The sad, true tale of 61 Finnish Lapphunds
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By Mickey Zeldes  February 21, 2014 12:00 am

Two weeks ago, I had never even heard of Finnish Lapphunds (and I consider myself knowledgeable about dog breeds) let alone met one. Who would imagine that I would meet not only one but 61 and take three into the shelter? It’s an interesting and very sad story.

The Sonoma County Humane Society got a call from a supporter about a Finnish Lapphund breeder up in Redding who was in financial straits and losing her home. She needed help in placing 21 of her show dogs. The Humane Society, probably thinking they were going to get some nice quality dogs that would be easy to adopt out, agreed to take them on and drove all the way up to Redding to get the dogs.

Well, as you’ve probably heard by now, the situation couldn’t have been worse for the dogs. There is a fine line (often crossed) between breeders/rescuers and hoarders. The distinction is often in the level of care provided (hoarders are usually overwhelmed with more animals than they can adequately care for) and whether or not they actually do sell/adopt out any of the animals or feel they are the only ones that can care for them.

This woman had actually been busted before for the care she was providing her dogs (then it was Samoyeds), but somehow through a court battle had been able to get them back. The fact that no one was keeping an eye on her “business” is a shame, and the animals suffered because of it.

The Lappies, (as the breed is nicknamed) were in horrible shape. And after putting the 21 dogs that they found outside in various pens into their trucks, the staff asked if there were any more and if they could go into the house. Inside they found twice as many dogs in even worse conditions. I saw the videos they took of her home while standing in the kennels with the worst smelling, most matted and dirty dogs I’ve ever seen (or smelled). And more than half of them had already been cleaned up. I couldn’t imagine what the house must have smelled like.

Besides being dirty and matted, the dogs had several different internal parasites, lice and severe dental disease. But the medical issues and matted fur are easy to fix. All the dogs were shaved, bathed, put on de-wormer medications and given dentals when they were spayed and neutered. The harder part is dealing with the emotional neglect of these animals. Most of them are severely under-socialized, having only had limited contact with a single person.

The good news is that this breed is very gentle and resilient – none of the dogs show aggression, no matter how fearful they are. That is a miracle because you would expect at least some to be fear-biters. But they have no idea what a leash is, no training whatsoever (Sit? What does that mean?), and some don’t even know what it means to play.

I think that’s the saddest part of all. Seeing a dog just stand in a field with other dogs playing and chasing the ball and the look of bewilderment on his face. As I’ve written before, socializing is probably the most important thing you can do with a new dog (and the younger you start, the better). Only time will tell how far we can turn these dogs around. Guess with all these dogs being placed in homes in our community, we’ll be seeing a lot more lappies around town.


Upcoming event

Fix-it clinics: Free cat spay/neuter surgeries and low-cost dog altering for low-income residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

Post Your Comments:
Gale Sett
August 23, 2014
I would love to talk to Mickey. I have two of those Lappies and I would love her to see what a wonderful life they now have. The humane society in RP allow us to come on sunday mornings to let them play beginning at 10am. Santa Rosa has a play day every month. It is such a beautiful sight to see the dogs so happy to see eachother. I also have playdays at my house. The dogs love to be together and the lappie people are the most wonderful,loving people I have ever met. Hope to hear from you. Gale Sett
February 26, 2014
I was a single mom with 3 kids, no child support and absolutely no funds for vet care. I gave my kids pets anyway; they learned how to love others and care about those that depend on us, when a pet became sick and did not respond to home remidies or to the meds that I had for my children, I taught my children how to responsibly transfer ownership of the pet to a clinic or the dog pound or whatever. We always had lots of pictures of our pets and we talked about them and loved them for years after they left our home. There was only one time when I felt very guilty about a pet, he had been sick only a day or two, was vomiting a little but not copious amounts, did not appear to be any acute distress. I told my 10 year old son to leave the dog outside as he was a big dog and was used to being outside. When I got home from work, this 95 pound dog was wrapped in the brand new sheets that my mother had given me for my birthday ,about a week earlier. I asked my daughter, who actually got home first in the family if the dog died in the house or on the porch. She confirmed that the dog died in the house; she added her two cents worth of opinion: "Man I bet you are really mad about those new sheets!" I told that no I was not, I was really mad at myself for not realizing just how sick the damn dog was so I could have/should have taken him to a clinic or animal shelter.
I hope, and I believe that all three of my children learned a lesson from this loss, that even Mom's and Dad's that do not have the money to things exactly right each and every time still care about you so very very much that they hate you suffering a loss like the loss of a pet.
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