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The Adventure Begins Again

by Bill Bennett
     
Bill will be writing an entire series of great rabbit hunting stories over the next several issues of the BEAGLES UNLIMITED Magazine. These articles will be somewhat lengthy, but very entertaining to say the least. Now, sit back and read this entire collection of rabbit hunting stories, one story at a time. BEAGLES UNLIMITED Magazine hopes you truly enjoy the great writing talents of the well-known author, Mr. Bill Bennett. The stories contained in this collection are true. Only the names of the characters and places have been altered.
Introduction

        The beagles, Bell and Sam, have long ago gone to wherever wonderful, loyal hunting dogs go.  Yet the warm memory of them remains vivid. The setting for the stories is the Delta of eastern Arkansas. The region has a rich and colorful history and stretches from the Mississippi River on the east to the foothills of the Ozark Mountains on the west. Many of the ‘rabbit patches’ mentioned in the stories have long ago succumbed to urban sprawl and now host housing developments or large industries.

        But remnants remain where rabbit hunters and their beagles can escape for those ‘mini-adventures’ to find food for their minds and souls. These are the special places where one can enjoy the delightful beauty of the out of doors and experience a kinship with some long forgotten primitive man. And most importantly, these ‘special places’ are where one can listen to a pair of beagles one still autumn morning, announcing to the world a fresh found scent line and feel that familiar thrill stabbing at the heart strings as the chase come full circle….if only in one’s mind.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS....AGAIN

        You stand looking spellbound at six of the most beautiful beagles puppies you have ever seen.  The energy they generate charges the air with a special electricity.  You are excited by their exuberant wiggling and clamoring as they press their noses and paws against the chain link pen gate.

        “Which one to pick?  Can you remember what to look for?  Yes!  Curiosity and inquisitiveness.  Watch for those with their noses on the ground.  Those will be the ones who show hunting abilities.”

        You are dumbstruck that one of these small, smooth adorable puppies is destined to become a hunting companion to share the outdoor experiences with you for many years.

         For a brief moment, in your imagination, you hear the mournful baying of a young beagle on a still autumn morning, announcing to the world a fresh found rabbit scent line.  His bawl shatters the cool clear air, as he follows the scent line in a long, looping circle.  You feel a thrill; shivers stabbing at your heartstring, as the race comes full circle in your mind.

        You quickly pull yourself back to reality and the business at hand.  “Concentrate on the males”, you tell yourself.  But it’s not an easy task with all the commotion created by the puppies and your elevated level of excitement.

        The owner shows you the parents of the litter, telling you both are excellent rabbit hunters.  You note their quiet dispositions and clean handsome looks.

        You ask the owner to open the gate and the puppies’ scramble out.  You mentally note the three males and desperately try to ignore the females.

        The puppies are excited with their newfound freedom from the pen.  A pair remains near your feet, begging for attention.  Another pair plays ‘tag’ with each other.  The remaining pair; a male and female, scamper several feet away on short stubby legs.  Both have their noses to the ground, sniffing everything; leaves, grass, sticks, and dirt.  Your decision will come down to one of these.

        You ask the owner to place the other puppies’ back in the pen.  The remaining pair momentarily watch the proceedings but do not offer to return to the pen gate area.

        You watch the pair with a critical eye.  They are both absolutely beautiful!  Both are colored with the traditional black, brown and white markings.  The female has a few more white splotches than her brother.  They are so pretty that the question of selecting a male or female is rapidly becoming less important with each passing moment.

        Suddenly, a blue jay calls from a nearby oak tree.  The male puppy immediately stops, stands still as a statue, cock his head and listens to the sound.  Meanwhile, the female puppy, ignoring the bird call, picks up a stick and begins chewing on it.

        You squat and call “Here, Puppy, Come.”  At first, both puppies ignore the request.  You call again.  The male, having zeroed in on your location, comes running to you.  You gently pick him up.  His coat is soft and smooth as a silk and feels loose on his small frame.  His feet and long ears are disproportionately large for his small body.  His soft brown eyes are as clear as a mountain spring.

        He sits quietly in your arms for a minute.  Unexpectedly, he licks your hand and looks up into your face.  In that brief moment, your decision is crystallized as bonding between owner and puppy ignites.  This is the one!

        You tell the owner you have made your choice.  As he places the female puppy back in the pen, he tells you the ten-week-old puppies’ medical history.  Nothing unusual000wormed and healthy.  Shots have not been started.  He mentions the bran name of the feed the puppies have been eating since weaning and offers to provide a two-day supply, which you gratefully accept.  Money quickly exchanges hands and the sale is sealed with a warm handshake.

