– by Bob Ford
“I am not sure why they call it the ‘dog days’ of summer,” I said to my wife, Renee.
“Who cares,” she rolled her eyes, “I hope this doesn’t lead to one of your rambling rants.”
“Think about it,” I tapped the kitchen table with my index finger to emphasize my point, “The dogs are miserable right now.”
“So,” she said, “Can’t this wait until I have had my coffee?”
“I am just saying that I am not so sure the dogs remotely enjoy this weather, and it can be dangerous to condition them in this heat.”
“You better do something,” Renee sipped her morning cup of java, “Because they are about to stage an escape.”
My wife was referring to the nasty habit that my beagles have for trying to escape the yard when I do not take them afield to chase rabbits. I worry about the heat, and when I do let them chase it is a brief run in the earliest hour of the day. Not really enough to get them “cute.”
Cute, is what my wife calls the dogs when they get a nice long chase everyday: and then come home and spend their time between the couch and the floor, slumbering and rolling over for belly rubs. When they do not get to expend the seemingly limitless reserves of beagle energy they will bounce around the house playing and sorting out the hierarchy of pack position. Ever seen that Christmas movie about the kid that wanted the BB gun? Remember when the hounds ran through the house and stole the turkey? My dogs could wreak enough havoc and cause enough chaos to make the pooches in that scene look like paragons of obedience. That’s what happens when they don’t chase.
More than that, they will prowl the perimeter of our fence looking for any escape and any critter that they can chase. If a rabbit hops up the outside of the fence line, it can get pretty loud, that is a given. But after a week or two of not chasing, a chipmunk, bird, or even a bug can attract their interest. A squirrel in the tree can evoke a cacophony of baying beagles. I knew something had to be done, so I switched to night running.
I was going afield after supper, and letting the dogs chase for the last hour of daylight and a couple hours into the night. The scenting conditions were great as the sun set and the cooler air drew closer to the dew point. I was mostly running at the beagle club, and I decided to have a little cookout. Nothing too fancy, just burgers or mountain pies (you’ll have to google that reference if you live in a part of the world that has never heard of a mountain pie. There is a special tool for making them). The dogs were getting in great shape, they lounged around in “cute mode” all day, and I was getting pretty creative on my mountain pies—I made one with those Pillsbury biscuits instead of bread and stuffed it with a peanut butter cup and a marshmallow. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds.
Anyway, it then took a turn for the worse. When I say a turn for the worse, I mean skunk. Ever hauled a skunk sprayed dog in your dog box? Ever have one in your house? When I caught the poor victim, my Hoss dog, he was running to me for assistance. He jumped against my leg and the pleasant taste of the mountain pie was instantly replaced with skunk. I put Hoss on a leash and walked him through a stagnant mud puddle, which had a foul odor that I felt would be refreshing in comparison to the skunk. Then Badger arrived, porcupine quills in his lips, and wanting some help. I took both hounds to the truck and went looking for Duke, who was still chasing. I caught him and we returned to the truck, while I debated what to do next.
There was no way that my wife was letting Hoss in the house, and I was really wanting to get those quills out of Badger. Then, I remembered that I had a few items in the truck to give me assistance. One was an anti-skunk spray that I had purchased and put in my truck years ago. The backseat of my truck can defy the laws of physics and hold a greater volume than you can calculate by doing the math. My headlamp, so valuable in finding my dogs at night, was functioning as a miner’s light as I excavated the layers of hunting clothes, hunting boots, leashes, and collars that are organized on my backseat in a fashion that I would call haphazard, perhaps even precipitous and dangerous of the top layers started to shift, inducing an avalanche. Indeed, even opening the back doors (half-doors) of my Tacoma will cause a few items to be belched out onto the ground at my feet. I tunneled into the morass of hunting gear until I found the spray for neutralizing the skunk odor. Hoss got a good splashing with it, and I needed one as well where he jumped against my leg.
Next, I searched the ground for my canine first aid kit to get the hemostats from inside so that I could remove the porcupine quills from Badger. Thankfully there were not many quills and none were in his mouth. I then repacked my truck in such a way that it went from haphazard to full-blow messy. No doubt it looked as if I were homeless and living out of the truck. The spray worked way better than I thought it would. I also used the anti-skunk shampoo on the dog when I got home, just to make sure. The real test would be when my wife got a whiff. She didn’t notice any smells at all, which is fortunate because the dogs and I would have been in the yard.
That whole fiasco happened a while ago, and I think I will be running again tonight. I know that there are lots of dangers every time we take dogs afield, but there are lots of things we can do to be prepared. I also use a SportDog safety light on my dogs’ collars when running at night. I put a different colored light on each dog, and you can see it blinking a long-ways away. I think it helps to ward off coyotes. It also looks pretty cool to see a bunch of lights running through the underbrush and over hilltops while the beagles are baying in pursuit. It probably also explains the UFO sightings that sometimes get reported. For me, the night time is the right time to condition hounds so as to keep them safe from heat related medical problems. I have to go to the grocery store, I can’t wait to pick out a meal for this evening’s chase. It may be steak, since my wife is going with me. That reminds me, I have to clean my truck. My blob of gear expanded from the backseat and took over the passenger seat as well on the night of the skunk and porcupine encounter.