Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Can we keep her?

Visiting family rescues abandoned great Pyrenees

Express Staff Writer

Greg Headley of Washington carries an abandoned great Pyrenees, later named Baker, down the trail at Baker Lake. Photo courtesy of Greg Headley.

The Headley family of Bothell, Wash., was not expecting to find a stray dog on their hike around Baker Lake, in the Smoky Mountains north of Ketchum. But Greg Headley, the father of Brooke, 11, and Ariana, 9, carried the wounded great Pyrenees down the trail, and the family took her to St. Francis Pet Clinic. They eventually claimed her as their own, sending her to live on a relative's ranch. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that their great Pyrenees, later named Baker, gave birth to three puppies just weeks upon her arrival in Washington.

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt, a veterinarian at Saint Francis Pet Clinic who treated Baker, said at least one sheep dog is abandoned each season in the Wood River Valley.

"Basically, if they can't keep up with the herd of sheep, they get abandoned," Fostvedt said. "Shepherding is a business, and dollars and cents mean everything. So they simply cannot spend any money taking care of these dogs."

Baker is one of the lucky survivors. According to Fostvedt, few sheep dogs can bounce back from the ailments and malnourishment.

In addition to sheep dogs, Fostvedt sometimes treats abandoned sheep. Usually, he only reaches them out in the field when it is too late for him to do anything but put them to sleep.

Amy Sloper, assistant shelter manager for the Wood River Animal Shelter, confirmed that the shelter receives a number of border collies and great Pyrenees, breeds that are often used as sheep dogs. Yet the shelter is never told the dogs' origins.

"Sheepherders use them, but people also have them as pets," Sloper said. "We just can't say more because we don't know more."

Fortunately for Baker, she has a new family to care for her and a new family to care for.

"This seems like a regular issue there," Headley said. "That's too bad [because] these dogs are awesome."

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