Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why Dogs Don't Live Longer

Why Dogs Don’t Live Longer
I took Rose, a near six month old beagle pup, from the pen and the other puppies barked, yelped and whined as they jumped up on the side of the pen wanting to get out themselves. Rose was one of Fancy’s pups and Fancy had about six more in the pen, mostly males. We raised beagles and trained them to hunt rabbits for sport, usually keeping a female from a litter and selling the males and the occasional female. 

Today was Rose’s turn to learn her name and to “down” as we called it when we wanted her to come to us and sit gently waiting to be petted and then placed into the dog box when traveling or into the kennel when home. It is highly unusual for a beagle to “get it” the first time; Rose was the first beagle I had trained that learned her name so quickly and that it was wise to come to me when she heard her name. She got reward treats in about 10% of the time it took most puppies. 

I put Rose in the box with two more puppies that had required considerably more time to get them to the point in training where Rose had gotten in about ten minutes. We went to the woods where shortly I walked up a rabbit. I had Fancy out which was as fine a rabbit dog as we ever had, and the three puppies. Rose followed her mom and ran after the rabbit while the other two pups took a while but finally they joined in the exercise. It was obvious from the beginning that Rose was a rare puppy, gentle, sweet and easy to train. By the time Rose was nine months old she was hunting with the veteran dogs and holding her own. The other two puppies I took out that first day were long gone to other owners. Once or twice Rose ran off after some game that was not a rabbit and a mild shock or catching her and giving her a good scolding was all it took for her to know, the rule for her was rabbits only. If what Rose smelled was not a rabbit, then she was not to run it, and she didn’t. If Rose barked it was a rabbit; you could bet the bank on that. 

For every one of her nine hunting years Rose improved. Last year was her best. We had some faster, younger dogs but Rose proved over and over, her inherited traits and her experience would cause the success in the chase. If a rabbit got up and ran Rose would hound that rabbit till it went in a hole, swam a wide creek or became deceased. As John Henry Williams said,” Rose caused a many a rabbit to be fried.” Rose could find and follow a rabbit no matter what, in most reasonable situations and some unreasonable.

During this last off season while training puppies, Rose’s age began to catch up with her. William had kept her well treated medically but she had had some teeth removed and had had a hard time with the last birthing; now she was ten years old. It was now 2011 not 2001 and Rose was showing her age. On her last hunt two weeks ago we had the dogs on an island in the Oconee River looking for buck rabbits, the hardest of all rabbits for the dogs to chase successfully, and in shallow water and mud which made it harder, yet Rose worked out the trail for the other dogs. They impatiently yielded to her senior leadership when they got confused, Rose would sort it out. Rose caused another buck rabbit to be fried that day, and one we found swam the river to escape her persistent genius. When we got home from those islands Rose never really felt well again.

Yesterday afternoon when William went to the kennel to feed up, Rose had passed on. Sometime during the day she gently closed her eyes the last time and a great friend, pet and working dog slipped away. She had been sore and swelling since that last day we went to the islands in the Oconee. Actually just a couple of  families and a few rabbit hunters, a miniscule number of people compared to the general population, will ever know what a wonder God created when Rose was born. Good bye, Rose, old girl. Rest in peace, for you will live forever in our memories. I have buried many dogs and learned why dogs don’t live longer than they do; because we couldn’t survive losing them if they did.

Bill Prince © All rights Reserved