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by  Don Nichols, Sr.
          My brother Jim and I bought our first Beagles over thirty five years ago. I have owned some continuously since the early eighties after my children and I found a young female hung up in a fence near our home. We brought her home, nursed her back to health and since she had no collar or other identification I decided to keep her. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about the little rabbit hounds but every now and then I am surprised by some of the things that they do. I would like to tell you about one of those times when I was surprised and very moved by one of my “so called” dumb animals.

          In the summer of 1998 I raised a litter of puppies out of two of my dogs, Kiss’ Blue Maggie and Nichols’ Blue Buckshot. I sold all of the pups except for a male and a female. The female was dark bluetick with a pretty redhead. She started young and was going with the older dogs almost from the first day that I took her out. She was very energetic and had that drive and desire that you don’t see very often. In March of 1999 she was about 11 months old. I named her Nichols’ Blue Molly and sent the registration papers in on her.

          I was taking her almost every time that I went hunting and she seemed to just get better with each trip afield. She would stay with the older dogs and only come back to check on me occasionally. I would hear her adding her mouth to the chorus more and more. I was becoming quite proud of her.

          A few days after I sent the papers in on her I took her on a hunt along with her sire Buckshot, her brother Ben and a sister to Buckshot, Nichols’ Misty Blue. Misty was carrying pups at the time. I took them out to an area along the Kiamichi River that is east of my hometown of Clayton, OK., a distance of approximately eight miles from home. It consists of meadows, hardwood bottoms and a large swampy area. It tends to be very wet for most of the winter. I had hunted this area several times and found it to be the home of both cotton tails and some very smart swamp rabbits. I was looking forward to some good races and to perhaps bagging a rabbit or two.

          I am a Forest Ranger Crew Chief with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Service and March is historically our busiest time of the year. My primary job is wildland fire suppression. I accumulate a lot of compensatory time due to the long hours that we spend on standby fire duty or actually fighting fires. I am usually able to take a morning off whenever the fire danger will permit and I do a lot of that during rabbit season. Normally I am not able to plan very far ahead as to when I will be off work so I have made arrangements that enables me to load the dogs and take off on short notice. I always have to plan on being back in time for fire duty.

          The dogs and I had just gotten started with our hunt and were well out into the swampy area. I had put them into a long thicket of bushes and blackberry briars. They had jumped one rabbit and ran it for a short distance before losing it in the water. Then one of them opened up again, I thought that they had found the trail but little did I know what was about to happen. They all converged on the hot scent and made a beeline up through the bottom parallel to an old railroad bed and the highway. They ran almost straight away for about a quarter of a mile and then took a sharp left turn across both the railroad bed and the highway and headed for the Potato Hill Mountains. I was just sick. By this time I knew that it was not a rabbit and I figured that it was either a deer or a coyote. I made my way out of the swamp and across the highway as quickly as I could. I checked the highway for dogs that might have been hit. When I did not see any on the highway I gave a sigh of relief and continued on up through another swampy area toward the hills where I could still hear the dogs headed. I finally made it through the water and across a county road and started climbing the hills. I would stop frequently for a breather and to blow my horn, trying to get them turned around. I was well up into the hills when I heard something behind me. I turned around to check and Misty was coming along behind. I leashed her and continued on after the other three. They would make a lose every once in a while and I kept hoping that they were headed back to me. They just kept on getting further and further into the hills and this”old fat man” kept getting more tired and frustrated. I finally had to turn around and head back to my truck so that I could get home in time for fire duty. I hated to leave them but, I had no other choice.

          Later on that afternoon, I went back to the area and started looking for them. I stopped along the county road and listened to see if I could hear them running. The wind was blowing some and I had a little trouble hearing but, I thought that I could hear Buckshot running back to the west down the road. I drove on down that way to check and sure enough, I found Buckshot and Ben chasing a rabbit alongside the road. I quickly caught them and began looking for Molly. I felt sure that she would be with them but, after calling for awhile and driving the roads and listening, I finally decided that she had become separated from them somehow. She must have left them earlier and tried to follow Misty back to me.

          This was just the beginning of a long effort to recover a fine young dog that I had come to value very much. I began going from house to house in that community which is called Kiamichi, after the nearby river. I think that I visited every house in the whole community over the next several days and I met some very nice folks. They would all promise to keep an eye out for the dog and call me if they seen her. Some did call and report seeing her and I would go to that area and look and call without success. I searched hard for a couple of days and then work prevented me from looking for a day to two. I would get another call or talk to someone in the area that thought that they had seen her. After four or five days I began to get reports that she had been seen along the highway between where I lost her and home. I would go to that area as quickly as I could and look and call for her. I did not expect that she would be able to come home from that distance due to her young age. Another couple of days went by and then it had been nine days since I had seen her. I figured that someone had picked her up or a coyote had gotten her.

          The ninth day was rainy and about ten o’clock that evening I received a call from an old friend that is also a beagle man. He said that he had just returned home from the Friday night auction that is held here in Clayton. He said that he had talked with yet another beagle man who is mutual friend of ours and of course they talked beagles. He said that our friend said that he had seen a young bluetick female that fit the description of Molly earlier that day about two miles from Clayton along the highway. He had tried to catch her and read her collar but, she wouldn’t let him.

          My first thought was to go and look for her. I finally decided that, since it was still raining, dark and cold, that she would probably be curled up somewhere out of the weather, and that I would go and look for her the first thing the next morning. I worried about her that night and the next morning I got in my truck and headed out to check the area where he reported seeing her. I was keeping a close eye on the highway, looking for her body. I knew that there was a good possibility of her being killed by a vehicle. I had gone less than a mile from town when I came to the Jackfork Creek bridge and when I got to where I could see the other end of it I saw the body of a dog lying in the right lane. When I got closer I could see that it was a bluetick and my heart sank. I pulled off the road and went back to where she lay. It was obvious that she had only been dead a short time since she was not completely stiff. I loaded her body into the truck and brought her back home to where she had been trying so hard to reach. She had made it to within a mile of home. I figured that she must have hesitated to swim Jackfork Creek, although she loved the water and enjoyed lounging in the kiddie pool at home. She must have been checking out the bridge when she was hit. I felt like kicking myself for not going out and looking for her after receiving the call on the previous evening. They say that hindsight is 20/20 and I knew what I should have done.

          I had an older dog to come home from a distance of ten miles one time. I have heard of other dogs that have come home from much greater distances. I just never thought that a young dog less than a year old would be able to find her way home from a distance of eight miles. She had only been to that area two or three times previously and she had always been hauled there inside a dog box.

          I buried Molly on the back side of my yard, an area that is reserved for good dogs. I was more than a little sad for several reasons. First, I was sad that the “little rascal” had tried so hard and overcame so many obstacles in a valiant but futile attempt to come home. Secondly, I was sad that she and I would never get to see just how good she could become. Thirdly, I felt like I had let her down. Lastly, I was sad because I guess that I am just a sentimental old Beagle man.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).