Here they come, walking - er, waddling down the street. Getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet. They are the basset hound brigade of Mid America Basset Rescue, a popular group in Saturday's Apple Blossom Festival parade in St. Joseph, Mo.
Mid America Basset Rescue was founded in 1997 by Paola resident Kim Dunn as part of the now-defunct BH Cares, Inc. Today, MABR is incorporated as a non-profit organization under Kansas law, and makes its business the care and placement of unwanted basset hounds throughout the Midwest.
MABR receives dogs mostly from the states of Missouri and Kansas, but has also helped bassets from Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and parts of Iowa. Many come from shelters, puppy mills or are relinquished by their owners.
According to Sarah Cunningham, Foster Coordinator and Lawrence resident, MABR looks after around 40 hounds at any one time. The usual stay in foster care will vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the age and health of the dog.
In a year, over 200 dogs will enter the system. With only about a dozen foster homes volunteering, the extra dogs are either kenneled - at cost - or temporarily added to Dunn's pack until a foster home can be found.
All dogs get complete medical treatment, including vaccinations, heartworm preventative and treatment if necessary. Every basset is also spayed or neutered before adoption. Medical bills are covered by the adoption fee ($125 per dog), donations and fund raising events like Saturday's parade.
Over 80 hounds had their humans regsiter them for the parade. Most made it all the way through the route, but several had to be helped into one of the "pooped pup pickups" following the group.
Dunn estimated that MABR raised about $7,000 at the event, from pledges, registration fees and the raffle held at the post-parade picnic. However, that amount hardly begins to cover MABR's annual costs, which hover around $30,000 for vet care, food, transportation, as well as operating costs.
Most of the money raised Saturday will go to finish "Operation Buddy." Buddy is a one year-old hound who suffers from severe angular limb deformation. He was rescued from an abusive environment in Tennessee where he was kept in such close confinement that his front legs could not grow properly. He is almost done with his many surgeries, and is on his way to a more active, normal life. Keep up with Buddy's story at the MABR web site.
At last year's parade, MABR's hounds won the "Best Walking Group" award. Word is still out on this year's competition, but if the award was based on barking, slobber or the length of their ears, the basset hounds should repeat, no problem.
Mid America Basset Rescue is always on the lookout for new foster volunteers, and "forever homes" for dogs currently in the system. For more information, or to see the bassets currently up for adoption, visit MABR's home page or email Kim Dunn. For information on fostering a hound, email Sarah Cunningham.