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HOWELL HomeTown News Index

Too much puppy love?

Local resident, part of Bouvier rescue group, warns that movies can harm pet populations


Photo by ALAN WARD
Szkrybalo, pictured above with two Bouviers, remembers the 101 Dalmatians craze all too well.

 

By Maureen Patzer
Staff Writer

It was rated PG, but Howell resident Glenda Szkrybalo says the recent movie “The Dog of Flanders” scared her to death.

“I can see the same thing happening that happened with the remake of “101 Dalmatians,” Szkrybalo said. “Everybody thought the puppies were so cute and they rushed out to buy one. “

Breed has been viewed different ways
Appropriately described as a giant breed, the Bouvier des Flanders originated in Belgium where it was considered a poor man’s horse.

During World War I and World War II, the dogs were used for everything from pulling ambulance litters to artillery carts. The dogs were also used to run messages across enemy lines.
In rural settings, the dogs were used to herd sheep, pull carts, and as a general mode of transportation.

But, says Szkrybalo (pronounced “scribble low”) many of those dogs soon ended up abandoned or unwanted by their owners, who didn’t realize how much work owning a pure-bred dog can be.

“The same thing is true with Bouviers (the dog featured in the new movie),” Szkrybalo said. “They are very gentle and intelligent, but they need a lot of training — even my 14-year-old Bouvier still needs training.”
How much training?

“I’ve known Bouviers who have eaten the siding off a house and a living room full of furniture,” Szkrybalo said. “A bored Bouvier is a destructive Bouvier.”
Weighing in at somewhere between 87-110 pounds, a Bouvier closely resembles an overgrown teddy bear, but with one notable difference.

“They don’t have fur,” Szkrybalo said. “They have hair, and it needs to be brushed and groomed everyday and their beards need to be cleaned everyday as they get food in them.”

Ever since her father presented her with a Bouvier puppy when Szkrybalo was 15, she’s been dedicated to the Bouvier breed; currently, her love of the giant animals means Szkrybalo is serving as president of the Bouvier Rescue Society.
“We’re based in Michigan, but we take in dogs from all over the United States and Canada,” Szkrybalo said. “We take in between three to six dogs a week from owners who no longer want them.”

Szkrybalo’s words to the wise: “You can have a Bouvier in a smaller space like an apartment, but you’d better be prepared to give them a lot of exercise.
“You also have to be willing to groom them every day or have enough money to pay someone else to do it.”

Szkrybalo owns several Bouviers ranging in age from 2 to 14; her 2-year-old male, Gus, runs five miles a day, and participates in herding competitions and agility shows.

“They are wonderful dogs,” Szkrybalo said. “But they’re not for everybody.”

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