CODY, Wyo. — The morning sounded like a good old-fashioned jailbreak, the basset hounds baying with their noses to the ground.
For the rest of the morning, floppy ears brushed the summer grass and short-legged dogs frolicked with their owners in an annual spectacle held by the Wyoming Basset Hound Rescue.
Sitting in a straw hat watching his own basset, Blue, mingle with other hounds of limited stature, Roger Bird couldn't help but grin. The basset aficionado is addicted to the breed.
"This is my third one," Bird said, talking in a Southern drawl fitting for a hound dog lover. "They're more laid back and they're not an energetic dog. I'm to the point where I'm not that energetic, either."
The basset has its drawbacks, Bird admitted. They slobber and they shed. They also can be stubborn and difficult to train. They have a hard time getting over logs, though they're skilled at getting under them.
"They'll love you to death," he said. "They're appealing to me."
The Wyoming Basset Hound Rescue, which held its summer picnic over the weekend in Cody, has been in operation since 1987.
The group has since expanded its reach to nearly all surrounding states, including Nebraska and South Dakota, which don't have a basset rescue organization.
Holly Moen has wanted a basset since high school. She got her wish and more when she took over the basset rescue in 2005 after her predecessor retired in Casper.
"It's labor of love," Moen said. "We do it because we like doing it, and its rewarding when you get a dog adopted, or you see the ones change that were shy. The transformation is rewarding."
Moen does the legwork — checking the background of possible adoptees and writing the organization's newsletter.
But it's the group's core volunteers that make the rescue possible, Moen said. Some volunteers foster dogs awaiting adoption. Others run transports, moving a basset from one place to another.
"We also have an offer in Montana right now to help us get our 501(c)3 status," Moen said. "It's from the Great Pyrenees rescue in Laurel. They just adopted a basset from us, and they're working on their nonprofit status as well."
Allen Moen, Holly's husband, credits his wife for running a tight ship. He said most bassets are acquired from pet owners who give up their animals before a move.
Some also are rescued from shelters that maintain a kill policy. On occasion, strays are taken in. The group averages around 45 rescues a year and works hard at finding their furry friends a safe home.
"We go anywhere from all the surrounding states," Allen said. "When someone calls and says they can't have their basset anymore, Holly starts the phone calls. We have shelters in Cheyenne and Casper, but it's a little more expensive to do it that way."
The group relies on fundraisers, donations and adoption fees to stay afloat. The fee to adopt a rescued basset runs $175, about half of what it costs to complete the rescue, Allen Moen said.
"Most of the time we're lucky to come close to breaking even on each one," he said. "We've got to do what we've got to do."