By NANCY JANE KERN
DOGS HAVE SUCH A RELATIVELY SHORT LIFE that saying goodbye to one may come several times in one’s lifetime. About the only thing that offsets the loss of one of these beloved family members is the arrival of a new puppy, and this should not be a snap decision. It is a major long-term commitment to a dependent animal, and is a substantial financial commitment.
That said, a new puppy is an incredibly joyous addition to the household. Fourteen years ago, for my sister and brother-in-law, it was a continuation of their lifelong search for a good rabbit hunting beagle. They checked out several breeders and finally took a trip up to Washington County, NY. This was a serious hunting beagle kennel and they had a great litter of weaned babies to choose from. Then, how do you choose only one? One was a runt that might have problems; the most inquisitive one that ran out to them first was very dark like a black and tan hound. To see a dog in the field while hunting it should have white on it, so this was the determining factor choosing between the female puppies. They were all from good parentage, so color alone would not really matter.
The first day in her new home was a lot for the little one to absorb. She wasn’t too timid and enjoyed the grandchildren and all the rest of us at the family picnic. She went from one to another and put her nose to the ground to evaluate all those new scents. She particularly liked to follow little Abby who adored her. We taught Abby how to play hide and seek with the pup. Both were delighted with this game. Abby had little patience and had a hard time not peeking and giving herself away. As the pup got thirsty, she ran with ears flapping to the edge of the pond and lapped up water and jumped as a fish splashed nearby. By far her favorite activity was digging in the sand which gave her a preliminary name of “Digger.” She dug so deep she almost went out of sight. Sand flew and eventually, she flopped down in the hole for a rest. The children were tired too and went home with their parents.
The puppy ate her supper and crashed on a nice soft old shirt, and didn’t move for almost an hour. Nothing disturbed her as we talked about her training, current disposition and habits, and compared her to the previous beagles.
A few days later we were back to the pond again and newly named “Rosie” the beagle was much more confident and knew where things were. She added tugging on some boat ropes and carrying around cattail heads which she enjoyed chewing. She was also chewing fingers with those needle-like teeth, and was getting lessons on the word no. She got it right away although she was occasionally pretending she forgot.
There was a lot of calculating and testing going on behind those sparkly brown eyes. Beagle eyes are hard to resist. She seemed very healthy and her next vet checkup (very important) was on the calendar. As the evening cooled she was a nice snuggly warm body to hold while she washed your face and kissed goodbye. Rosie soon became Josie and kept her final appellation to the present. There were many rabbit chases and her nose did prove superior with mice another favorite. Josie has grayed and slowed down, but that nose is still held to the ground to follow a good track.