Monday, December 14, 2015

"Where the Red Fern Grows"

This morning as I walked over the snow covered trails of the fields behind our subdivision, I remembered one of my favorite children's books, "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls.  I don't remember the teacher or the grade, but I remember listening to her read this wonderful story about a boy and his two Redbone Coonhounds.  Years later, I read the book to my boys.  We also watched the movie, but the book holds the nostalgia. 

As the stories of young Billie took me through the Ozark Region of Oklahoma, I dreamed of having my own dogs to roam the mountains.  Well, I didn't have the gumption to ask for a Coonhound let alone go to all the trouble of saving money or finding any hound pups.  Instead, I roamed the mountains with my cousins on horseback with the old collie Max and Jim (I can't remember his breed).  In the years since, I roamed the trails by myself or on a mountain bike in the Helena Forest.  In the Kootenai Forest, I took my parents black lab.

In reality, I don't think my dad would have let me have a hound.  My cousin had hounds that drove dad crazy.  In the summer we spent weeks on end at my uncle's cabin with Lincoln baying all night long.  Yes, he annoyed me as well, but I loved the sound.  To this day when I hear a hound bay, I grin.  I always wanted to go on a hunt with my cousin and Lincoln, but in my younger years I wouldn't have been able to keep up.  When I became older, I was too busy being a teenage girl (eye roll) or a bill paying adult (frown).

So, why didn't I ever get a hound in all these years?  Oh, there are quite a few reasons.  I believe to have a hound you need to live a distance from your neighbors to not drive them crazy.  Also, my career took me down the path of a busy soldier and mother who lives very close to town to be able to run kids back and forth.  I have learned to enjoy the convenience of town life and not driving on snowy roads the longer distances.  Besides, my husband trumps dogs and he isn't a fan of the four-legged creatures.

However, this past spring, he relented with the no dog slogan to let my daughter get a potential therapy dog for her panic attacks and social anxiety.  I did a lot of research and I didn't pick a good breed of dog for therapy, but I picked a very friendly, active breed.  I wanted Madelle to get plenty of exercise walking with him and playing.  Alas, she didn't take to that part of the dog, but he does help her when she needs snuggle time.

Instead, the dog helps me a ton.  He has ended up being my companion dog.  I walk him daily and we spend tons of time together.  But on the walk today, I couldn't help but wonder if one of the reasons I picked a Beagle is that they are part of the hound class.  As we walked the trails, I watched him work.  His nose to the ground, he followed the tracks of dogs that passed through the snow before us.  He didn't veer from the trail for the first mile.  I delighted in watching him work and seeing the trail myself.  How I would love to let him just go!  Unfortunately, I fear the cars and I really don't want to piss off the neighbors.  I also don't want to establish bad habits with him thinking he can just leave.

I laugh when people meet our little Leo or hear that we have a Beagle.  Everyone thinks he is adorable, but not everyone likes the Beagle.  In fact, a lot of people don't.  They have tons of energy and are ruled by their noses.  Instead of getting irritated by his little quirks, I embrace them.  We walk and play every day to get rid of his energy.  I never reprimand him when he tears apart his toys because he leaves our stuff alone, well, most of our stuff.  As for his nose, I let him sniff away when we are out for our walks by ourselves.  I laugh at him and enjoy the walk.  I will say that his is quiet for the reputation of a Beagle.  He rarely bays or yips.  When he does, I am humored and encourage him to quiet down.

Now, Leo sleeps all curled up on the chair sitting next to my writing desk.  I honestly doubt I will ever get another dog.  The husband still doesn't like them though he is very patient with Leo.  He is a lot of work.  The hardest part is we like to travel.  I hate boarding him, but that is our only option.  So, Leo will be my only dog.  I plan to enjoy every minute just as Billie enjoyed Old Dan and Little Ann.

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