2015-07-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Ibizan or Portuguese Podengo Grande? That is the question. No, this phrase is not from a Starbucks menu, or a longer version of Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be?” Instead it suggests the logical choices while verifying the breed of an adorable puppy that surfaced at Brookhaven Town Shelter.

On July 16 a staff member posted a picture on the Brookhaven Shelter Strays Facebook page of a dog with rabbit ears, a long snout and a cute pink nose, saying he was a male stray picked up in Medford. Wait a minute; could it be? Immediately I shared the post with sight hound and dog-savvy friends, adding the curt question- “Ibizan Hound?” We’d need more views to confirm the breed of the dog in the photo, since we were basing our analysis on only one full face view.

The next morning I called the staff member to say he looked like a small Ibizan Hound, and that such a shelter rarity would be best placed through Ibizan or Sight Hound Rescue because of the breed’s complexity. She said the stray was a puppy with baby teeth, and that in profile his nose was quite pointy. She thought he resembled a Portuguese Podengo as compared to several Podengos either surrendered or redeemed at the shelter by members of the Portuguese community in Farmingville. Once “Ibizan” was mentioned, the shelter’s breed opinion changed also.

Portuguese Podengos are a breed of hunting dogs, smooth or coated, developed in Portugal centuries ago. They come in three sizes: Pequeno (small), Medio and Grande. Only Podengo Pequenos are currently recognized by the AKC. Podengos are lively and spirited, and can jump straight up like a kangaroo. The small ones hunt rabbits while the larger varieties hunt wild boar in their native land.

Meanwhile, the Ibizan Hound is named for the island of Ibiza off the coast of Spain. With deer-like elegance, this graceful breed was a hunting companion to the pharaohs of Egypt before being brought to Ibiza by Phoenician traders. Ibizans are about the same size as the largest Podengo but have more chiseled, sight hound heads like Pharaoh Hounds or Borzois. They are sight and sound hunters, with rabbit as their usual quarry. Ibizans have the unique ability to be able to jump six feet in the air from a standstill. This escape artist skill is another reason they are best suited with experienced sight hound owners.

I picked up the three-and-a-half-month-old puppy at the shelter last Wednesday after his neuter. In over 30 years of visiting LI town shelters, he was the first sight hound puppy I ever pulled, and finding a shelter Ibizan puppy was even more remarkable. Different names had run through my head based on his heritage-“Balboa” or “Man O’War” (as in Portuguese Man O’War) if he was a Podengo; “Cortez” or “Franco” if he was an Ibizan; even “Harvey” because of his ears after Jimmy Stewart’s invisible rabbit. Once I met him, “Pablo” for Picasso or “Casals” fit this baby Ibizan, a treasure from Spain, perfectly.

Now I could take his photo from every angle.

Sight hound lovers transcend individual breed rescue. The owners of various breeds such as Whippets and Afghan Hounds all work well together when it comes to a rescue dog. This puppy’s photos went out to the sight hound universe for breed confirmation and a sight hound-experienced home. My Westminster photographer friend Mary Bloom worked on an Ibizan Hound book years ago so she had a collection of photos of Ibizans at various ages.

Ibizan and Podengo fanciers chimed in with their opinions and offers of help. Most believed Pablo to be an Ibizan Hound despite the fact that Podengo was more probable because of the nearby Portuguese population. A man had turned the puppy in as a stray but someone else at the same address had a different story which leads us to believe Pablo belonged to one of them. No one in the breed knew of an Ibizan litter born in the US during March which made Pablo’s presence more mystifying. He has double dew claws, a trait which suggests European lines. So many qualified people offered to adopt or foster him that it was gently posted that he would be safely placed.

Michelle Barlak, rescue chair of the Ibizan Hound Club of the US (www.ihcus/rescue), has been extremely helpful. She had two excellent foster-to-adopt homes with owners who’ve done lure coursing with their Ibizans, one in Ohio and one in CT. She arranged for transport to a foster home so IHCUS could evaluate Pablo to see where he would do best. She spoke to Ibizan Rescue in Spain for any leads to Pablo’s background and learned about 15% of Ibizans born there have double dew claws. Michelle also mentioned IHCUS has encountered Ibizans in need within NJ Portuguese communities. It seems they may be imports via hunter breeders in Spain. I am so grateful for assistance from Michelle and sight hound rescue friends Bonnie Folz and Anna Stromberg. Meanwhile Pablo has been staying at Last Hope where he has an unofficial fan club of admirers. He gaits like a show horse. With his expressive green eyes, Pablo is a sensitive old soul who loves everyone. He became sad and bewildered when a cat hissed at him because he cannot fathom how anyone could not like him. When Pablo met my Edgar Afghan Poe, they rubbed needle noses. He visited my dad’s nursing home and made many friends. One resident had a long conversation with Pablo in Spanish. “I don’t think he understands,” she said.

Then serendipity stepped in. A Last Hope volunteer has a childhood friend who is a veterinarian in Virginia. Cathy (the vet) has “Rose,” a five-year-old Ibizan that her family adopted as a puppy from a local shelter. Someone imported a litter from the Netherlands but then surrendered all six because the sire was in doubt. The pups turned out to be purebred Ibizans, and the siblings meet for play dates. Cathy now volunteers at that local shelter. Her family lives on a huge, fenced, wooded property and has been looking for an Ibizan buddy for Rose. Pablo is going to be that buddy which fills my sight houndloving heart with joy.

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