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Bull Mountain couple brings four-legged friends together for birthday celebration

For more than a decade, the world's cutest family reunion has taken place in Tigard.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Sandy Henschel pets Jane Sinclairs dog, Maisy, at Ash Avenue Dog Park.As far as family reunions go, Sunday’s get-together was one for the books.

The whole family was there. Parents Daisy and Dudley came with their daughter Maggie. Sons Murphy, Paolo and daughter Tache came with their families, and daughter Maisy drove all the way from Eugene to attend the celebration.

But unlike other family reunions that take place in Tigard parks each year, Sunday’s celebration had few human attendees. Instead, the get-together was for a family of dogs.

For more than a decade, the owners of the seven dogs have gotten together each year, the event the brainchild of Bull Mountain resident Sandy Henschel, who owns parents Daisy and Dudley.

The group met for its 11th annual reunion at Ash Avenue Dog Park on March 1.

Henschel and her husband Ken were surprised when their two dogs, Daisy, then 3, and 1-year-old Dudley, gave birth to five puppies in 2004.

"Our vet said that Dudley wasn't ready to be neutered. He, obviously, thought differently,” Ken Henschel said. “All of a sudden, we had a litter.”

The Henschels couldn’t care for all seven dogs on their own and sold four of the puppies to families across the area.

But Sandy Henschel said she wanted to keep in touch with the puppies after they were settled in their new homes, and asked if the owners would be willing to meet the following February to celebrate the puppies’ first birthdays.

“It was just serendipitous,” she said. “Every year, it just kept going and going.”

Now, 11 years later, the owners say they can’t imagine stopping.

“It’s just amazing,” said Susan Tarr, who owns Paolo. “I am just drawn to it. I wouldn’t think of missing it.”

Bede Jordan, of Lake Oswego, said she had never heard of owners staying in such close contact.

“No one knew each other before that first party,” she said. “Ken and Sandy are responsible for making that happen. It’s such a neat thing.”

Friendships formed

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A pack of Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen howl to the tune of the birthday song with their owners; Louis and Jane Sinclair, from left, Ken and Sandy Henschel, Bede Jordan, Susan Tarr and Debbie Reyes. The owners have been bringing their dogs together for a birthday celebration every year since 2004.The dogs trickled into Ash Avenue Dog Park one at a time on Sunday, as owners arrived from across the state. With each new sighting, the dogs clustered at the gate of the fenced dog park, ready to greet the next family member to arrive.

“They are always so happy to see one another,” Henschel said. “The dogs have weathered some storms over the years, but we’ve all remained friends.”

The humans are often just as excited as the puppies are to see one another.

“Hi!” Tarr shouted as she gave Henschel a hug. “It’s so good to see you. Who all is here?"

Owner Debbie Reyes said true friendships have grown out of the yearly celebration.

“It’s so fun to get together with everybody and see how the dogs have been,” she said. “They used to run around like crazy when they got together. Now that they’re older, it’s more of a trot.”

The dogs' breed, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéens, are a French hound used to hunt rabbits.

Man's best friend

Known as PBGVs, the dogs usually live for about 10 years, so having the entire family intact 11 years later — including a mother at age 14 and father at age 12 — is remarkable, Sandy Henschel said.

“It’s amazing that everyone is still living, and they are all still so loved and cared for,” she said.

The dogs are starting to show their age now, Reyes said, but they still have plenty of fun.

“Now, we’re comparing what medical problems they’ve got,” she said. “One is diabetic, another is deaf, or blind.”

At 14, Daisy still manages to hold her own among the pack.

“Ken and I tell her every morning, ‘You’re not allowed to check out,’” Sandy Henschel said. “In our loves, she is that special dog that sticks with you.”

PBGVs are friendly and make good family dogs, the owners said, though they tend to be a bit stubborn. Each has his or her own distinct personality.

Owner Jane Sinclair of Eugene described her dog Maisy as the most “aloof” of the family, while Jordan said her dog Tache was the most rambunctious.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dudley, a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen owned by Sandy Henschel, walks around Ash Avenue Dog Park.“No one wanted her because she was such a wild child,” Jordan said. “She still is.”

But each of the dogs has one shared family characteristic — they each know to howl along when the owners sing “Happy Birthday” to them every year.

“Nobody taught them how to do that,” Jordan said. “But they do it every year.”

Ken Henschel said that watching the dogs meet year after year, it’s obvious they remember one another.

“It’s like old friends getting back together,” Ken Henschel said. “They are all good friends.”


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