The Deep Run Hunt Club kennels burned to the ground on April 8 after a lightning strike hit the power meter and traveled up the electrical conduit, setting the building ablaze. Huntsman John Harrison lives on the property in Cumberland, Virginia, where the Manakin-Sabot, Virginia-based club has their kennels, and he noticed something wasn’t right when his dogs started barking, and the horses were visibly upset.
“The fire started up in the roof because it was lightning,” said Virginia “Ginny” Perrin, one of the club’s MFHs. “So when John got down there, of course the fire was falling down into the kennels, and so he couldn’t get in there to open up the gates to get to the hounds.”
Harrison grabbed the hunt’s tractor and used the bucket to make holes in the wall to knock it down, so he could get to the hounds. The pack was saved except for one foxhound puppy and two lurcher puppies.
“If he had not kept his cool and had the foresight to do that, we would have lost the entire pack,” said Perrin. “It was probably the worst thing I’ve ever been through. But the fact that we didn’t lose the hounds is just, No. 1 is incredible, but we just have to keep going back to that fact.
“Within three hours, I had hunts from all over Virginia, and frankly some throughout the country, offered to help in any way,” she continued. “People were calling saying, ‘I can take two; I can take four.’ ”
Currently, the pack is divided between the Middleburg Hunt and the Blue Ridge Hunt, with the puppies remaining in Manakin-Sabot. Deep Run is retrofitting an unused horse barn on an adjacent property into a temporary kennel as they start the process of rebuilding.
“The kennel was a total loss—a total loss. And everything in it. There literally was nothing that was salvageable,” said Perrin. “Financially it’s difficult in every different sense. But our members really are being terrific, and everybody’s jumping in to try to help in any way we can do it.”
While they have insurance, it won’t cover the entire cost of rebuilding the kennel—including repurchasing items lost within the building such as office equipment, hunt clothing and medications. Hunt management established a Kennel Rebuilding Fund that people can donate to in order to help. Checks can be made with “Kennel Rebuilding Fund” in the memo line.
In addition, the hunt has partnered with the Southern States in Farmville, Virginia, and the store has a list of supplies people can purchase to help the hunt.
“Instead of a bridal registry, we have a kennel registry,” said Perrin. “We literally lost everything, so we need everything from water troughs to hoses to extension cords to garbage cans. You name it, that kind of stuff, and so we have a list down there. This is all still a work in progress, as you can imagine. There are some people that have used things that they want to contribute, and so [my joint-master is] kind of being the conduit for that to figure out what we can use and what we need.
“This is, I think, every hunt’s biggest nightmare,” continued Perrin. “We’re learning things that we hadn’t thought about as far as kennel design and all sorts of things with this. But hopefully in the future [it] will help other people. John Harrison, our huntsman, frankly is a hero in this story, and we’re just eternally grateful to him for saving our pack.”