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Dog (Less?) Days Of Summer

by Charles "Chuck" Terry

Yesterday (08-16-00), I received an email from the editor Don Potts. I guess he was wondering (justifiably so!) if I was still alive. Despite his concern, there are no buzzards circling here - I am alive and well! In my reply, I apologized for not submitting an article for the last edition of the Beagles Unlimited Magazine and I described my current condition as "uninspired". Don't get me wrong - there is nothing I would rather do anytime than hear a good Beagle race! My dogs are in good health and, as a pack, are as good as I have ever owned. I have five pups that are from three to four months old that I have high hopes for and so far they have not disappointed me. In short, I am at a pinnacle in my Beagling career.

So, what is the source of my blues? A partial list includes: 100-degree temperatures (not much better at night), coyotes (a whole lot worse at night), drought conditions, and irritable rattlesnakes. Though these problems can occur at most anytime of year here in Georgia, their cumulative effect is greatest during the "dog days" of summer. I guess I should be thankful that we are blessed with near perfect running conditions here during the winter but the summers are lousy. As a child, I knew nothing about Sirius (the "dog" star), nor how the season got its name. However, I did know that cuts were more likely to get infected and all sorts of other things went wrong during that unbearably hot time. Watermelons and homemade ice cream are among my few pleasant memories of those sweltering days of old when air-conditioning was considered a luxury.

Despite my summer vacation and my air-conditioned home, my distaste for the summer season continues today due to weather related dog woes. In June, I lost an old female that was in declining health during a run. The dogs were in heavy cover and she did not come out with the others. When I finally found her, I buried her without much inspection, assuming the cause to be a combination of her health and the heat. A week later, I had a dog bitten on the ear by a rattler (he's fine now) within yards of where I found her. I have lost several dogs over the years to snake bite - all in the three-month period from June through August. I perish the thought of losing another to snakebite and I have done some snake aversion training with my shock collar. Still, I feel that when a beagle's nose is in gear (especially on hot rabbit scent!), its brain is in idle.

My Beagles are both hunting partners and pets to my family and me. It is very frustrating to see them sitting in the kennel suffering from cabin fever and getting overweight. It is even more frustrating to find them dead from snakebite knowing I made the decision to run them despite the risk. I guess this "to run or not to run" dilemma is the root of my lack of inspiration. I have very similar emotions as I ponder the decision as to where to send my kids to school. The fact that I teach in a public school adds to the inherent pressure of the decision. In both situations, I recognize that life is not without risk and to avoid these risks is often futile. In some ways, facing the risk makes those who survive stronger. I wonder if the two Beagles that I have who have been bitten learned from the experience. Neither of them have been bitten again. Still, both failed their test during the last aversion training session with a fresh rattlesnake carcass -reaffirming my "idle brain" theory.

I know there is the macho crowd - most of whom have stopped reading this by now - who would say, "bust it wide open and if a few dogs are lost they will have died happy". I see some validity to their point - a point which keeps me taking my Beagles out on that rare cool morning in June despite two such hunts in the past two years that ended with my walking a ½ mile to the truck with my partner in my arms and driving him straight to the veterinary clinic. This is also how I have lost a few more Beagles to undetermined causes that remain a mystery even until today.

The other school of thought is that there will be better days and your first responsibility is the dogs' safety. This is the logic that I have yielded to since my last June visit to the local vet with a snake bitten dog. Of course, you realize that with the decision to follow this route comes the uninspired blues. Thoughts of those wonderful days to come in January and February (like those I recounted in a previous article) and the Beagle message boards are the only things that keep my spirits alive during these tough times. Sure, I can fish or work on indoor projects but what about my partners who pass the time with little to do but sleep during the day and, consequently, bark at night?

Despite, a reminder of the season provided by the sight of a large, dead timber rattler in the road near my driveway, my male Beagles and I took to the fields and woods behind my house yesterday (August 19) for some much needed exercise. In short order, a chase was begun. The result was to be a glorious two hour run in pursuit of a buck cottontail with few and short checks. My male dogs, who are very competitive and would be considered "rough" by many on a typical day, were a little rougher than normal but who could blame them after a two month hiatus because of the fears of their "candy a--" owner! Still, between the four of them, they kept the rabbit up and going the entire time despite their "wild' approach. It was a "sight for sore eyes" for me and I guess, more importantly, "a sound for sore ears" as well. The rabbit settled in to a nice circle - perfectly centered about a low traffic dirt road. I found a wonderful spot to sit where the bank formed a very comfortable seat devoid of fire ants. I witnessed the rabbit cross the road four times as I sat and was able to enjoy a beautiful sunset as a bonus. However, neither of those sights, as spectacular as they were, could match the music I heard!

As the light began to fade, thoughts of the dangers of stepping on a rattlesnake on my trek home and the coyotes that were beginning to howl on the creeks nearby brought me back to reality. It was dark by the time I returned by pickup to my spot in the dirt road. Just as I got out of the truck with my lead in hand, I saw the rabbit cross the road once more. How lucky could I get? Seconds behind Mr. Bunny were all four Beagles, who, startled by my unexpected appearance, all hit the deck with a single "DOWN!" command. In short order, we were all safely home for a refreshing drink and our evening meal.

It was a great evening for us all. Still, in the back of my mind, I hear the voice of reason reminding me how stupid I was to take the risk with better days to come!

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).