It takes a village to raise a hound (with video!)

The Volunteers: A few of the people helping with the Iroquois puppies this spring. Thanks, y'all!

AND, LUCKILY, we’ve got a village. They probably weren’t overjoyed at being immortalized on video, but the folks who volunteer with the Iroquois hounds are a hardy, stiff-upper-lip-and-get-on-with-it group. They would always rather be out with horses and hounds than being seen on the screen. On the other hand, they were delighted to talk about the hounds they’ve been working with and how much they enjoy it. That they do enjoy being part of the hounds’ lives is entirely clear from the way they talk about their favorites, what kind of progress young so-and-so has made since last week, or a new discovery they’ve made about hounds that has opened up a new way of looking at the hunt.

Working with the hounds has done that for all of us: given us a new and interesting perspective on what’s really happening when we’re galloping behind Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason on the field. Now, when we’re trotting behind the hounds on the way to the first covert, we’re watching not just “the hounds,” but individual personalities we’ve come to know. We look forward to the day our favorite young hound, now entered, will own the line for the first time. We strain to hear a familiar voice in the thickets. We watch them and take pride in their progress. We love them.

Gene Baker and his wife Christine are often on the scene at kennel events, and Gene also helps by doing photography. Unlike me, he has lenses--plural--and knows when his lens cap is closed!

As one kennel visitor who frequently drives over with his wife from Louisville put it recently, “I always thought of hunting as galloping and jumping. That’s what it was about for us. But I see now that this part is the real fun!”

Driver: Happy happy happy!

Here’s another benefit: working with the hounds gets you through the gap between hunt seasons that other people call “summer.” If you show or event your horse, it’s not so bad, but I’ll be the first to tell you that, as a person who loathes the heat, to me summer was always the price I paid for fall. At least, it was until I started going out on summer hound walks. Getting to watch the hounds’ training behind the scenes makes summer as interesting as fall, and it makes fall more interesting, too, for the reasons mentioned above.

Kennel manager Michael Edwards with Bree Morton, a vet tech at Richmond Road Vet clinic. Bree stopped by to work with Driver. Bree bottle-fed Driver at the clinic for almost six weeks last spring when he was a newborn.

For the hounds, having this group of volunteers expands their circle of friends–and that’s not as trivial as it might sound. By making contact with lots of different people, the young hounds learn to be comfortable outside the relatively cloistered community of their kennel. They get exposed to other sights, sounds, and smells, other voices and pats, while still identifying Lilla as their leader. They learn to approach the world and people around them with confidence and curiosity.

"Did you mention biscuits? I'd love one!" Sassoon knows what's in the pockets of Lilla's kennel coat.

It’s a two-way street.

So today we’re thanking the hound-program volunteers. All of you who have pitched in and helped the Iroquois hounds, here’s to you! Some of you are in the video above, and some of you weren’t there on that particular day, but you’re appreciated, and you know who you are (Eloise, are you reading?): THANK YOU!

Gaelic cools off after a tough afternoon of biscuit-chasing.

Whether you’re a hound-program volunteer or not, please consider donating to the Hound Welfare Fund to help care for our retired foxhounds! To donate online or by snail mail, click here. Rather sport a nifty HWF cap, T shirt, or polo shirt? We can help you with that! All proceeds go directly to care for the retired hounds, and your donations to the HWF are tax-deductible.

The Retired Hounds’ Personal Physician

"People know these animals have given so much to us, we've got an obligation to give something back to them," Dr. Snyder says

"People know these animals have given so much to us, we've got an obligation to give something back to them," Dr. Snyder says

Visit the Hound Welfare Fund website at www.houndwelfarefund.org.

Dr. Kirk Snyder, DVM, of the Richmond Road Veterinary Clinic in Lexington, Ky., has been providing health care to the Iroquois Hunt Club’s hounds–active and retired–for many years. Caring for high-performance athletes at the peak of their hunting careers is one thing, but providing veterinary care to retired hounds is quite another. So we put the question to him: once their hunting days are over, what veterinary care do retired hounds need?

All of the Iroquois Hunt Club’s retired hounds are cared for under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund, a non-profit foundation that is the first of its kind in the world.  The retired hounds receive veterinary treatment under the HWF’s guiding philosophy: to give every hound the health care it needs, within reason, given the hound’s age, physical condition, and prospects for good quality of life with the treatment. When it becomes necessary, infirm hounds are put to sleep humanely, giving them a painless and peaceful end to an active, happy life and retirement.

Full Cry: What sort of maintenance care do the retired hounds receive? Do you handle that?

Dr. Snyder: Actually, for the routine health care we have the kennel staff set up where they do annual required vaccinations, worming, flea and tick control, heartworm preventatives, and things like that, using vaccines and drugs that we recommend.  The kennel staff are perfectly qualified, and it is legal for them to perform these procedures, which reduces costs while ensuring excellent care.

We monitor things. Basically, our role at the clinic is diagnostic medicine and surgery. That’s where we come in. Much of the expense of the hounds’ care is in diagnostics. Just as we would with your house pet or a person, we sometimes need laboratory evaluations, X-rays, or ultrasounds. Those are necessary in helping determine what a hound’s problem is and then how to proceed.

Why spay or neuter a retired hound?

Unless they are going to be bred, hounds should be neutered or spayed for health reasons. In a female, at a certain age, she’ll reach a point where they really shouldn’t be having puppies or there is an increased risk of uterine complications. Uterine wall degeneration, for example, can be very serious.

Neutering males reduces problems like prostatitis, some prostate tumors, and aggression. Neutered males tend to stay closer to home, not wanting to roam as much. They settle down. So spaying and neutering are good for health and maintenance reasons.

People sometimes wonder if health care for retired hounds goes overboard, but are there times when you decide not to treat a hound?

Once we diagnose a problem in a hound, we work with the HWF to determine what the approximate cost of treating the problem will be and what the odds of a successful outcome are. A lot of the conditions we run across in these hounds are just things that would occur in anybody’s pet, and they are very, very treatable.

The Iroquois hounds are very fortunate. This is along the lines of what we’re seeing in the horse industry, with retirement facilities for thoroughbreds, standardbreds, and others, where people know these animals have given so much to us, we’ve got an obligation to give something back to them.

A colleague of mine who is a specialist at a veterinary college in another state, for example, has particularly commented on the shining example Iroquois is setting with its retired hounds. He’s just absolutely amazed by it. Of course, in society today, this seems to be becoming the norm. These hounds serve the hunt club eagerly as far as they can. We feel this care is our obligation to them for what they’ve done, as long as their quality of life is good.

To learn more about the Hound Welfare Fund and its innovative retirement program for the Iroquois hunt club’s hounds, visit www.houndwelfarefund.org.