- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE — They have droopy ears, stubby legs, big sad eyes and sagging faces. And an excellent sense of smell, which sometimes gets them into trouble.

“Basset hounds are known for being scent hounds with great noses, but they often wander, chasing squirrels or something, and then can’t find their way home,” said Melinda Brown, president of Charlottesville’s Basset Rescue of Old Dominion (BROOD).

Lost, abandoned, abused and unwanted basset hounds often end up with BROOD, established in November 1996 as a pet rescue and adoption group devoted exclusively to basset hounds. Miss Brown was one of the founders of the nonprofit group, which splintered from a similar group in Maryland.

In its first year, BROOD rescued about 50 dogs. More recently, it has worked with 130 to 140 basset hounds each year, rescuing more than 1,100 since the group began its work throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the District, as well as parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Charlottesville resident Kathy Davies and her husband, Ted, adopted their 2-year-old dog from BROOD in September. The couple already had one basset hound and was looking for another when it found the group’s Web site.

“There’s something funny about the fact that bassets have no idea that they’re small dogs,” Mrs. Davies said. “They have very big-dog attitudes.”

Like the Davies, many people who use BROOD are looking for basset hounds and find the group while searching online. The BROOD Web site has pages of adoptable basset hounds and short descriptions of each. But the process of putting a basset hound up on the site — and the subsequent adoption process — can be extensive.

Many of BROOD’s dogs come from shelters that are too crowded to hold them or from people who find strays. The group first confirms that a dog is a purebred basset hound before retrieving it. Then a volunteer takes it to a veterinarian for a health checkup, and the group pays for neutering, shots and any other necessary medical procedures.

The dog then goes to a volunteer foster home for at least two weeks, and the volunteer puts together a write-up for the Web site about the dog’s personality, eating habits and other needs.

When someone decides to adopt, a BROOD volunteer goes to the home to make sure it’s suitable for a basset hound.

“We often look for a fenced-in yard, if possible, and make sure it’s a good environment for a dog,” Miss Brown said.

If all goes well, the person meets with an adoption coordinator, who serves as a sort of matchmaker.

“We try to find the right dog for each home, because we hope that the dog will arrive at his last home and become part of the family,” Miss Brown said.

The procedure can seem exhausting, but Albemarle County resident Eric Birkholz said it was invaluable.

“We were able to ask a lot of questions and know this was the right dog for us before we made the commitment,” he said. “And now we’ve got Henry, who’s just a peach.”

Jill Rinaca of Weyers Cave, Va., provides foster care for basset hounds, transports them and serves as an adoption coordinator with BROOD. Two years ago, she adopted a dog through the group and quickly became a volunteer.

“I just found myself getting more and more involved,” she said. The owner of three bassets also calls herself a “foster failure” because she ended up adopting one of the dogs she was fostering.

“That happens a lot,” she said. “You just end up really liking one of the dogs you’re caring for.”

The price for BROOD basset hounds ranges from about $100 for “senior dogs,” who are older than 7 to $300 for the more popular puppies.

Just about every breed of dog has a rescue program of some kind, though Miss Brown said golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers receive the most attention.

“All of these groups have the same goals in mind,” she said. “We all take an immense satisfaction in what we do. When they come to us, these dogs are usually very upset, and it feels good to help them find a home.”

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