Puppy pandemonium in Allen’s Meadow
Martha Outlaw in Allen’s Meadow with two Stabyhoun pups from a litter of 14 born in Wilton to Outlaw’s dog, Stella. Stabyhoun’s are a rare breed of hunting dog from the Netherlands and there are fewer than 400 in the U.S.
If you happen to be at Allen’s Meadow on a Tuesday morning and observe the Wilton Parks & Recs puppy class there, you may think you’re seeing double. Or even triple. Or you will suddenly realize that you’re seeing eight matching black and white puppies. What makes these puppies so special is that they are Stabyhouns—one of the rarest breeds of dog. Hailing from the Netherlands, these puppies became Connecticut Yankees through the efforts of Martha Outlaw and Dr. Margaret Reed.
Outlaw did not expect to be so smitten with the breed. When her beloved Chesapeake Bay retriever died in 2002, Outlaw started researching breeds that would work well with her family and perhaps even go hunting with her husband, Matt Ellenthal. One dog website led to another, and ultimately Outlaw happened upon the Stabyhoun.
This Netherlandish breed is part of the pointer group. They have short legs, a face reminiscent of a Labrador, and a tail similar to that of a border collie. A unique feature of the breed is the Stabyhoun head of solid black, with a body that can be an amazing variety of black and white patches, spots and ticking. The tips of their tails are white, so hunters can see their Stabyhouns in the brush.
Outlaw finally got her Stabyhoun in 2012 when Stella, from a New England breeder, joined the family. Smart and loving, Stella is a sleek silky dog with liquid brown eyes.
When acquiring Stella, Outlaw agreed to consider breeding her to help support and expand the line. While the Stabyhoun is not AKC-recognized, the breeders Skyped with the Dutch to ensure bloodlines were appropriate. Stella’s confirmation was deemed worthy
of keeping in a bloodline. Last January, Stella became mother to 14 healthy Stabyhoun puppies––eight males and six females. Given that the U.S. population of Stabyhouns is estimated to be around four hundred, Stella’s litter was major news.
Outlaw and her entire family pitched in to help socialize the pups. Trips to town and lots of hikes gave the puppies a variety of experiences. “For the first eight weeks, raising the puppies was my full-time job,” she says.
With 14 puppies, 13 owners had to be found, and Outlaw needed to decide which pup to keep for herself. Enter Dr. Margaret Reed of Canine Training and Behavior Services, LLC. When not working with dogs on movie sets (see the next George Clooney movie and look for Bentley, her sweetheart of a dog). One of the many canine services Dr. Reed offers is temperament testing. While Outlaw didn’t perceive a wide variation in the temperaments of the puppies, Reed was able to differentiate between the most confident and the least.
The industry standard for temperament testing is the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. Reed was able to score the puppies on behaviors such as retrieving, willingness to follow a person, startle responses, and seven other critical traits. “The ultimate goal of temperament testing is to ensure that a dog has a placement in a home that is the best possible match for both the dog and for the family,” Reed explains. The input helped Outlaw match-make each puppy with a new owner.
“Luckily, I still get to see many of the puppies,” says Outlaw. “All were placed as family pets and seven are now owned by friends of mine.”
Kim Troy is one of the local puppy owners, and she and her Stabyhoun, Milo, are taking a walk on Schenck’s Island in Wilton. Milo is an adorable black and white bundle and is equally attentive to the people there and to the noises and smells that the trail offers. Kim leans over to scratch Milo’s ears, and he, in turn, leans in to her body. “I knew that getting a puppy from Martha meant that my puppy would have had the best of care during those important early months,” says Troy with a smile.
Which brings us back to the puppy class with those eight Stabyhouns in it. The pups learn to be good canine citizens and their owners learn how to be proficient dog handlers. Sometimes it’s hard for the puppies to pay attention to their owners when they have so many of their brothers and sisters around, but each week brings improved skills.
Martha Outlaw’s puppy, Febe, lolls in the grass after class, and contentedly watches her siblings. When asked why it’s so critical to protect and nurture the Stabyhoun breed, Dr. Reed pauses for thought. “I think humans don’t like things to end. Whether it is a relationship or a dog breed, we long for stability and continuance.”
So together, an Outlaw, a doctor, and a litter of puppies are keeping the Stabyhoun breed alive and flourishing in the United States.