by Sue Owens Wright
After Roscoe’s family moved, they had no room for their 10-year-old Basset Hound. Luckily for him, Susan Nickleson opened her heart and home to the aging hound. Roscoe, who when she adopted him weighed 103 pounds (no wonder they had no room for him!), is now in great shape at 79 pounds. “He is absolutely a gem, and he now has a wonderful home with my husband and me,” Nickleson said.
Roscoe has become a pampered pet who gets regular dental care and bathing and has had 40 cysts removed (sebaceous cysts are a common problem in older bassets) by Dr. Yoo and his staff at Shieldstone Pet Hospital that attends to the needs of her rescue dogs. “People tell me that when they pass away, they want to come back and be one of my Bassets,” she said about her spoiled Basset kids.
Nickleson is President of Basset Rescue of Central California (BRCC), a nonprofit organization that began in 2000. “I had always wanted a Basset,” she said. “My husband got me my first Basset, Chloee, as a wedding present.” Since then she has studied the breed as intensely as a Basset tracks a scent, constantly striving to educate the public about the character and care of Basset Hounds. She not only runs a Basset rescue but is also a handler of Bassets in the show ring. This lady knows her hounds.
She admits that Basset Hounds aren’t for everyone. Drool rules in a Basset’s home. Neatniks or control freaks need not apply. These headstrong hounds are not the easiest of breeds to live with, and that’s why many of them end up being surrendered to shelters and rescues. “You can’t always negotiate with a Basset. They almost always win their way.” That’s because it’s so hard to say no when they look at you with those Sad Sack eyes. You’ll instantly forget all about the shedding, slobber, counter-cruising, howling, and having to move the dog to get the best seat in the house, but you’ll never forget their special brand of Basset Hound love.“I absolutely love this breed, and it just hurts so badly when there is a Basset that has a terrible home or is stray or hurt,” Nickleson said. That’s why she and her volunteers are so dedicated to saving all the Bassets they can. Nickleson became president of BRCC in July 2001 after learning that there would be no more Basset rescue in her region unless someone picked up the leash for these deserving hounds and ran with it.
Starting out with no money, volunteers, foster homes, or support and four homeless Bassets to rehome, the group was embarking on a rough trail. But just like the steadfast hounds they rescue, BRCC volunteers were tenacious in pursuing their quarry. They blitzed the TV and print media about their Bassets and manned information booths at every event to solicit volunteers, fosters, and donations. You’d see them gathered at every Christmas parade or Bark in the Park, along with their Good Will Ambassetors. Before long, volunteers were over 30 strong, and a number of foster homes opened their doors to homeless hounds. Foster families often end up as “foster flunkies” when they fall in love their foster dog and adopt it. Of course, this means there is one less foster to depend on for other rescued hounds until they can be placed in permanent homes. The up side is that the dog is already in its forever home, which is the ultimate goal of Basset rescue.
All was going well for a time, but then the second Great Depression made many people and their pets suddenly homeless. “The economy is a big part of these Bassets ending up in rescue or shelters,” Nickleson said. “People have to leave their homes and cannot take their Bassets with them. Unfortunately, when people are cutting corners and expenses, the first to go are often these four-legged creatures.” That really upsets Nickleson because the dogs didn’t have a choice in any of this. They don’t get to pick their owners. If they did, they’d choose one that would not so readily abandon his best friend when the chips are down.
To get things running smoothly again, BRCC needs more dedicated volunteers to help with all aspects of their rescue operation. That includes people who will help with things like doing safety checks at potential foster homes, transportation, fundraising, newsletters, and phones. The more big-hearted Basset lovers available, the better, to avoid volunteer burnout.
The next big event and main fundraiser for BRCC is the annual Kingsburg Swedish Festival Parade, better known among these basset fanciers as The Basset Waddle, which will be held this year on May 21. It’s a special day when all the Basset Hounds get dressed up and…uh…waddle. Every year features a different theme for Basset attire. They’ve had Hawaiian Bassets, Western Bassets, Swedish Bassets, All-American Bassets—who knows what’s the next fashion in Waddle Wear? Whatever those haute hounds will be wearing this year, there’ll be a contest for Best Dressed Basset Male and Female. The festivities also include a delicious Tri-Tip Lunch and a Raffle.
Volunteers are desperately needed to help out with the raffle, float, food, and everything else. There would be no Basset Waddle or Rescue without volunteers and donations. Won’t you please help rescue this Basset Rescue? BRCC is all ears for your fundraising ideas. To make suggestions or donations, call 1-800-273-2513 (press code 03 at prompt), or visit their website for more information about the upcoming Waddle. A word of warning to novice Waddlers! While enjoying your juicy Tri-Tip, keep a sharp lookout for those cunning, counter-cruising Bassets.