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“Ethan #176 or #178.” It’s hard to make out the blurred last digit of the huge number painted on the side of this frightened hound from Virginia. For many of us, especially Long Islanders far removed from pack dog hunting or field trials, and for those of us who consider our dogs as family, it’s harder to fathom why or how anyone could degrade a dog in this way, and then dump him.
Sadly, we learned that painting numbers on dogs is common practice in rural states where hunting dogs in packs or in competition trials is popular. Sadder still, dogs that don’t make the grade or merely get lost are often left behind to fend for themselves or worse. Some are intentionally starved or shot. In these areas, hounds are second-class canine citizens; worthless, unless they can hunt. We have left-behind Beagles on LI too. Hunters leave stragglers on the Edgewood property where they bring packs to hunt rabbits. (These Beagles do not have numbers on their sides but sometimes have cut ears as ID markers.)
Ethan, the numbered Hound, came to Last Hope in Wantagh from Amherst County Humane in Virginia three weeks ago. Hounds stand little chance of adoption in Southern states and do better here. We have taken Coonhounds, Foxhounds and Beagles from this particular shelter plus others in Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina but we weren’t prepared for the painted numbers. These came as a puzzling shock. At first we thought the numbers were shaved in. Actually they seem to be from some sort of paint.
Ethan was timid, yet sweet. He hesitated to venture outdoors; and when he did, he veered toward the pet cemetery and away from the road. Previous Hounds have only wanted to be outdoors. They get nervous inside as if they have never been indoors. Ethan was more relaxed if around other dogs or if pet in his kennel. He arrived with antibiotics for two tick-borne diseases- Lyme and erlichiosis probably acquired during his time in the field. The volunteers spent lots of time giving him TLC. He became an instant favorite.
Amherst Humane had three numbered Hounds (#7, 8 and 176) recently. “Destiny” #8 had a black saddle painted on her midriff (not a dog term) with the numeral eight made of tape, adhering to the fake saddle. She was adopted via Petfinder. Ethan’s coat is white so his number shows up in black paint.
I asked dog expert friends if they had ever seen mysterious numbers. Barbara Kolk, former librarian at the AKC Library on Madison Avenue, stated that no sanctioned AKC event used numbers like this, but the library received many sporting publications from regional hunting groups. She’d seen lots of photos of Hounds with painted numbers; whereas Karen Blasche, historian for the American Pointer Club, well versed in field trials of her breed, had never seen numbers painted on bird dog participants, possibly because bird dogs like Pointers, Setters and Retrievers compete in pairs rather than large packs. “So it might just be Foxhounds and other game hunting dogs,” Karen wrote.
I have no objection to using numbers during a canine performance event. Sighthounds wear colored jackets when they lure course for fun. Sometimes these jackets have numbers on them so you can see the speed demons in the distance. We also use these Lycra jackets for rescued Sighthounds because the tight fit can be comforting to pressure points similar to anxiety wraps or thunder jackets. My Edgar Afghan Poe and his housemates wore lure coursing jackets as security blankets when they arrived on LI from the hoarder house in New Mexico.
Semi-permanent disfigurement and disregard for the dog’s dignity are what irks many dog lovers about the painted numbers. A little research into the paint-by-number practice reveals a cottage industry and various numbering techniques. There are companies that sell hunting and tracking equipment. One outfit in VA sells a pint of field trial paint for $9, a quart for $15 with the following claim: “This lacquer-based paint is a special mixture for painting dogs. Our customers have used this paint for years with great results. We do not thin our paint! You will get great coverage with just one coat.” Other more humane online stores carry black field trial racing jackets with peel and stick numbers which would be similar but not as colorful as the lure coursing attire.
The instructional site eHow explains that judges need a simple way to identify competing dogs from a distance without disturbing the dogs or their trainers, and then goes on to give detailed steps about how to apply the paint to a bathed and dry dog. Each numeral should be one by two foot in size.
Others prefer to use bleach and hair dye. A blog about a coyote and Foxhound hunt in Illinois explains: “Now, number time. For the judges of the field trial to be able to tell the dogs apart in the field, they have to be numbered. We bleached most of our dogs and dyed black numbers on them while we were at home. That makes a lot less work after you arrive at the field trial. A few were too dark to bleach well and had to have black blankets dyed on and white numbers painted on before the hunt. You can’t paint the numbers on too early, cause they feel itchy and the dogs chew them off.”
Ethan #176 or #178, discarded in Virginia, went to a lovely foster home in Seaford yesterday. The family had just lost their elderly Lab, and Ethan got along with their small dog. Upon arrival, he picked up a toy and took it to the yard where he discovered a pool and koi pond. Hopefully a whole new life is on this deserving Hound’s horizon. If all goes well, as his black numbers fade, so will bad memories of his abandonment.
For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Snowbelle” a Siamese mix came into the shelter nursing kittens in May. She is still waiting for a doting home. “Cisco,” a Hound/Bull Terrier pup about 10 months old, was hit by a car. He just had orthopedic surgery by a specialist to insert a pin in his leg. Now he needs a comfy place to convalesce and to call his own. Dogs: “Diego” Chihuahua; “Sparky” tiny Terrier mix; “Demi” lovely Pit; “Layla” Shepherd mix pup and a Boxer & Spaniel duo that came in together as strays. Feline favorites: “Mr. Man” and “Tango.”