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The Loss Of A Dog

by Dave Fisher

          The loss of a dog can be a very traumatic experience. I read the story recently of a reader who had two of his dogs killed by a moron on a four-wheeler with a .22 rifle. Man, my heart went out to the guy. I am sure this nut thought dogs were running deer in his favorite hunting woods … that’s what "they" always think. I have been there. When you had to practically go running up to the guy to explain to him what the dogs were doing, or gather the dogs up quickly from one end of a thicket when a guy armed with a rifle was standing on the other end. It’s not pleasant. It’s a shame that more cannot be done to these nuts. How much is your best hound worth … when you have no intention of selling him?

          I also thought about the guy who’s dog suddenly came up missing one evening and the search was undertaken. Where do you look? How long does it go on? Again my heart sank when I read they found the dog stuck in a hollow log two weeks later.

          A similar episode happened to me many years ago when I first got into Beagling. I had a couple dogs and my buddy, Matt, came up to hunt with me for the very first day of the Pennsylvania fall season. We were actually having a good day and at lunch time most of the dogs were worn out in the October heat, so we put them up. "Berries", on the other hand, would never quit hunting so we took her out by herself. In late afternoon we jumped a big rabbit and it headed straight downhill with Berries in hot pursuit. After a time the dog got quiet and after an even longer time she had not returned.

          Matt and I were now pretty antsy and concerned, and we slowly worked downhill, looking for the dog every step of the way. We followed slight rabbit runs and game trails until we were standing on a steep bank that led down to a red-dog road. We were discussing the situation and where we might look next, when one of us heard a scratching-type noise and finally a few whines. We eventually discovered it was coming from a huge oak tree soaring high above the road, and now just a few feet away. Cautiously we approached the tree and under more investigation discovered Berries up inside the hollow oak; still tying to get at the rabbit that undoubtedly was further up in the hole! I am not sure if she was stuck or not, but I grabbed her by her back legs and pulled her out! I cringe to think had we not been around, she may have been in there for good, as was the case in the story mentioned above.

          This is serious business because simply loosing track of a dog can literally mean its death and this is a real gut-twisting, heart wrenching experience. I once lost track of a dog for almost an hour and searched all over for it. I finally walked over to an old water cistern (a concrete well-like tank that catches surface water) and found the dog in there paddling for all he was worth to stay afloat. Another few minutes and the dog would have surely drowned.

          I was talking to Dan Brinsky, who owns Run-Em-Over Tank, back in the spring and he was telling me he now rarely runs any dogs without trackers on them. "I recovered two dogs stuck in holes, with them," he said. "I’m not sure if they would have been able to get out by themselves. It sure was comforting to know where they were, and I got them back."

          Sometimes you can save the dog … sometimes things are out of your control. Old age has now taken both my old hunting companions; Ralphie and more recently, Lightning. These were not perfect dogs by any means, but I could not possibly count the hours of enjoyment they have given me in the woods. And Lightning has given me super pups that I still enjoy today. While they were in their prime, I was offered great sums of money for them. They simply were not for sale. Ohhhh, how I wish I had Lightning back as a pup, that we could start all over again. Out of our control.

          A couple years ago, I also lost my very good dog, Annie Oakley. This was sort of in my control when I did not recognize the illness that would take her. Dogs say little to you. If only they could talk. Annie was bred and I was anticipating the pups with high hopes. But Annie was not in good health. Her energy on hunts had diminished greatly and she just did not appear herself. She ate well, but refused to gain any weight. At home in the kennel she seemed fine, but had little energy in the field. She drank a lot of water, but with pups on the way this is not too unusual.

          Because she was not herself, I decided to watch her closely when the pups were due. (A quick trip to the vet and a simple blood test would have been a prudent option.) I stayed with her the evening she whelped, but things did not go well. By 4:00 in the morning she had two pups, but was definitely in duress, and laboring heavily. Very early in the morning I got Doctor Wood on the phone.

          "Bring her over," he said, "We’re probably have to get those pups out of her". I agreed and was there before he could barely put down the phone.

          "I’ll call you this afternoon and let you know what’s going on," he said.

          I went back home, and paced around, tried to do some work.

          Later that afternoon Doctor wood called. He is a man of few words.

          "Annie had two large ‘sugar pups’ in her. Both dead. We did some blood work …pregnancy-induced diabetes. Her sugar was over 300 … have started her on insulin. We’re feeding the two little guys, so you may as well come and get them."

          Pregnancy induced diabetes? It made sense and all the symptoms fell into place.

          Early that evening Linda and I went and picked up ‘the two little guys’, and while I was there I looked in on Annie. She looked tough, but tried to get up when she saw me and heard my voice. Her eyes were glassy and she was weak, but I felt she would be back home soon.

          Feeding the pups during the night did not go well. I am reaching for the phone to call Doctor Wood at 8:00 AM, when it rings.

          "Mr. Fisher, Doc Wood here. I am afraid Annie did not make it," was all he said.

          My heart sank. I could barely speak. I was taken off guard.

          It wasn’t a good day. I picked up Annie and discussed the two pups that were already in distress with Doctor Wood. By afternoon as I finished digging the grave both were dead also.

          I took one last look at Annie Oakley, as we wrapped her carefully, her tongue sticking out as always, and laid her gently in the clay, her two pups along side.

          "She was a good dog … I’ll miss her…" were the only words I could utter.

          As I was thinking about writing a story about the loss of our dogs, I dug around in a huge file of dog materials that I have saved over the years. In this file, I spotted a very old and worn sheet with the following words. I do not know when it was written or never heard of Senator Vest of Missouri, but his words sure are prophetic and even inspiring.

          {U. S. Senator Vest … Missouri}

          ** "The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with; us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

          "The one absolute, unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.

          "A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert … he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

          "If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death." **

          Why a dog lives such a much shorter life than we humans do, certainly is one of the strangest ironies of the universe. It’s going to happen, dogs and we are vulnerable. When we lose one we can only remember the good times, thank The Lord for the time we had them and go on to that promising, frisky pup waiting back at the kennel. It’s torture sometimes … but it’s all we can do.

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).