The Belgian Laekenois will soon be the AKC’s newest recognized breed. For an in-depth introduction to the breed, come back on July 1.
Her name was Diva but nothing could have been further off the mark appearance-wise in June 2018 when a bedraggled Belgian Laekenois first set foot permanently in Sharrii Hunt’s life.
Chevalric’s Darling Diva was whelped in the Netherlands in July 2013 and was imported by Flaxfield Kennels in Virginia while a puppy.
“I met this young Laeken bitch at a show in Concord, North Carolina, in March 2014,” Hunt recalls. “She was being shown by her import breeder who let me know she was considering selling her, as she was the wrong sized for her breeding program.
“Keeping an eye out for my next agility dog, I thought she would be a perfect fit. Later that year she was sold to someone in Michigan who wanted a bitch for a breeding program. Diva was shown in American Belgian Laekenois Association National Specialty in October 2015 and then dropped out of sight,” Hunt adds.
In September 2017 Gladys Cataline, an ABLA member, called Hunt to advise her the dog had been impounded in Mason, Michigan, by the local Sheriff’s Office and Ingham County Animal Control, when the owner was arrested for felony animal abuse.
Diva remained incarcerated until the case was heard in early June 2018. Following the verdict, Hunt, who lives in Newton, North Carolina, (1,400-mile roundtrip) was told she had 24 hours to pick up the dog or it would be “disposed of.”
Diva’s Fresh Start
“I will be forever thankful for Gladys, who lives near the shelter and dropped everything to get her from the shelter and arranged for a friend to open her grooming shop so an estimated 20-25 pounds of mats and fecal matter Diva had been carrying for at least 15 months could be removed.” Several hours later Cataline took a new-look Diva home. A couple of days later, Diva received additional clean-up and healing soaks, allowing for the remaining mats to be removed painlessly.
After retrieving Diva from the shelter, Cataline asked Hunt: “Do you want me to save as much of her coat as I can or do what is less painful for Diva?” For Hunt, that was a no-brainer, “Do what is most comfortable for Diva. She has spent well over 18 months or more in hell, she doesn’t deserve to be hurt anymore.”
Hunt, president of ABLA, compares an intake photo from September 2017 until June 2018 following the court date, saying “the only difference was an additional 9 ½ months of additional fecal matter except for a patch over her eye allowing her to see and mats cut from around her mouth to make certain she could eat and a clean-shaven spot on her belly where she was spayed, which was done as I traveled from North Carolina to Michigan.”
While Diva was sheltered, Cataline regularly brought her a high-quality kibble dog food, although she was not allowed to see the dog at any point. “She talked shelter workers into spending time with Diva, and without her efforts, Diva couldn’t have been pulled within the given time frame,” Hunt insists.
Home Sweet Home
“Diva was 5 years 8 months old when I brought her home, just less than 5 years from the time I first set my eyes on her at the Concord, North Carolina, shows. I fulfilled a promise to be there for her should things not work out for her in the future. There are times when a person sees a particular dog or animal and you know that someday that special entity will be with you.”
Hunt recalls her initial impressions with Diva, labeling her “a prissy, shy dog. Kind of fragile and petite.” Almost six years later when the two reconnected, Diva cocked her head and dashed towards Hunt. “I knew she remembered the times when I watched over her at the shows early on. That night she stayed on my lap and when it was time to go to bed, she slept cuddled up to me on the bed. She had nightmares, whimpering and moaning in her sleep. I held her close and whispered all would be OK. She quieted down and snuggled closer and slept soundly the rest of the night.”
The Resiliency of Laekenois
“She is enjoying her time playing with the rest of the Laekens here and finally blossoming into her own,” smiles Hunt. “I am very fortunate, MistD’s breeder was not only looking for type, good health, sound body, and best, temperament. Without these basics, this dog might have snapped, just given up and assumed hostile feelings toward humans.”
Last year she passed the American Temperament Test Society exam, a bold testament to her resiliency, a trademark with the American Kennel Club’s newest all-breed competitor.