        Now your thoughts turn to getting him home, and settled in the pen.  You wonder if he will get ‘car sick’ during the thirty-minute ride?  What will Bell, your two year old female beagles’ reaction be to this new addition?  Will she feel her territory is being threatened or will she readily accept him?  You briefly entertain the idea that perhaps you should keep him in the house for a couple of days, just to let him get used to things.  No, that won’t work.  The Real Boss at home has always been quite clear about not allowing any untrained four-legged alien becoming a threat to her living room carpet.

        Your thoughts turn again to Bell, She is two years old, thirteen inches high, barreled chested, mostly white, with splotches of brown and black.  She was a birthday gift from a friend when only ten weeks old.  As female beagles go, she exhibits the typical personality; smart, endearing, ambitious, temperamental and stubborn.  She is remarkably durable and enthusiastic in the field.  She is sure-nosed, rarely opening on a ‘cold’ scent line or unwanted game.  She is excellent at ‘starting’ rabbits by working the ‘thick stuff’; weeds, briars, honeysuckle patches, cane thickets and log jams.  She loves to hunt and always works hard in the field.

        For all her pleasing hunting abilities, she frequently over-runs scent lines, due to her fast pace, resulting in many long ‘checks’.  You reason that matching her with a slower ‘brace mate’ will help eliminate the aggravations of those over runs and move rabbits on a more consistent basis.  Besides, a second dog serves as a hedge against becoming a dogless hunter if an unexpected accident or untimely death take Bell from you.  But deep down inside, the real reason for acquiring this new puppy is your passion for beagles and rabbit hunting.

        Carrying the two-day supply of feed and the puppy in your arms, you place him on an old bath towel in the front seat of the car.  He momentarily shakes with fear as he sniffs the strange surroundings.  A minute of gentle petting and talking to him in a quiet tone of voice dispels his fears as he lies quietly beside you.

        The trip home is uneventful, except for a couple of small whimpers.  The drive gives you time to sort through a number of possible names.  You finally decide to name him ‘Sam’.

        As you arrive home, the sun is beginning to kiss the western horizon.  The early June air is warm and thick with humidity.  There are still a couple of hours before darkness swallows the waning daylight.  Carefully, you lift Sam from the front set and cradle him in your arms.  You gently carry him to the pen, some forty steps behind the house.

        The chain-link pen is six feet high, ten feet wide and fifteen feet in length.  A ten-year-old pecan tree stands at the west side, providing a natural afternoon shade for at least two-thirds of the enclosure.  The north and east sides have surrendered to a sprawling honeysuckle growth.  The pungent fragrance of honeysuckle blooms fills the warm, late afternoon air.  The brick flooring gives a neat, clean lock to the entire kennel.  Two doghouses, separated by a petition of two-inch mesh wire, complete with gage and latch, stand as quiet sentinels.

        Bell rushes to the gate, her excitement evidenced by her furious tail wagging.  She stands on her back feet, front paws and nose resting on the pen gate.  She whines and sniffs as you unlock the padlock.  “Sit-Stay”, you command, while opening the gate.  She sits, but wiggles with excitement as she sniffs the air.

        You squat and slowly place Sam on the cool brick floor, talking quietly to both dogs.  Bell cautiously nuzzles Sam with her nose as he moves closer to her.  She licks his face and back.  Sam responds by squirming and wagging his tail.  You watch both dogs as Bells mothering instincts take over.  You breathe a sigh of relief as you recognize instantly there will be no trouble.

        You slowly leave the pen and return to the car to retrieve the two-day supply of feed.  Arriving back at the pen, you quickly fill the feed bowl and watch Bells’ reaction.  You hope she won’t ‘steal’ the provisions.  She gives the feed a casual sniff and turns away from it.  Sam quickly grabs a mouthful and chews vigorously.  Before leaving the pen area, you check the two water containers and affectionately pet both dogs, speaking to them in a soft tone of voice.

         As you begin walking slowly toward the house, Sam begins to whine, a split second later his loud bark breaks the late afternoon silence.  You turn quickly and face him.  Raising your arm with the palm of your hand out, you command in a sharp voice, “no, Puppy, quiet!”  The change in the tone of your voice catches him by complete surprise.  He looks directly at you and sits quietly for a moment.  Immediately, you tell him, “That’s’ a good boy!”  Sam wags his tail but otherwise remains quiet.

        Entering the house, you announce Sam's arrival to the “Real Boss’ and your four off-spring.  You tell them they can see the new addition before supper.  The youngsters are naturally excited.  You explain that the new puppy is not a family pet.  Like Bell, he is destined to be a working hunting dog.

