennel, but also reputable Keeshond breeders and potential owners.
The veterinary worker indicated that around fifty of the original Kees had been euthanized, purportedly for illness and possible fear aggression. He also reported that approximately fifty of the Kees were sent to auction, which is a very sad occurrence, if true. He systematically obtained neuters and basic vet care for many of the males at the kennel. He was able, supposedly, to obtain basic vet care for the females, but could not get them altered. All of the dogs and bitches had to be returned to the breeder’s kennel after vet care because there was nowhere for them to go after they were treated. These dogs resided in various-sized pens with as many as thirty to forty other Kees. Obviously, the females could not return to that kind of situation after a spay.
Throughout October and November, I contacted several different rescue groups, organizations, and humane societies to try to get help, advice and assistance with the situation. I found very little support or cooperation. Most simply didn’t feel the situation was legitimate in that it was probably just a breeder dumping unwanted breeding stock. I initially felt the same, but as I investigated more and talked with people and authorities in the area, I had hope and a positive opinion that it was not just unwanted breeding stock being released.
In November 2013, Keeshond rescuers, with me as the liaison and lead, began to accept Keeshonden released from the breeder. The veterinary worker initiated the kennel pulls, and I coordinated transports and foster care for each Keeshond. Suncoast Keeshond Rescue, Inc., and Keeshond Rescue Ontario were the only Keeshond rescue groups willing to take any of these Kees. Most of the Kees were placed with individual established rescuers.
All of the dogs were initially transported in small numbers and each one was placed into an approved foster home. Since they had had little to no veterinary care, everything needed to be checked, which means money. Well, I asked for it online. Most of the Keeshond world responded in an astounding fashion. I think we raised $50,000 within the first week. It’s been amazing. No one could have asked for better support, by and large, from the worldwide Keeshond community. By Christmas we had pulled more than thirty Kees and placed them into foster care.
By then we had a virtual army of volunteers transporting dogs, soliciting corporate donations, holding fundraisers, networking, running a website, taking care of dogs, planning, executing plans, and most importantly, praying for all of the dogs and people involved. Keeshond people from around the world were mobilized, energized, and determined.
In early January, we initiated a transitional prep program for dogs that were released from the kennel. We made that decision because of the variety of health issues we had encountered with many of the dogs who had been surrendered. Each dog was caked in stench from dried urine and feces, oftentimes in layers. There were untreated bacterial, yeast and fungal infections, lameness, parasites of almost every known kind, coccidia, giardia, campylobacter, bite wounds, abscesses, hip dysplasia, demodex, luxating patellae, and malformed limbs. And those are just the physical aspects. In the interest of the health and safety of the dogs and of the foster homes, the dogs that were pulled after the first of January 2014 were temporarily placed in a boarding kennel. We established a target handling protocol for all dogs at that time.
One hundred percent of the dogs that have been surrendered from Marjorie’s Kennel have been unsocialized, often fearful of human contact. They often shied away completely from human contact. They had no concept of leash walking. They often had confinement anxiety in crates. They are all making progress, always in baby steps. And we rejoice in each of those steps. The path to mental health will be ongoing.
To date we have placed forty-seven Keeshonden in permanent adoptive homes, twelve Kees are still in foster care or pending adoptive care, and one little girl, Kenzie, sadly, has died. She was a happy little Kees, who had an accidental escape from the yard, was immediately hit by a car and killed instantly. Along the way, we have had a few other scares, but thankfully, the results were positive.
Financially, as of July 2014, we have raised approximately $80,000 in donations. Approximate expenses have been $46,000.
In March 2014, the breeder, Marjorie Ingraham, decided to reneg on her surrender of the remaining dogs at her kennel. Although the number of dogs was initially over 100, only 60 dogs were actually surrendered.
We are now working night and day around the world to broadcast the plight of the dogs at Marjorie’s Kennel. We are a small breed group, but we know we’re having an impact. We have petitioned Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, as well as every legislator in the state of New York, along with officials at the New York Department of Agriculture, the Broome County Humane Society in New York, and we are contacting news outlets throughout the globe. We are raising our voices for these dogs, whose voices have not been heard by those assigned to protect them.
As a worldwide community, we have a history and success in caring for and rehabilitating these dogs. We have proof that we can financially care for them. We believe it it is in the best interests of the dogs and the taxpayers of New York for us to be awarded all of the dogs at Marjorie’s Kennel.
We have seen miracle after miracle with each of these Kees. We have seen the worldwide Keeshond community rally behind these precious Kees and the frontline volunteers who are working for their release, transporting them, providing foster care and adoptive care. The generosity of those who support our breed is outstanding. I am humbled and blessed by Keeshonden and by those who support them. The volunteers directly involved in this effort number in the dozens, and the overall supporters number in the thousands.
On a personal note, this has not been easy and has taken a toll mentally, physically and emotionally on me and many of our volunteers. It’s not pleasant to have to deal with people who have so little regard for the dogs that we cherish. But it must be done in order to ensure that these dogs have a life.
Our goal here remains to procure every Keeshond at Marjorie’s Kennel. Our commitment remains strong, and will continue, regardless of obstacles.
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