It takes hours of work to fluff an Old English Sheepdog into shape for a dog show, like the Eastern Dog Club Show, held last month at Hynes Auditorium and pictured here. Between shows a weekly brushing suffices, but even this can be a painstaking, four-hour job of combing out matted hair in the dog's undercoat. In fact, many owners tire of the excessive grooming, and abandon their sheepdogs to dog pounds and humane societies. Sometimes, the dogs are casualties of divorces and job transfers, or they may be left behind because they grow larger and more rowdy than their owners had expected.
Anne Raker [above left], owner of Ambelon Kennels in Lincoln, bred 120 Old English Sheepdogs over 18 years. But last year she stopped breeding in order to start rescuing abandoned sheepdogs. In only one year she placed 54 neglected dogs in new homes. Some of the dogs arrived with hair so thickly matted that Raker could cut off the coat in a single piece, exposing underneath a very thin dog riddled with worms. Dogs with neglected coats are susceptible to eczema, and flies lay eggs in warm, moist infected areas.
Reports of abandoned sheepdogs reach Raker by word of mouth from Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. A $50 donation from the adopting owners goes toward organizing more rescue efforts. Raker encourages breeders of other dogs to start similar programs. She says, "It's only those people with a thorough knowledge of their breed who can intervene effectively and relocate these welfare dogs to appropriate homes."