        The family gathers at the pen offering “Ohs” and “Ahs”.  Sam enjoys all the attention, showing his excitement by tail wagging, squirming and whining.  Bell swaggers about the pen with an air of superiority.  Her head is held high as she whines and wags her tail.

        You answer a barrage of questions from the children:  “Where did you get him?”  “How old is he?”  Can we have another one just like him to play with?”  You respond to each inquiry with patience.

        Then the ‘Real Boss’ asks the question you have been dreading:  “How on earth will you have time for a second dog?”  As you grope for a plausible answer, the best you can offer is that bell gets lonesome in the pen all day and night.  She needs a pen mate to keep her company.  The ‘Real Boss’ appears to accept the explanation as you wipe cold beads of sweat form your forehead.

        Alone, after the evening meal, you stroll out to the back yard.  As you look at both dogs, you are struck by Sam's small size as he stands beside Bell.  Bell signals a greeting with a wag of her tail as you walk over to a lawn chair, sit down and relax.

        As you silently study both dogs, you think about Sam's upcoming training.  You wonder if he could possibly become the ‘Ideal’ hunting beagle?  Always obedient, loyal, enthusiastic, never railing to find and ‘start’ a rabbit, flawless in trailing the rabbit scent line in a wide, looping circle with a constant bawl…the sound that is pure music to a rabbit hunting beagle owner.  The illusion quickly fades as cold, hard reality sets in.  You know very well there is no ‘ideal’ hunting beagle; never has been; probably never will be.  On the other hand there is nothing wrong with a little day dreaming.

        The reality of training Sam and molding him into a loyal companion will be an enormous investment of time, energy, patience and persistence, sprinkled with periods of frustration and uncertainty as planned yard training exercises precede the long awaited field work.

        Undoubtedly, there will be work involved in developing this small mixture of long ears and oversized feet into a mature hunting companion but the task will be an adventure, propelled by your commitment to shape him into the best hunter possible.  The committed one-hour per week will quickly lead to more time together.  In a short time, Sam will look forward to the training sessions with nearly the same anticipation as yourself.

        You vow to reserve the cool evening hours for training, teaching him discipline and obedience.  These hours together will cement the bond between you and him.  It will serve as a hedge against all the stress and pressures of your job.  Both of you will reap the rewards of keeping mentally sharp and learn to relax together.

        Experience has taught you the first ten hours must be free from on-lookers or casual observers.  Even Bell will need to be kept penned and quiet so Sam can concentrate, learn his exercises and overcome any fears he might be harboring.  In the beginning his attention span will be so short that progress will seem to be non-existent.  No matter; one must begin at the beginning.

        You vow never to strike Sam—ever, no matter how frustrating the situation.  Before each training session you will prepare yourself mentally, making certain you are in total control of your emotions.  You will review the day’s events in your mind: Argument with the ‘Real Boss’?  Disagreement with your supervisor or co-workers on the job?  Conflicts with the children or friends?  If so, you will cancel the training session and allow Sam a ‘play time’ rather than to allow him to become the brunt of your anger and frustrations.  Besides, he will benefit from these ‘ play times’ by letting him reduce stress and learning to relax in your presence.

        You will be firm but gentle, consistent in giving commands, patient when he falters or fails and if necessary, persistent and repetitious to the point of boredom.  You will teach him the basic verbal commands Come, No, Sit, Sit-Stay, Up and Down.  You will train him to follow with and without a leash, become accustomed to a yard chain, enter a carrier box and remain quiet while confined inside.

        You remind yourself there are no easy short cuts to training a stubborn, temperamental, beagle puppy and success can never be guaranteed.  And training Sam will be different from training other puppies because each puppy has different abilities and each has a distinct personality.  You wonder what surprises you will discover hidden in his personality as he grows and learns.  Who will really get trained in the process?  Sam or you?

        You watch the two dogs as dusk falls.  Coolness has overtaken the dying heat of the day.  It is peaceful and quiet.  Bell lies on the cool brick floor while Sam curls up next to her, seeking more security than warmth.

        You stand and stretch before turning toward the house.  A Mocking bird calls from a nearby oak tree announcing the days end.  In your imagination you envision a scene… You hear the mournful baying of a pair of young beagles on a still autumn morning, announcing to the world a fresh found scent line.  Their baying shatters the crisp morning air as they follow the scent line in a long looping circle.  You feel a thrill; a shiver stabbing at your heartstrings as the race comes full circle in your mind.

        You tell yourself….The adventure has begun again.

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).