Hello all, I'm new to the forum and new to basenjis. I have been doing my homework in anticipation of adding one to the family, and in poking around these forums I saw Sarah/Nocturnal's name come up with some questions, so I thought it worth posting my experience.
My husband and I are recent transplants to North Carolina, to Roxboro, which is where Sarah and her husband have a little farm. Our dog is getting to be an oldster, we have been thinking about a second dog for a long time and figure this is a good time to seriously start looking, while our old fella can still enjoy romping with a pupster. I had a short list of breeds I was considering, and basenjis hadn't really even crossed my mind. We are mostly looking for a pet, but I'm a currently non-practicing falconer, and would like to start training a rabbit dog in anticipation of hunting rabbits as a team with a hawk in a couple years… but it's a hobby, so if it didn't turn out to be a champ in that way, we'll still love it as a pet. As I said, basenjis weren't on my radar, but after meeting Sarah's dogs, both my husband and I left thinking a basenji checks every single one of our "wants in a dog" boxes.
Roxboro is a small town, and I met Sarah by accident at the post office. I pulled in next to her and she has a bumper sticker that says "Fight noise pollution, get a basenji!". I'm a dog geek and it made me laugh, so I struck up a conversation with her. She also has an American Livestock Breed Conservancy sticker, so I asked her about that. We're looking for good sources of farm-direct food, and she's a long-term ALBC member--she raises critically endangered heritage livestock breeds for slow food and preserving biodiversity. I was really excited about that and we set up a date for my husband and I to come out and pack our trunk with Dexter beef for the freezer. We talked a little about the basenjis, but mostly her farm.
We went out there a couple days ago, and she gave us a tour of the farm and kennel. It's not a chi-chi place, it's a home-built kennel on a pretty, biodiverse, sustainable farm. As a dog nerdy kid, I worked for a couple fancy show kennels with gorgeous custom-built facilities. This is rustic and hand-built a little at a time, but it's absolutely clean, well-planned, and constructed. There are a row of kennels on one side, and a "hub" of kennels around an indoor kennel area on the other. The ground is hard-packed dirt, but it's extremely clean. Everyone had ample fresh water. She has Welsh Terriers, Westies, and Basenjis, her husband has a few pugs. I saw photos of a dachshund, that was her old personal pet.
One thing that immediately struck me was how quiet the dogs were. To be very frank, I was expecting noisy, unruly kennel dogs, mediocre-built dogs bred for the local pet market. These dogs were clean, bright, alert, active, and extremely friendly. There was a little friendly yammering here and there, but zero hysterical "unsocialized terrier" barking. They all crowded up against us, but were respectful and not jumping all over. They were clearly responsive to her and they were mannerly, happy, well-socialized dogs. The same with the basenjis. They wiggled all over up against the fence, but were not jumping around like unsocialized maniacs. We made it a point to pet just about every dog there, they were all friendly and clearly extensively handled. My husband isn't very familiar with pariah type dogs, and was expecting aloof, standoffish dogs. These were not that, they were all really cuddly. He asked her about it and she said the neighborhood kids come around all week, playing with the dogs.
The indoor kennel facility was great. Again, not fancy, hand-built a little at a time, but it's absolutely a well-planned, sanitary, functional kennel space. Each kennel connects to an indoor dog box with a bed, clean shavings, a heat lamp and warming mat. She showed us a two-day-old litter. I would have expected mama to be wary of strangers with her babies, but she snuggled right into us and showed off her pups. They were all unavailable, placed with wait-listed owners. These are clearly extensively socialized, well-loved dogs. She had charts and whiteboards up with medical info, feeds very decent kibble--not primo grain free, but a fine food, and the dogs are in great weight. Not kennel fat, and not ribby and paunchy like dogs that eat cheap corn kibble.
I'm not intimately familiar with the basenji standard, or what's winning in the show ring. so I can't speak to the quality of her dogs in that way. But I do have an eye for a well-built working dog, and these all looked like sturdy, easy-movers, to me. Their coats were glossy, their eyes and noses clear, they're fit and active. They were alert and responsive and clearly attentive to Sarah. There were older pups there, but only one she was thinking about placing. The rest are going to co-owners to campaign, since she can't physically travel for shows anymore.
I appreciate that she doesn't require early spay/neuter. I am a responsible dog owner, have no intention to breed dogs, my dogs are never unattended outside or in the house, and absent any compelling physical reason to do so, I just don't see the need to lop off a piece of their endocrine system just to be PC. I appreciate that she gives me that choice. I also don't personally have a problem if she makes money selling dogs. I think anyone making anything on an artisanal basis deserves to get paid for their work so they can keep doing it. She is clearly not raking in piles of dough, but she talked about plans for improving the kennels, and you can't do that if you're constantly in the red. I don't think dog breeding should be limited to those who have piles of hobby money to dispose of, and as a puppy buyer I am happy to pay the costs of raising a good dog plus support the improvement of her breeding program.
Anyway, I was really impressed with her and her dogs. I hadn't thought about basenjis before, but I am really interested in pariah type dogs. We like a non-barking dog--our other dog is also of a breed that hunts silently--like the tidy coat, like the moderate natural build, like a dog who is a thinker and problem-solver. I'll be chasing rabbits with it a few times a week, and if that doesn't work out we'll do agility or parkour together ;0).
My husband was surprised about how much he enjoyed them too. While I was strategizing how to bring up the idea of getting a basenji as my rabbit dog, he was strategizing how to bring up the idea of having one as a pet =). We got in the car, looked at each other, and started talking about maybe thinking about prospectively considering a basenji =D --so here I am, doing my homework and reading up on the forums!
Does anyone else here hunt with their basenjis? I found the yahoogroup, but it's been inactive for a couple years.
Sorry for the length, and hello!