Between 400 and 500 basset hounds will take to the streets of Birmingham on May 16, waddling their way to raise money that will save more of their own kind.
“This whole waddle idea has literally saved thousands and thousands of basset hounds,” said Melissa Fenchel of Waterford Township, the president of Michigan Basset Rescue.
This year will be the 15th year that the “Basset Waddle” will take part in the Celebrate Birmingham Parade.
The story of the Basset Waddle goes back to when Fenchel’s previous dogs, Old English Sheepdogs, were getting old in age.
“I think there’s a basset hound gene that some people have, because I was just drawn to them,” Fenchel said. “Whenever I happened to see one in public, I’d kind of freak out and say, ‘Can I pet your dog? He’s so wonderful.’”
When her sheepdogs died, Fenchel said she was ready to make the switch.
“Bassets aren’t small dogs; they’re pretty big dogs on short legs,” Fenchel said.
Years later, Fenchel started the basset rescue thinking she would take in a couple dogs a month, rehabilitate them and find them permanent homes.
While the rescue group was still in its first year, Fenchel’s mother suggested they take part in the Celebrate Birmingham Parade as a way to get some exposure.
The bassets turned out to be popular with the crowd, the media and especially other basset owners.
The Basset Waddle was born, along with the idea to have people pledge money for each block their basset successfully waddled through.
“One year, we got featured in LIFE Magazine and that’s when it really grew,” Fenchel said. “It was completely insane, our phone was ringing off the hook.”
Basset owners now travel from all across the nation to take part in the Basset Waddle.
In addition to that, Fenchel has advised other basset rescues from New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Texas and more on how to set up similar waddles in their communities.
“And people will bring their dogs out just to watch the bassets,” Fenchel said. “We’ll look along the sidelines and every breed, size and shape of dog you can think of will be sitting there.”
Fenchel said the event is critical to supporting the rescue and its veterinary bills. She hopes to raise $50,000 this year.
“And it doesn’t take long to go through $50,000,” Fenchel said.
For instance, a dog named Sophie recently came to the group covered in ticks and heartworm positive.
“Her vet bill will total about $1,000,” Fenchel said. “Our vet bills average between $2,000 and $3,000 a month.”
The group now takes in five or six dogs a week, placing all of them in foster homes until an adoptive family is found.
“It’s amazing, still. When I first started rescuing bassets, I thought it would be one or two a month,” said Fenchel. “We never dreamed it would be anything like this.”
Got a basset?
The Michigan Basset Rescue is hosting a picnic in Waterford Township for basset hounds and their owners on Saturday, May 15. The Basset Waddle is part of the Celebrate Birmingham Parade, which begins at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 16, on N. Old Woodward near Booth Park. More information on the events is online at michiganbassetrescue.org.
Want a basset?
The basset rescue certainly has plenty of 'em if you do. In fact, four of the photos in this blog are of dogs currently up for adoption through the Michigan Basset Rescue — learn more about them by clicking here.
Be aware, however, that basset hounds are not lazy little dogs.
"A typical basset is a scent hound, when they put their nose to the ground they tune you out," Fenchel said. "They're very independent thinkers and they don't want to please people, they want people to please them."
Fenchel said bassets are very active until about the age of 3 or 4, when they begin settling down. Even then, however, bassets still need regular exercise to keep their muscles strong.
Because of their long body and spine compared to their short little legs, bassets can also injure themselves when jumping down from places like couches or beds. Ensuring bassets are not overweight can help prevent back problems.